“How I Learned to Live in the Moment — and Ignore the Stares”
“This life is our choice. How we handle our children — during small struggles or major meltdowns — is our choice. How we react to friends, family, and strangers, when their stares and judgmental glances pierce our skin, is our choice. So make the choice to show up, be present, and jump.”
How I Learned to Live in the Moment, Without Shame
I’ve spent most of motherhood on the sidelines. I was always tending to the needs of my children, making dinner, folding clothes, doing all the things summed up as “mom will do it.”
Sometimes, though, I’ve found myself watching, instead of participating, out of fear — of what others might think or how I might look. Could I still do at 30 what I did at 17, or should I even try? Usually my fear stems from anxiety about how my child’s extreme behavior looks to others.
When raising a child with special needs, one prone to meltdowns or outbursts, parents can be paralyzed by fear. We want to protect our children and ourselves from the fallout that follows an episode — the rage, the tears, the embarrassment, the endless apologies, the whispers. Oh, those whispers.
I have felt those whispers in my bones. But at some point — to save our own sanity — we must choose to ignore them. So today I decided to say “no” to fear and jump in, with both feet, socked and sweaty. I took our son (and his five behavior diagnoses) to the trampoline park as his reward for having a great week at school. Instead of eating ice cream or sitting in a movie theater, where I could duck out or hide in the dark, I made the decision to jump.
[Self-Test: Could My Child Have ADHD?]
The hour at the trampoline park brought us the best laughs we’ve had together that I can remember. It wasn’t pity laughter. He wasn’t embarrassed for his mother. It was belly laughing of the best kind. You don’t get that kind of cardio on the sidelines.
How We React to Others’ Judgments Is Our Choice
I have been his mother for eight years; we’ve battled behaviors, dealt with comorbid diagnoses, and handled heartbreak as it came. But not today. Today, I made the choice to take charge, to laugh and to lead, to hold hands and ignore the onlookers. No one needs to approve of our lifestyle or forgive our ability levels. No one needs to understand our conditions.
This life is our choice. How we handle our children — during small struggles or major meltdowns — is our choice. How we react to friends, family, and strangers, when their stares and judgmental glances pierce our skin, is our choice.
Being there yesterday — really being present with my boy instead of being cramped by fear or anxiety — brought me more joy than I have ever known on the sidelines. We jumped and we bounced. I dominated six children in trampoline dodgeball.
It was awesome. So, moms, make the choice to show up, be present, and jump. Stop being a bystander in your child’s life, sidelined by worry over whether he might have a meltdown. Your child won’t remember what you wore or the evenings when you had to fix frozen pizza for supper because it was too late to make a meal from scratch.
He will remember you sledding with him, coloring pictures, puddle jumping in the rain, or diving onto a trampoline with both feet. His memories are made from laughing loud and long. You deserve those moments, too.
Brynn Burger is a wife, mother, teacher, writer, and a lover of all things outdoors. Parenting a child with behavior disabilities has become her prison and her passion. You can get in touch with Brynn at themamaontherocks.com.