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People think I could be a better parent

I used to feel entitled to judge other people’s parenting.

In fact, a person doesn't even have to be a parent to watch a kid have an almighty meltdown in a grocery store and think… “that mother really needs to (fill in the blank)”.

In his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey tells a story of being on a train commute and getting increasingly annoyed with a father and his numerous children in the same carriage. The children are completely out of control, climbing over the seats, making an awful noise. The man is checked out, completely ignoring the chaos around him. (Hands up if you’ve been there).

Eventually, out of patience with the man’s inaction, Covey says “Excuse me, do you think you can ask your children to settle down a bit?”

“ ..Oh,” the man seems to wake up “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what to do… their mother just died…”

Understanding changes everything.

I remember being overwhelmed by the amount of advice and input I received as a young mother. Every one and the bank-teller feels they are perfectly within their rights to question why you didn’t dress your baby warmly enough.

When my youngest was only months old we drove back from a social occasion with three kids under the age of five. I had a four year old with a sugar-high-about-to-wear-off, a two year old I was trying to keep awake so he still had a proper nap at home and a screaming baby in the bassinet. And by screaming I mean, hardly-breathing-in-between wailing. There was nothing to do but to drive the ten minutes home and then pull a rabbit out of a hat (or is it a breast out of a feeding bra).

We passed through a busy intersection when suddenly a kindly old lady stuck her head right into the open car window and started telling me off “ Why are you letting that baby cry like that…. NO! You need to….” I couldn’t hear the rest of her sage advice as I pressed the accelerator and weaved out of the traffic like a stunt driver.

What I really wanted to do was to get out of that car and give that lady a piece of my frazzled sleep deprived mind!

Why do I still remember the incident so many years later? Why does the deep gut response to her criticism still ache after eleven years of being a more than good enough mom to that screaming baby.

I can tell you many stories like it

  • the man wagging a finger at me on the staircase of the public library

  • the driver shouting at me when I was trying to cross a road with a pram, a girl on a pink bike and a toddler on a tricycle who decided to freeze in the middle of the road

This month’s guest on Wonderfully Wired, Debbie Reber urges us to LET GO OF WHAT OTHERS THINK in order to give our kids what they need and not what our ego demands.


Debbie wrote a fantastic book called,”Differently Wired”. She suggests that as parents of kids that think and learn differently we make some shifts in our parenting which she calls TiLTs.

You can hear my conversation with Debbie here and listen to a ReadbyElle book summary of “Differently Wired” here.

It gets so much worse when the people we love don't approve of how we parent.

An extended family member raises an eyebrow when you:

  • hand an iPad to a toddler so the adults can eat in peace

  • let an upset teenager leave an untouched plate of food to self-regulate

  • medicate your six year old on a long distance flight

They don’t understand!

Until I had a Wonderfully Wired child or two of my own I thought that parenting principals were universal. You needed only be intentional, read a couple of well-chosen books and apply sound advice for good parenting to follow.

As it turns out, the path we tread raising atypical kids has no road map!

You’re just trying to keep your cool in explosive situations.

You’re still trying to prevent tantrums from happening and anxiety from spiraling.

You’re feeling the tension between you and your spouse who feels you are coddling your daughter.

You’re in desperate need of a full night’s sleep in your own bed without a four year old in it.

You feel your child is your responsibility, you won’t ask for help because no one else can handle him.

You’re stuck and feeling judged and isolated.

Here is what I’m learning: your child is unique but your situation is not!

There are so many parents who feel and understand the frustration,sadness and loneliness. There are so many who also feel the eyes of strangers and people we know, trained on our turned backs with advice on how we should:

  • manage our children

  • get them to comply

  • stop enabling a lack of discipline.

The invitation Debbie Reber issues is this:

Let go of what others think.

  • What would it look like if you chose, intentionally, a tight circle of people who know and love you and your child, to speak into your life instead of an unidentified crowd?

  • What if you were able to look at social situations not reactively (let’s see what happens and hope we can stay calm) but proactively (we have rehearsed firm but kind answers for all those outside our circle; we have intentional action steps to help regulate ourselves and our kids: If this happens … then we do ….)?

  • What if those close, who still don’t understand, need a brave conversation from you instead of you playing the game, hoping things will magically look different next time?

Can I be vulnerable with you for a minute?

Tim and I have friends and relatives who don’t agree with our schooling choices for our kids.

What kind of parent is okay with living without their teenagers?

What kind of patriotic person does not support local education?

What parent, knowing the sensitivity of their children, lets them fend for themselves in boarding school?

Some of these friends are close enough to understand the different wiring of our kids and their need for support and just can’t imagine that we are making the right decisions.

I wish I could tell you it doesn’t bother me.

I wish I could tell you I don’t still ask myself those very questions!

I can’t.

I don’t yet have hindsight that declares - “see it all worked out: my teenagers took ownership of their story, started advocating for their own needs and grew in independence and maturity despite how hard it was.”

I’m still in the thick of it like you.

Just this week I’m wrestling with the knowledge that Judah, having been given accommodations at school and allowed assistive technology in class, isn’t magically thriving overnight because of it. He needs help to know how to make accommodations work, he needs coaching on speech-to-text technology. And I’m not there to help after supper every night!

I don’t always feel with complete certainty that we’ve made the right choice.

But I can tell you one thing: If we made our decisions based on keeping people impressed with us; we would make the wrong decisions often.

And so I’m joining Debbie in the decision to let my choices be based on love and possibility instead of fear of what ‘the people’ think.

Are you with us?

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1 comentario

Samantha Webster
Samantha Webster
04 ene 2023

So many people have questioned our decisions, it is sometimes hard to have faith in your convictions, but do I regret any of those hard decisions, absolutely not and it has opened doors I never even knew existed. Doing what is right for my kids, rather than accepting the norm, is paying off every day.

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