20 September 2013

Parenting Advice

I'm in a really unique position with my special needs child with regard to unsolicited parenting advice.

I don't get much of it.

Which isn't to say I never get parenting advice from rude well-meaning strangers, but me complaining about getting parenting advice would be like me complaining about missing my husband when he's at work to a woman whose husband is away at war.

Pretty much the worst I get is people telling me babies shouldn't have babies and about how that one show, Teen Mom, only encourages teenagers to get pregnant. And as annoying as those comments can be, what people are really saying is, "Hey, you look 10 years younger than you really are!" And I'm okay with that.

The vast majority of people we come across in life fit into three categories:
1. People who don't like babies/kids.
2. People who don't like Abigail because she's different.
3. People who love Abigail because she's different.

I can honestly count the number of people who treat Abigail like she's a two-year-old little girl. The list isn't very long. Anyway, the people who fall into the first two categories aren't going to offer parenting advice because they're probably speed-walking away to avoid making eye-contact. The third group of people are so in love with Abigail and all her "specialness" that they don't think her capable of wrong doing.

So I don't get much advice. There are a few kid-loving people who honestly do "put on a brave face" and act normal around us, but they're not chomping at the bit to get involved. When Abigail does have meltdowns in public (which are rare, she isn't much of crier), people take one look at her almond-shaped eyes and turn away. No one makes rude comments to me when she's loud in church. No one has ever said anything to me when she throws things (which she does constantly). No one pushes advice on me about getting her to be less picky at the dinner table. Abigail wears her differences on her sleeve and while everyone knows what Down syndrome is, few people at the grocery store really knows what it means. So no one wants to touch us with a ten-foot pole.

And even though everyone can see that she's different, they are all unsure how I'm handling that differentness. I have people in my life who won't even say the words "Down syndrome" in front of me. I guess they're unsure if it'd cause a mental breakdown or not. So I very rarely hear "When are you going to have another?" or "Are you going to try for a boy?" No one talks to me about properly spacing out my kids. And I just realized, since we had Abigail, no one has asked me if we use birth control. (For the record, no, we've only ever used NFP. Long story short, we were married about three years before we had Abigail and there were people in the community who started hinting to discover if we were sinning before the Lord. After 5.5 years of marriage, I'm starting to realize that we just aren't the most fertile of couples).

Usually I rally against people, wishing we could get treated normally, but this is one battle I'm not fighting. I love all this freedom I feel. I often forget I have it until I read about another mother struggling with unwarranted advice. It breaks my heart, and it reminds me to count my blessings.

I feel a lot of freedom to parent without people jumping on my back. There is no pressure to try the latest parenting trends. No one pressures me to buy Bumbos. No one lectures me about the benefits of breastfeeding and co-sleeping. I genuinely get to make my own decisions based on what's best for Abigail and for our family. And on the rare occasion some fearless do-gooder starts in on the Johnny Jump Up, I put on my best "medical woes" smile and break out some technical mumbo jumbo, "Exersaucers compel back extension which discourages kids from using their core muscles to stabilize," if their eyes haven't glazed over yet, I cue more dramatic language, "and with Abigail's low muscle tone, forcing her to engage in bad habits could cause serious long-term damage." I mean, it's all true to some extent. And it sounds good. So they shut up.

So yes, my little get-out-of-jail-free card. As a result, we have a weird conglomerate of parenting styles. I didn't co-sleep, but I wore Abigail everywhere. We vaccinate, but I home-make bread to avoid processed crap. I have a vendetta against red dye #40, but Abigail watches Blues Clues. And I have the freedom to change anything at anytime without having to deal with outside pressure.

Abigail's version of signing "sleep." Because somehow, after a year of what felt like aimless meandering in the world of begging my child to sleep, I did something right and ended up with a kid who loves napping.

I do wonder what it will be like if we have more children - how it will change the way people interact with us. But right now I'm just enjoying the freedom and counting my blessings.

TGIF, my friends. Get out and do something that makes you happy this weekend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't you put a bib on Abigail when you let her feed herself?!?!?!?!?! I ALWAYS put a bib on MY kids -even my four year old - and that is THE ONLY WAY to feed your children!


(Sarcasm Alert). (Sarcasm Alert). (Sarcasm Alert).

😊I went to a book club meeting yesterday on a deliciously crisp fall day. There were crepes, coffee, and frittata. And three live turkeys outside. It was fun, my friend.