An open letter to parents of young babies and children who struggle with developmental disorders and people in general.
To parents I applaud your courage, tenacity and undying love for your children struggling with developmental disorders or just being children.
To people in general, get over yourselves and show some empathy to those that struggle.
Breastfeeding and Mommy hood
Early this morning I went to the lab to get blood work done. I didn’t have an appointment. So I knew my wait wouldn’t be short. Just as I correctly assumed there were load s of people sitting in the waiting room. Some with appointments and some not. I came prepared with my headphones and a good audio book on my kindle. As I settled in to wait I immediately noticed a young mother with a young child. He couldn’t have been a year old yet. I noticed them because the child was active and just learning to walk and was into everything as in my opinion should be. He was exhibiting curious behavior. I saw the mother furtively look around as the little boy started removing magazines off the table onto the floor and she walked over and firmly but gently guided him back to their seat. She firmly stated ,”No!” He must not make a mess.
With nothing else to do with his little curious and active mind, of course the child starts to cry and then began to pull on the mother’s blouse. Having been there myself and having friends with children I knew immediately what was happening. The child was breast fed and now wanted to be fed from mommy. Mommy had come prepared with a blanket. But I imagined with so many strangers eyes looking upon her and her child she would rather not have to feed her baby right now. She began to try to distract him by playing peek a boo with the blanket. This distracted him for a good two minutes and then he began pulling on her blouse more aggressively and whimpering even louder. Of course in the small room all eyes were on the mother. She was trying her best to calm him down by rubbing his head. Before giving in she even tried to distract him with a game on the phone. This only lasted about a minute before he got really frustrated and starting whimpering even louder trying to get out of her lap and get to what he wanted. Mommy’s milk! I saw mom look around again trying to console her child. I smiled hoping to encourage her that it was okay because he is a child. Some of the other looks around the room were not so friendly. They looked annoyed at the child whimpering. They look annoyed as the child pulled all of the magazines onto the floor. They look annoyed as the child played with the lock on the door. They looked annoyed as the child did what children do. They just looked annoyed.
The mother finally gave in and covered herself with the blanket and allowed the baby to feed. After the happy little camper was fed he was perfectly content with watching the movie on the cellphone his mom had. Soon after the mom was called back to get processed.
Love Tokens AKA Developmental Disorders
Midway through this observation another child about 10 years of age came into the lab with a parent/grandparent and two caregivers. I have to describe the child in order for you to get the entire picture. He was 10. How do I know this? The caregiver asked the parent or grandparent for his birth date as they were signing him in.
He had a helmet on his head and a sort of harness around his body with a short leash so his caregivers could keep track of him. Immediately, it was clear that the child had a or several developmental disorders. He was constantly moving involuntarily and making clucking, ticking noises with this tongue that were for lack of a better word unsettling if you had not seen it before. In my non expert opinion he exhibited sighs of Tourette syndrome and ADHD and perhaps Autism on some level. I’ve researched all of these disorders so it certainly seems plausible. Oh I forgot he had a cast on his arms as well. So it was clear he was a bit of danger to himself; i.e. the helmet. Again, from my non expert opinion the helmet was used to stop him from harming himself through sudden involuntary movements and the harness was to help his caregivers keep track of him.
The elderly gentlemen that was with him was remarkably calm. I wanted to tell him how much I admired him but I didn’t want to be offensive in anyway. You never know how people feel about these things. Some want to talk about their struggles and some don’t. I say parent or grandparent because he was an older gentlemen and looked to be in his 60’s and the boy as mentioned was 10 years old. He had two caregivers with him. I knew they were caregivers because they were in their caregiver garb and they helped to monitor and care for the boy.
At first the boy while making clucking sounds and excitable noises with his mouth and moving back and forth was sitting on the parent/grandparent lap. Just like any parent with their child the parent/grandparent was so loving and affectionate to this child. He would kiss him on the cheek in the spaces left by the helmet and when the boy would get extra excited (this happened anytime anyone moved to go back or walk in the door., so every few minutes he would jump up and down and make these clucking noises) , the parent/grandparent would gently kiss him on the cheek and try to shush him and calm him down. Finally, one of the caregivers asked the older gentlemen if he wanted him to take him outside. In all fairness, he was making a lot of noise and I can see how people would look strange and annoyed if they were not used to it. But my heart went out to the parent/grandparent and this little boy. He couldn’t help what was happening to his body.
For the record, I don’t believe any of the strangers sitting in that room meant any real harm. No one said anything but if looks could kill. Their face said it all. Some muttered and looked away. Some just stared straight on at the little family. The older gentlemen was sitting in front of me so I never caught his eye but I could tell he was feeling a certain way. He made a comment out loud to no one in particular that the little boy had a lot of energy and he was like that all day every day. He kind of laughed it off. It reminded me of the old saying that sometimes you laugh to stop from crying. I imagined the older gentlemen was used to the stares so he never looked up. He constantly played with the little boy and when the little boy was taken outside he grabbed his phone to attend to. Making that statement said to me that he knew that many people were uncomfortable and this was not his first rodeo.
