Telling people how to parent seems to have gone viral since the tragic loss of Harambe the Gorilla. The internet wars have begun, and if you are a mother the odds are never in your favor.
In America, the language is stacked against women when it comes to responsibility. Mothers are far more judged than men, our every move micro-assessed when our actions don’t line up with the expectations for the perfect parent. We not only need to keep our kids safe, we need to keep them busy, intellectually stimulated, clean, fed AND we need to do the same for every other animate or inanimate object in our household. But when a father comes home and Mom gets a break, he is babysitting.
What does that mean? A babysitter is someone who watches your children for you while you take a break. If a father is babysitting for a mother, he is doing her a favor. He is giving her a reprieve from her job. He will watch the kids until her break has ended and she returns to work. The kids are her responsibility, not his. When he’s done, he’s done and she’s back on duty.
Aside from horribly devaluing fathers, this limits their abilities in the eyes of society. Just as men can’t control their sexual urges around attractive women, men can’t be expected to be responsible for their children. America, when are we going to figure this out?
This has been on my mind since before Harambe. Why? Because I wrote Opting Out of Autism and then a friend wrote about being asked to leave a cafe when her child acted like a child. Fine. Good. I don’t support that choice of action unless the cafe is specifically adults-only, but I get it.
I shared that I get it because my son has not simply been asked to leave, he has been flat out banned from spaces. People don’t give a damn that he is socially disabled and, just like everyone else, sometimes has a bad day. They just don’t want him around. I said so. I said it hurt. And I mentioned a wonderful woman who did what her boss at the salon should have done–she said, “Let’s see if we can find a time to cut his hair when his energy won’t be disruptive.” I hit enter to leave my comment.
Then the trolls came out.
This is what they said:
I have two autistic children, who both had severe behavioral problems when they were very young, up until they were in the middle of elementary school. They also had fits, ran around and behaved inappropriately. Do you know what I did, as a single mom struggling with two very hyper, very badly behaved, very physically fit children that could wriggle away from me and run like the wind, when they misbehaved?
I took them the hell home.
Salons are not play areas, or spaces for behavioral therapy. PERIOD.
Ask yourself, as a business owner would you rather be responsible for a disabled child’s injuries when they dance around and hit sharp or motorized equipment, or injure themselves ‘dancing in the rain’ in front of the shop, or would you rather let someone get butthurt in order to keep their own child safe?
I hope you tip the salon employee well, she might end up losing her job if the owner shows up unexpectedly or gets outed by an irritated coworker or patron.
You sent your small child, who was having a tantrum and autistic, out into the rain while you were having salon services done?
I have no desire to answer these comments for the people who left them. Their lives and choices are their lives and choices. They have reasons for their decisions that are based on their families needs, as do we all. But these comments illustrate a lack of compassion. They are ego-centered in that there are grand assumptions about the whys and whats and whos and hows of that day I sent my son outside in the rain because he was too agitated to sit inside.
I don’t care what these people think because they don’t care about my family or our situation. Their only concern is whether I am parenting to their standards.
An aside: Thanks for letting me know you can do it better, anonymous commenters! If you find your way here and see it, I guess you can read the following details. Or you can just leave. I’m happy either way.
Here’s what happened: My kiddo was struggling in a major way and had been for weeks. I arranged for him to have his hair cut with a stylist we have followed for years because he loves her. The deal was he got to choose his hairstyle and spend time chatting, but then he had to wait while his little sister got her hair cut.
It was drizzling outside. The salon was a bit busier than usual. Autism for us means extreme discomfort in public settings. We can’t control for the public when we are out in it, and we can’t live our life inside the house and still do things like get a decent haircut (I have actually asked stylists to come to us for extra pay). Since dancing is my child’s outlet, I handed him my phone and, so he wouldn’t bother the people inside the salon with his music choices, had him dance outside the large front window beneath an overhang.
He was ten. Not a small child. Not under the rain. Not by himself. Not even remotely out of my sight. The salon door was cracked so I could even hear him. I stood between the door and the station where my toddler daughter was having her hair cut so I could watch them both. Add to that my son can communicate clearly and with no problem, and I think I handled it very well.
But the world of perfect parents wants to tell me I screwed up.
It is hard enough doing my best every day. If you’ve read very far back in this site you’ll know that I have a big decision I make every hour and sometimes multiple times an hour so that I can be better than my parenting legacy. I also don’t believe the world should bend over backward to accommodate us. However, at least looking to see if accommodation is possible is better than banning a person.
What is important here is how we can prevent ourselves from being hateful, whether intentionally or not. Here is a practice I do with my children:
We see someone pulled over on the side of the road. The natural assumption is that they have done something wrong. But what good does it do us to tell ourselves negative stories about strangers? I begin listing possibilities. Positive possibilities. The key is creating a new context based on compassion. Had the above commenters done so for me, they might have left very different judgments. Better yet, they might not have commented at all. But the only story they told themselves is that they wouldn’t have done what I did and I was wrong.
I don’t know who is at fault when it comes to Harambe. I think kids slip away sometimes no matter how hard we are trying. I think the world is a difficult place. I think we should watch out for each other’s children. I think a zoo family is hurting and a child’s family is hurting and everyone in this situation deserves some emotional support. I think we should act like a community instead of jumping up and down and shouting over each other to assign blame.
I’d love to know what you think. What stories are you telling yourself? Why?