I’ve often referred to the role I play in Jake’s special needs and health problems as “Mama Bear”. I’m cute and fluffy and I like sweet things, but when I need to, I can stand up and roar really loudly until Jake gets the help he needs.
There is one issue on our journey though processing problems and epilepsy that can turn Mama Bear into Mama Dragon and this is when people are mean to my son.
This first year in public school has been difficult for both Jake and myself. It’s been hard almost from the first day of school. Jake is different. I am different. He has special needs. I choose not to dress like a model or purchase coordinating workout clothes. Jake has problems controlling his body when he gets upset and I have trouble caring about women who wouldn’t want to speak to me because the stripe on my jogging suit doesn’t match my running shoes.
From the beginning of the school year, I have been determined to be kind and gracious to the moms no matter what. It doesn’t mean I won’t be direct or honest, but I won’t be mean or yell when I talk to them. Jake, at five years old, with a brain that functions so differently and with a body that doesn’t always work the right way, has had trouble with yelling and pushing people when he gets upset.
Let me be really clear about something before I go any further. In no way do I diminish the role of Jake’s behavior in the problems we are having. In no way does he get away with being unkind to his friends. I am on him when I see him do something he shouldn’t. Even though he doesn’t always act the way he should, at least we know why! I feel like the other kids don’t have the reasons he has. Yes, the other kids are young. They are immature. They don’t really understand why Jake does what he does. But, that doesn’t give them the excuse or right to be horrible to him. Bumping into him on purpose just to see him melt down is awful. Throwing things at him and laughing when he doesn’t understand what hit him is mean. Pushing him so that he bumps into someone else really sucks. Blaming him for their bad behavior is even worse.
Last night, Jake told Greg and I that “girls are friends and boys are kids”. When we dug a little deeper, he said that boys are not friends because they are mean to him. We talked that through and reminded him that he needed to be kind no matter what.
Later in the evening, though, the tears started to pour out of my face. I realized that this is just the beginning of what is going to be a very long road for him. Until he gets himself figured out, his body figured out, his maturity catches up with him, and we get the epilepsy totally under control, he is going to struggle and people aren’t going to understand why.
Up until now, I have been able to fix things. I can make things better for him. I can get him better therapy, different therapy, a different doctor, I can Mama Bear people until we get what we need for him.
I can’t fix this. I can’t make people be nice to him. I can’t make the parents understand what I’ve already told them a bunch of times. I can’t make them teach their children to be kind or understanding of people who are different.
Right now, today, I am having trouble being kind to those parents. I want to yell at them for modeling bad behavior to their children. Yes, when you make fun of someone for not wearing cute clothes, your children hear that and think it’s okay to do it to their peers. When you tell your child that their teacher can’t do anything right, they think it’s okay to treat their teacher like she can’t do anything right.
Greg reminded me last night to not spend too much time and energy on being angry at these people. I don’t need to give them this much space in my head and my heart. His advice was timely and needed.
The only way I can figure out how to not let them get to me is to say that mean people are just a face we are going to pass by on the long road to getting Jake better. They’re just faces. Faces we will walk by. Faces we will smile at and keep on going. While these are the faces that are throwing mud and nastiness into the road we are walking, our job is to get through the mud with a minimum of damage done.
I need to keep reminding myself when I am around these moms that “You are just a face. That’s all the space you get to take up in my world. You don’t get any more than that.”
While I am pursuing what is going on at school pretty fiercely, I know that my job is to continue to love, encourage, pray for and build up my son. I need to be the safe place for him to come when he’s hurting. I need to remind him that we never put our hands on people when we are angry. I need to keep giving him tools for when someone hurts him. (And, no, not showing him that little spot in your throat that really hurts if someone taps it!) I need to model kind and good and loving behavior for people, even when they are being idiots.
I love that everyone who reads this blog is not just a face on the long road. You have been my constant encouragers and make me laugh and smile when things hurt. Everyone needs that in their life and I’m so grateful for it.