Prior to being a stay-at-home mom for the past two years (well…a year and a half so far…), I was a middle school social studies teacher for 14 years. And I had a good handle on adolescent development, learning styles, how to teach certain things, and on and on. I would venture to say that I had a relative basic knowledge of early childhood development but since it was not the focus of the age group I was teaching, it was filed in the back of my mind.
And then I became a parent. And even though I do have a somewhat basic understanding of early childhood development, it was pretty clear, pretty quickly that I have no idea what I’m doing. As a reader, I tried to prepare myself for this parenting thing by reading several different books in addition to the ones we had to read for our adoption parent training classes. I also realize that not everything in the books is going to apply to every child or every parent. We all have different parenting styles just as students have different learning styles. Even my DH and I have different ideas about how much freedom to give E as he learns and explores the world around him. So, we’ve worked to try to figure out how to make it all work based on our parenting style(s) and E’s personality, etc.
But here’s what I’ve also learned in the 17.5 months E has been home with us and we have been parents…Everyone is just doing the best they can. It’s so easy to think you know that you wouldn’t do that with your child, or you wouldn’t allow your child to behave like that in public, or your child would be potty trained by that age, and the list just keeps going on and on. BUT, you have no idea the other issues going on in that family’s life. You have no idea if the child has other issues that cause this behavior and that mom/dad is doing what they can given the circumstances. You have no idea if the child’s issues are merely behavioral or are a manifestation of something else such as some trauma they have suffered, a medical problem (whether physical, mental, etc.), etc.
So rather than making judgments about the child or parent, based on what is happening in the here and now, maybe we should be more supportive of each other. When a child is having a meltdown in the middle of the store, offer a smile to the mom/dad that is dealing with it or quietly ask mom/dad if you can do anything to help them. More often than not, they will say no…but they will know that you were at least being supportive rather than judgmental. And maybe they won’t feel so self conscious about themselves as parents or about their child’s behavior/issues, etc.
While there are definitely differences in how you parent a child that has special needs, whether physical or otherwise, a child that was adopted, or whatever, we are all in this parenting thing together and we could all use the support of each other.