Todays news highlighted a story in which a young mum was ‘awarded’ £5 by a kind-hearted fellow passenger, in praise for her three-year-old sons good behaviour during a train journey. Although criticised for being perhaps patronising, nobody can deny the extreme kindness behind the gesture, and can only imagine the ego boost and rise in self esteem for being recognised for such good parenting. However, I think we are missing the point that this also highlights the upsetting example of exactly what we expect from children and what constitutes as ‘good parenting’.
I’ve been reading the comments made on links to the story on Facebook. Lots of proud mothers gushing about the praise they have also received about their childs wonderful behaviour and manners, a lady even commenting on how well behaved her 4 MONTH OLD was, also on a train journey, and another mum describing the praise received from other diners, as her she managed her two young children beautifully, meaning they dined on a nearby table in peace.
This is a letter I wrote to a local weekly newspapaer three years ago http://www.newsguardian.co.uk/news/think-before-interfering-1-4131880 It was written one afternoon, after several weeks of hurtful comments about me and my then three-year-old daughter. The comment previous to the one which prompted me to write the letter, was off a lady telling my daughter that if she didn’t stop ‘making those noises’, santa wouldn’t come. I think that was the first time I spat out the words ‘She’s autistic and can’t talk’, and walked home in tears. Last year I put a letter though both my neighbours letter boxes. Jessica, still largely non verbal at the time, was screaming from getting up, to going to bed. I discussed speaking to our neighbours about it with my husband and health visitor, but decided they know we have two small children, they’ll understand. Particularly the family with four children very close in age. However, after hearing one of them banging on the wall as Jessica screamed one morning whilst I struggled to get her dressed for school, I waved her off in her taxi, sat down with a pen and paper and wrote two letters, one for each adjoining neighbour, explaining Jessicas condition and assured them I would be seeking help and advice regarding the screaming at her pediatric appointment the following week. I know I should have knocked on their doors and spoke to them face-to-face, but I felt I wouldn’t be able to talk without getting upset. One neighbour knocked on the door, and told me not to worry and just concentrate on Jess, and the others, nothing.
Now at age 6, Jessicas behaviour is very unpredictable, both and home, and especially in public. Throw in a 3-year-old and it’s a recipe for disaster. My anxiety levels shoot up every time I leave the house, as I not only have to deal with the potential difficult behaviour, but of course the on lookers, who are unfortunate to be in the same proximinty as my ‘un-ruley’ children which has obviously resulted from my terrible parenting skills.
I should mention that I took my children to The Baltic last summer. They love arts and crafts, and so took them to join that days activities, which they did and thoroughly enjoyed. However, as it was time to leave Emily threw the mother of all tantrums as I tried to fasten her in her pushchair, whilst Jessica shouted continuously that she needed the toilet (Autistic children don’t always understand the concept of waiting). Jessica then ran away, so I lifted Emily out of the still unfastened pushchair (due to her kicking and screaming), picked her up and ran after Jessica as she was heading for a lift which doors were about to close, heard the pushchair laden with bags hit the floor, grabbed Jess by the arms, and that’s when a young girl working at the Baltic kindly asked if I would like any help, and held Jessicas hand whilst I again battled to sit Emlly in her pushchair, and reasurred me everything was fine by telling me her mum has told her stories of how she would often act up in public as a child.
We need to remember, this is 2015, not 1940. Our children are no longer expected to be ‘seen and not heard’. We should live in a society where we support each other, not praise those with beautifully behaved children, and chastise those for not. I spent most of the summer last year indoors feeling unable to cope with the glares, comments and stares should my children so much as make a noise, I’m not doing the same this year