I want you to know how isolating it is being the parent of my child. This isn’t the first year I have felt the weight of other people’s opinions, advice or expectations of my child. Play dates have been a rarity because I know how hard it is to get my child to follow my directions or keep themselves safe and how tiring their boundless energy is. I can count the amount of birthday invites we have had in the last three years on one hand.
I also struggle to make friends with other parents because I hate the idea of getting close to people, only to have them distance themselves when my child’s behaviour becomes too much for them. I also worry that other parents will talk behind my back about my wild, disobedient child and my poor parenting skills (because I rarely feel ‘in control’ as a parent).
I want you to know though, that my child is not without boundaries or consequences. In fact, my child consistently attracts the natural consequence of misbehavior – other people are hesitant to make friends with my child, play with my child, interact with my child and look after my child. The isolation, people staring and people’s comments have meant that my child is also anxious, has low self-esteem (because they are THAT kid) and is a perfectionist in the debilitating way, that means they often won’t try if they believe others will see them fail. And sadly, for my child, behaviour and making good choices is often a point of failure and they don’t have the impulse control skills to act any differently most days.
I also want you to know that after years of being THAT kid, my child’s anxiety has pushed them over the edge at this point in the year. A new class, new room, new teacher and new expectations have combined into a melting pot of every day being almost too hard for my child to push through.
I want you to know that my child sees your looks of bewilderment when they don’t behave as you expect and sadly this strengthens their belief that they are different and not good enough to be friends with your child or be a positive member of the class. My child is also hyperaware of other people’s views - my child feels one person staring at them as a crowd of thousands, just waiting for them to make the wrong choice. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the anxiety becomes too much and my child inevitably escalates.
I want you to know though, that underneath what you see, is a child with beautiful manners, a kind heart and generous soul, who often sees children alone or sad in the playground and seeks to find them a friend or cheer them up with something my child knows that child likes doing. I wish my child could show you these qualities more often, but they are hindered by the skills they have not yet mastered. Skills you may expect them to have mastered by now, because your child may have nailed them years ago.
I really, really want you to see that there is a beautiful person, worthy of friendship and acceptance underneath the behaviours that push others away. I hope you can make the time to see that wonderful, big-hearted child, that is so rarely seen or acknowledged.
And I want you to know most of all - that we need you. While most days we might seem invisible, we need each and every one of you. To appreciate every child and every family, we all need to hold onto our judgement, see each child as an individual, to look for the skills a child might be missing - rather than just seeing ‘bad’ behaviour - and to wholeheartedly believe that every child is capable of more. We need you to believe that, so that in our dark days, we can believe that too.