The Throes of Reprimanding Your Child (whether still a child or an adult) with a Disability, in Public…

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(Photo by Murat Ozkasim)

My daughter is no angel. Far from it. But she sure is as close to it as you’ll ever be.

No, she is no angel and neither are my other 2 children.

Neither am I.

Neither are you.

She’s no angel and that’s why there will be times when she does cross that line.

And sometimes, it is in public. You know, like in a restaurant, or a train, or a dinner party, a shop. She’s good at that, picking the most embarrassing public places. And when it happens, I can’t help but feel extremely self-conscious that people will solely identify the source of that aggravation as her disability. As if people with disabilities don’t have the right or the ability to simply have a bad day, be frustrated, cranky or angry for the same reasons we do!

When other children/people cross the line in public, the perception is that it’s either due to bad parenting, the terrible 2s, the awful teen years, the exams, the stress at work, bad news, you name it.

When it’s my daughter, it’s got to be down to her disability. And sometimes it IS and she just needs time and clarification on whatever it is that bugs her. But I can’t help hearing people’s thoughts, whether they’re real or not: “OMG, is that what Down syndrome (or whatever other disability) is like?” “Poor mother!” “I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with that”. “I could never deal with a child/person like that!”. “It must be so tough!”.

If I don’t respond to her line-crossing (in which case it is a strategy which has proved successful. At times. Once or twice), it is either interpreted as too overwhelming for me to do so, or too complicated for my child to even process (so far off the truth!!!). I somehow feel pitied.

If I do respond to the line-crossing in a calm and effective manner (it happens!), I somehow feel like I’m perceived as a super mum ( I can assure you I’m not).

Now, there are times when I do lose it with her (not very often, but still) and she needs that look, that stare, that stern face, those words, that tone of voice, IN PUBLIC. That’s when I get even more self-conscious because we now have a double aggravation (hers and mine) linked directly and exclusively (rightly or wrongly) to her disability. And the guilt trip is overpowering and unstoppable. And again, I can’t help hearing people’s thoughts “how could she be angry with her” “what a terrible mother” or more of the “poor mother”  and “it must be so tough, bless her…”.

I’m not quite sure what I would like you to feel when my child with a difference is naughty and I tell her off. Perhaps, just bear in mind that I’m not a poor mother or a bad one. I’m not a perfect mother either. Clearly! I just hope I’m as good a mother as each of my children needs me to be. And perhaps, what you’ve just witnessed is a bad day for me and/or my child, out of countless good ones, and all I need is empathy, without judgement.

My daughter is no angel. Neither are my other 2 children. Neither are yours. And I guarantee you I love mine at least just as much as you love yours, warts and all…

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