I can feel it before anything. The judging. Oh…the judging.
Picture this: There’s a woman in front of you at the checkout with WIC vouchers for 4 different transactions. Lovely, especially when you’re in a hurry. This woman is wearing Coach sunglasses on her head, Lululemon pants, Nike tennis shoes, carrying a Vera Bradley wristlet, and has an iPhone. Immediately you let out a little disgusted sigh. Really? She needs WIC? This is what MY tax dollars are paying for? You can’t wait to tell your friends about what you saw and rant and rave about how wrong our government benefits are. Just how can someone like her be receiving these benefits??
I want you to know, that person is me. It’s me you’re judging before you ever know MY story. Do you know that my son is at home and he’s tube fed, developmentally delayed, and sadly, he’s missing part of his brain? Do you know that I quit my job to stay home and care for him because that’s what HE needs? Do you know that I have no idea how I am going to pay back my student loans because 3 years ago I decided to go to college to get my Bachelor’s degree to make a better life for us? My Coach sunglasses were a birthday gift from my sister-in-law for my 30th birthday, and…ahem…I’m closer to 40 than I am 30. The Lulu’s are a hand-me-down from my fabulous sister, Nikes are probably 6 years old, Vera Bradley was a gift from my loving mom, and the iPhone was a Christmas gift from a generous friend. You don’t know MY story. Before you give me that look or whisper to your friend, think twice.
If I didn’t have to use the vouchers I wouldn’t. Two of the vouchers are just for Pediasure, which is the only nutrition our son gets. I’m not sitting at home abusing “the system.” I’m working my ass off each day so my son will meet his full potential. I want to give him every single opportunity possible in his life, and if this means not working and getting $8 of fruits and vegetables a month I’m going to gladly accept it. Not everyone is manipulative and lazy. Please, get the facts before you step up on your soap box.
I have been treated horribly by cashiers and noticed the looks of disgust by other customers. I don’t deserve any of this, and neither does anyone else. People are too quick to judge and think the worst. I know I too have done this. My shoes are different now; I’m on the other side. You don’t know everyone’s story.
It’s not easy. I wonder if I’m too sensitive. Do I just need to grin and bear it? I realize that this is just the beginning of the questions and comments about our special needs son. It’s starting. As he gets older his developmental delay is more apparent as well as his size; I’m not sure if I’m prepared. I thought I was but maybe I’m not.
People ask if he’s tired constantly. “Oh, he must be tired?” was one comment as I was holding him on my hip and his head was on my shoulder. No. Not tired. I want to say “actually he’s getting much stronger and his head control is his biggest struggle. I never would have been able to hold him in this position a few months ago”, but I don’t say that…. I can’t even recall my answer. I probably just smiled or kissed his sweet head and changed the subject. My heart hurts a little. I get the feeling deep inside of me that I had when we met with his neurologist after his MRI. I wanted to grab him and run; run far away and never let another person touch him or look at him. He’s my perfect baby and how dare you tell me different. I remember that day like it was yesterday and tears well up in my eyes as I relive it.
“Do you love not working?” This one probably annoys me the most. Excuse me? You think I don’t “work?” I stopped working outside of our home over 6 months ago to stay home and care for our son, and believe me, this job is much harder. He is a twenty-four hour job. Meetings with specialists, occupational and physical therapy appointments, constant therapy at home, and let’s not get started on the feeding issues! Everything is work for him, and when I say “everything” I do mean everything. Turning his head to the right is something that we’ve recently been cheering about, switching a toy from hand to hand is another big feat, and tolerating a cookie or cheese puff on his lips is a reason to jump for joy! It’s all work. So, yes, I love that I can stay home and ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to help him gain strength and new skills, but don’t think that I’m meeting friends for coffee or popping by the gym for a great workout. I wish.
“Will he grow out of it?” Yes. You heard that right. I’ve actually had quite a few people ask this. I want to say “are you going to grow out of your face?”, but that is not very nice, is it? This is not a habit or behavior that he will outgrow, this is who he is. He’ll meet milestones, but in his own time and not by a chart. He’ll get stronger but progress is slow, really slow. At his last check-up we were given a packet of questions about his development. I wanted to put a giant X through each page. I barely read them after the first few questions; my sight was blurry as my eyes were filling with tears. It was a reminder of how far we have to go. God gave me the gift of patience for a reason and now I know why.
This is all new. I’m still learning how to navigate this road we are on. I know that people mean well, but sometimes it just hurts. Put yourself in my shoes and think. What if this was you?