I’ll admit that I had my first child young at age 18. But that doesn’t mean that I am not capable of being a parent or that I follow the stigma of being a teen parent. It also does not mean that I can’t better myself because of having a young child, or that I am a bad role model for others. For me personally, having my son young was the best thing that happened to me.
Unfortunately, still to this day I get looks from people disapproving that I now have two small children with me – and it will be three soon. They vary in age with my oldest being five, my middle child is 18 months, and I’ll have a newborn in the next month. Most of the looks are because I am young and I have more than one child in tow. They all have the same father who I’ve been with since I was 16 and am happily married to now. We own our house, which we were fortunate enough to find and buy last year, and we pay our own bills. Of course, we are still young and make mistakes (like anyone), but we learn from each one.
Parenting a Special Needs Child and Handling their Meltdowns
Even though I am now 23 years old and I’ve graduated from college, I still don’t have self-confidence most of the time. I notice the looks and they still get under my skin. Why do I let it bother me? Oh yeah, I remember now. You know that kid that’s in the store screaming his head off in a temper tantrum? That’s my oldest son – who is actually having a meltdown from being overstimulated in the store. He has special needs: he is ADHD and he also has Autism. I’ll admit he’s loud and if you don’t know how to tune him out, he’s annoying, especially to older adults. He attracts attention – a lot of attention. He “looks” like a normal 5-year-old, except he’s tiny.
Dealing with Rude People
I’ve had to learn how to deal with inconsiderate adults…in public…in front of my son. The first time it happened, which was just recently, it took me off guard completely, because his behavior was normal to me. I wasn’t stressed by his normal reactions. I’m guessing it’s because of his age now – you know how they say temper tantrums are a sign of being spoiled after three. I don’t believe that by the way; they just have to learn at their own pace. Of course, since he’s five now, when he has a meltdown—which is different than a temper tantrum by the way—it attracts more attention. The lady at the store didn’t like how he was screaming and that we put him in the back of the shopping cart for his own safety (he has a history of running). She came straight up to me and spoke her mind. I, of course, was seven months pregnant and just went off on her about how he is special needs and her comments aren’t necessary but instead are damaging to him.
I Know What My Kid Needs
Now of course after the fact, I feel bad about my reaction, but it should not have been necessary. I was doing my job, parenting my child, in a calm manner during one of his meltdowns. I know that by being a young parent being calm and patient is going to be seen as more of a challenge for me, because patience comes with age you know. Throw in bad behaviors and it should make me snap quicker than a more seasoned mother. But what my child needs is that calm, patient, and understanding parent, which is what he gets from me. This means I do not show my emotions to him because it feeds his meltdown more, which in turn increases the volume and bad behaviors. I also know that when I choose to ignore his bad behaviors, he does quit much faster. Unfortunately, people think that I am merely choosing not to parent my child instead and step in to mutter under their breath ‘She shouldn’t have children if she can’t handle them’ comments.
Don’t Debate My Parenting Style
Of course, I’ve heard the murmurs of others around us and so does my child. It breaks my heart when he overhears someone talking about him because he doesn’t understand. It also weirds him out when others try to intervene, you know the line “You should listen to your mother/parents”. He doesn’t understand what he’s doing most of the time – it’s a reaction to his surroundings. It’s a terrible feeling to leave a store, because you feel like a failure thanks to that overbearing customer who can’t seem to mind their own business. I’ve also heard many times that I shouldn’t take him in public places. Are you kidding me? Not take my child to a public place? He has a right to be there like you do! When I take him to public places, I am constantly working with him and trying to teach him how to behave in public. It’s my responsibility as a parent to teach my child how to behave, but also how to be a functional member of society.
There is a theme here if you haven’t noticed. That theme is parenting. I have seen a lot of controversies lately over parenting styles and parenting in general, especially comparing parenting today to parenting in the past. I have seen parents who are trying to be friends with their children – my mother did this to me. While it may work for some, for others it creates problems. I choose to parent my child and I make sure he knows I am his mother, not his best friend. I also make sure he knows that I love him more than anything else, just like I love his brothers equally as well. Parenting styles are another story in today’s society. I don’t think I have a style that I use all the time. I choose to react to each situation based on that unique situation, because that seems to work the best.
I understand that people may think that I do not parent my children, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. I do parent my children and do so in a way that they respond the best. If that means that I have to ignore his behaviors for him to have the time he needs to adjust his attitude, then so be it. After he calms down, we talk it over calmly together in terms that he understands. Then we see about if and what discipline is needed, whether he’s grounded, needs a time out, or to do a chore. As a parent of a special needs child I understand that flexibility and grace are much needed.
Let’s Support One Another Instead of Judge
Instead of passing judgement on other parents, we should be supporting them more than ever in today’s society. We need to be more understanding, more compassionate, and give more support than muttering under our breaths. I challenge you the next time you see a mother struggling in public with a child, to give her a knowing smile of understanding or tell her she’s got this. Give her support, not a judgement based on a three-minute temper tantrum, because you don’t know the whole story.
Latest posts by Chaney Wells (see all)
- Experiences as a Young Parent with a Special Needs Child - October 6, 2016