The little boy and his caregivers went outside and the older gentlemen stayed inside waiting to be called. I observed the little boy and his caregivers from the window while listening to my audio book. The little boy could not stop his constant clucking and involuntary movements. I could tell he was a handful. He sat in between the two caregivers. At one point the caregivers were not holding on to him, since he had been trying to wiggle from them ever since they sat down. With them not holding onto him, he bolted and took off in a run, it took both of them to corral him, he slipped right by the woman, but the man caregiver, was able to grab him before he ran into the street. This all happened in a few seconds. I could see why he had a harness on. I could see the danger he unknowing could bring to himself. Once they got him seated again, I watched the male caregiver kind of wrap the little boys legs around his own to constrain him and the other caregiver held on to his harness.
If someone just walking up might have seen this interaction between them they might have become alarmed and wondered why the little boy was being restrained. Mind you the little boy was not distressed. They were playing with him trying to keep him distracted. But he was physically restrained.
The older gentleman on his phone looked up every so often to see what was going on. Thankfully, he had not seen the little boy dart out of his caregiver’s hands, he did however see him physically restrained, but said nothing. I thought to myself I am sure this is a normal occurrence.
Finally, I was called back to get my blood drawn. As I was getting processed I heard the staff members discussing the little boy. I heard one say that, I can tell that must be xxxxx in the waiting room. They could tell by his distinctive tics and sounds he was making. The other commented that he was just there last week, she wondered why he was back again so soon. She hoped he was okay. I asked the nurse that attended me if they had a hard time getting blood form the little boy when he came in. She said its definitely an office effort. The father and caregivers had to hold him down the entire time. She didn’t know what disorder he had, she thought it might be some sort of autism, because he did not speak, he simply made the excitable clucking sounds.
When I walked out the little boy was back in the waiting room and he was making his noises and making the involuntary motions of his disorder while sitting on the older gentlemen’s lap and the older gentlemen was still caressing him, kissing him on the cheek and trying to keep him clam in this strange environment with strange people looking at him, some in curiosity and some in obvious annoyance.
I write this open letter to remind you of the struggles that parents go through when they find themselves in uncontrollable situations. No wants want their children to struggle with disorders developmental or otherwise. But you take the cards you are dealt and love and cherish every minute you have with the gifts you’ve been given. I am thankful there are loving parents out there that overcome the struggles they have every day. I know someone else who is thankful as well. Their children!
I encourage you the next time you see a struggling parent whether their child has a developmental disorder or just being children, that you offer a smile of encouragement or somehow convey to them that you understand. That smile goes a long way in taking away the feeling of trepidation and anxiety they are already dealing with going in a public place. Let’s not make it hard on them. Let’s make it easier. I so wanted to make an impassioned speech to the people in that waiting room. I wanted to stand up and give a speech about empathy and compassion. In all transparency they were all older people and seemingly far removed from their days of parenting or grand parenting for that matter. My impassioned plea would have been to ask every person in that room to put themselves in that young mother or older gentlemen shoes. How would they liked to have been treated? When they looked up from taking care of a child with uncontrollable movements and loud clucking noises, what faces and expressions would they like to greet them?
What if you were that young mother who was trying to calm an active baby down? Would you want to have to worry about the people around you and how they are feeling as you fed your baby. Often times we can’t have compassion other others until we find ourselves in similar situations. I hope you never have to deal with a similar situation, but If you do I hope you find the courage that it takes and gracefully step up to the challenge as the parents I saw today did.
Finally, why did I call developmental disorders love tokens? I think children with developmental disorders teach us a little something about love. That little boy although he may never be able to say it had undying love for his caregivers and the older gentlemen. He was completely in their care and believed they would do what is best for him. Even as he was being restrained I saw no unhappiness in his face. He was at peace in his own little world. His caregiver in turned showed such beautiful love and care for him. The older gentlemen by gently caressing him and kissing his cheek. I’m willing to bet he teaches everyone that comes in contact with him something about love. He certainly touched my heart. Enough to write this almost four page open letter. That’s something special right there.
As I leave you keep in mind that a smile of encouragement cannot be too much to ask to make someone feel better about their situation. What can you do today to make someone’s burden a little lighter? Think about it?
Dr. Tonya White Johnson is the founder of Exclusively you Coaching. She is a professor of marketing, certified personal development coach, speaker and author. Coach Tonya is passionate about empowering others to live their best lives. She specializes in personal and professional growth, building self esteem, career management and developing leadership skills. Dr. Johnson’s mission is to inspire your spirit, empower you to live your best life and impact your life in a positive way. For your FREE 30 minute consultation to start living your best life now please contact Coach Tonya White Johnson at www.exclusivelyyoucoaching.com