Judgement Day

The other day we were having dinner at Fazoli’s when a woman approached me and thanked me for being a good parent. WOW. Who does that? It was really very cool, and very validating. She said she enjoyed having dinner next to a family with children who listened and followed directions, instead of disturbing the peace. More Wow. I thanked her in return for making my day!

I was especially stunned by her compliment because my oldest son had spent nearly the entire dinner repeatedly making loud and annoying grunting noises. It seems she was one of the few people I’ve encountered lately who understood that this was not a behavioral issue–it’s called Tourette’s.

For years when  he was small, and especially before he was diagnosed, I also believed he was just an out of control kid. His repeated behaviors and noises did not respond to any type of punishment or reward system. I listened for far too long to other well-meaning parents who offered me advice on time-outs and sticker charts that would somehow magically make the annoying behaviors disappear. Everywhere I went, I saw well-behaved, quiet children and I felt ashamed that I could not control my son’s outbursts. And then I became educated about Tourette’s and I stopped worrying about what other people think. But even with the best intentions, sometimes I guess it just wears me down.

Fast forward to last night. We made a quick post-dinner trip to the mall for some back to school clothes. At Macy’s, we split up and John took Henry upstairs, while I took Cate and TP with me. TP’s current tic just happens to sound exactly like a chirping bird, and it can be fairly annoying. I actually haven’t minded it because it follows his last tic, which was a coughing noise that made it seem like he had chronic bronchitis and made for a lot of “get your sick kid away from mine” staring at the pool this summer. So there we are, my son chirping away while we shop, and I notice, as usual, all the stares and the fact that we usually have the entire rack of clothes to ourselves within seconds of approaching. No problem. I have come a long way since he was two years old. I kept on shopping and chatting with the kids; everything is normal here. Just keep moving.

When we decided to go upstairs and my son couldn’t get on the escalator (it’s complicated, but basically his o.c.d. was demanding that he repeat all actions in exact backward order, which is impossible on an escalator),  we headed for the elevator. For some reason, probably because she was overly tired, or perhaps to prove the nice lady in Fazoli’s wrong, my daughter chose this moment to have a little meltdown. It wasn’t a temper tantrum (I dare her!), but she began to whine “I want my Daddy! I want to go up the escalator!” just loud enough to embarrass me while I force marched her to the elevator. And then the elevator was out-of-order. ha!

So now I’m stuck downstairs at Macy’s with two crazy children. Still not a problem. I sent a text to John (side note: it is just WAY too cool that we both have phones now! How did we exist before?), and stood at the bottom of the escalator to wait for him to return. Meanwhile my daughter continues to openly sulk, and my son’s chirps grow louder, while I count the number of smug mothers who give me dirty “can’t you control your kid? my kid’s not chirping, you freak” looks.

At that moment I almost broke down. I spent several moments feeling sorry for myself and wishing I could sink into the cold tile floor, never to be seen in public with my children again. I sent out a quick tweet to gain support from my Twitter comrades (and within moments I had several remarks of support–thanks tweeps!), and then I gathered my children around me and put my chin up.

The point is this: judging others is ignorant. For all the thousands of parents who stare at me or “kindly” suggest I discipline my child for a disability he can’t control, there is only the one woman in Fazoli’s who recognized us for what we really are: a family trying to raise good children, despite the obstacles thrown in our way. Tourette’s is NOT a behavioral disorder; it is a neurological disorder that no amount of discipline can eliminate. My dream is to walk through a world where people smile at my son, and see past all the chirping, twitching, coughing and backward walking to the wonderful, well-behaved, intelligent and thoughtful being he has become. Likewise, when I see parents struggling to contain a shrieking toddler in  public, I won’t snidely assume they need a parenting class. Because everyone has their own challenges–and you never know the whole story.

Peace out.

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One response to “Judgement Day

  1. Sounds a lot like my life except I’m on the other end, I have Tourrets myself, I’ll be 49 years old this Fall, needless to say I have led an interesting life so far. One thing I have learned over the years is that other children can be the cruelest human beings on Earth but thats speaking from my childhood, the World is much more educated on the subject now than it was in the 70’s, I’d have to say that 1/4 of my facebook friends are the same people that treated me the worst when we were in School, but now , they have the utmost respect for me simply because they understand what it’s all about.
    Be not wherry for there is light at the end of the tunnel for those who choose not to let Tourrets be a handicap, I stopped all meds in the early 80’s and started being me, I decided people can either take me for who I am or don’t take me at all, I have developed an element self control over the years as I am a Professional Gospel Musician and also own a successful Business, most of the people that I have continuance contact with would not know me being any other way and they just don’t pay any attention to any thing I may do, even strangers that I meet seem to know what it is but never let on that they notice.
    Time is precious and I wished I had more of it, as of late, I have thought continuously about writing a blog myself in hopes that I can help someone that is dealing with Tourrets and maybe, just maybe I can say something that will encourage them to take some roads less traveled and overcome adversity.
    Great Blog, I will read often……Thanks