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Please don't judge me; I'm doing the best I can

The human brain is a judgement machine. It's just the way it is. It's necessary, at times, and helps keep us safe. At other times, it can lead to behavior that is detrimental. We judge others for what they wear, what they look like, the job they have, the house they live in, what they say, how they act, what kind of parent they are, and on and on and on. I don't think any judgement of me has ever bothered me as much as the way I've perceived being judged, at times, when I'm out in public with Hannah. When she was little, and still at times to this day, Hannah is what I call a runner. When she gets overwhelmed with her surroundings she runs. If she sees a stranger holding keys with tags on them, she'll take off from me and run toward the person with the keys with abandon. She has no sense of stranger danger or safety. Zero. Zilch. Nada. As a result, I have to be hyperaware not only of where she is when we are in public but of what's going on around us. It's exhausting. Places other parents love bringing their children to are a blooming nightmare for me because I'm using every bit of energy making sure she is safe. The mall, carnivals, Chuck E Cheese, fairs, and even some restaurants are prime examples. She gets so overstimulated that she will literally run from one place to another trying to see everything that interests her. When she was a baby she would cry in these places but as she got older she started running instead. Different reaction but just as stressful.

One time, when Hannah was about 13, we were at a carnival with my husband and younger daughter. While we were waiting at the carousel, she saw a person with keys in their hand so she took off like a rocket. It was all I could do to get to her before she got to this unsuspecting woman. When I finally reached her, I started to apologize to the woman and noticed she looked irritated with me. Many people were very kind and understanding. This was not one of those people. Looking at it from her perspective I understand her reaction as she probably didn't know why these two people were running towards her. I get it. But in that moment, I took it personally as I was already stressed out from having to be hyperaware since we'd been there. I quickly apologized to the woman and redirected Hannah back toward the carousel while swallowing the tears threatening to fall. In an instant came anger followed by guilt. Anger that I couldn't have a fun time with my family and then guilt that I wished she wasn't with me. What kind of mother was I? How could I not want her with me? Many people don't understand how anger and guilt go hand in hand so often for parents of children with special needs. I knew how much I loved Hannah. That was never a doubt but with that love also came resentment and guilt. Sometimes I just wanted to have a child that would enjoy the carnival without me having to watch her like a hawk. She was 13 years old. I resented the fact that I still had to watch her like a hawk at that age. My younger daughter was no problem at all. She knew to stay with us. Why couldn't Hannah? As soon as that thought entered my brain came guilt because I knew it wasn't her fault. I felt like a horrible mom because I shouldn't be impatient with her. She couldn't help it. Then I got angry with my husband because I told him this was a bad idea but he wanted to go to the carnival because he thought the kids would like it. Then I felt guilty for being angry because he had every right to want to enjoy time with his family. It was a constant back and forth of anger followed by guilt. In truth, I agreed to go knowing it would be a lot for her and, in turn, for me but I thought maybe this time would be different. I thought she deserved the experience. It wasn't different. It was just like all the times before. I was exhausted. I was sad. I was so terribly guilt-ridden for the feelings I had. So not only did I feel judged by other people, I was my own worst judge. I was relentless with judgment of myself. Thankfully there were many more days that weren't like this. The days where I saw the beauty in having a child like Hannah. The days I was so grateful for her perspective. But I came to know how important it was for me to allow myself to feel what I was feeling without judgement. It didn't mean I didn't love or want Hannah. It just meant I was having a tough time and was feeling sorry for myself. I allowed myself to feel all the feels and then move through it.

It's so important to show yourself grace when it comes to your child and the feelings that arise at different points in relation to your child. Judging yourself can be more harmful than others judging you. Know you are doing the best you can, that hard times will come and go, and that there is help out there if you need it. Just reach out. As always, you've got this and you're not alone.

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