Not the sweet-mama cry, the one where you’re overwhelmed with love or affection or a twinge of regret for fleeting moments.
The crying that you don’t share. The crying that happens in your room at night, the door shut. The crying that’s not sentimental. The crying that says I’m alone, I’ve tried, I can’t keep doing this, but I have to?
Have you ever cried because you didn’t know how to be a mom anymore? Because the new thing that was going to be the answer was failing miserably too, and you’d nowhere else to turn?
Have you ever cringed when the school’s number came up on Caller ID? Cried because it was yet another Bad Kid Call, and how were you going to handle it this time, because the last 50 tried-and-true strategies did absolutely nothing?
Have you ever cried because it had to be your fault? Except you knew it wasn’t, but it had to be, because why else was she like this?
Have you ever made weak, poor excuses to try to distract from your conviction, and everyone’s conviction, that you were doing it all wrong?
Have you ever faked it, pretended it was under control? “She’s having a bad day, I’m sorry.” “We’re really trying, she’s going through a rough patch, I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry, we’ll have a really long talk.” “I don’t know why she did that, she knows that’s way out of line. I’m sorry.” “She knows better. I’m sorry.”
Has it ever seemed like that’s all you ever say?
Have you ever dealt with a child who’s got behavioral issues? I mean for real. Not a tantrum phase. Not a mouthy phase. Not a kid who “simply” needs more discipline/less discipline/reward charts/privilege losses/more attention/less attention/a stricter routine/an unstructured life/an earlier bedtime/more protein/a diet free of wheat, dairy, soy, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, red dye, meat, or carbs . . .
Or for you to “just” read 1-2-3 Magic and all your troubles will magically dissolve?
The thing is, there’s no “just” this. There’s no “all you have to do is” that. And there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all solution.
But not according to a host of commenters–the majority, even–on a recent news story about a 6-year-old whose wild tantrum saw her handcuffed and brought to jail.
The story? Outrageous. The fact that the wrong video was paired with it? Also infuriating. But what really put me over the edge were the comments.
Comments from people who’ve never had to deal with a child like this. Who think that all you have to do is “not put up with this anymore.” People who assume, imply, outright call the parents losers, idiots, “a**hats,” horrible people who aren’t even trying to do their job as parents, who couldn’t be bothered teaching self control to the “monster.” Who refer to the kid with disgust: “the little brat.” “The little freak.”
So you’ve said your piece, commenters. And now keep talking, because I’m repeating my question: have you ever been the parent of a difficult child? Have you, commenters? Have you, staring crowds? Have you, eyebrow-raisers?
If you have, then you know: there’s parent struggling and child struggling and a whole lot of love and advocacy and frustration and denial and shouting and tears and confusion all rolled into one.
And sometimes it seems as though there’s a light at the end and there is hope and everything is going to be all right, and sometimes it seems as though you’re plowing through the muck and it’s never going to stop.
But if you haven’t?
Then don’t assume.
Don’t assume that the preschooler throws a massive fit in the aisle at the department store because her mom doesn’t know how to be consistent.
Don’t assume that the Kindergartner hits because she’s mean or because her parents are teaching her to be a bully.
Don’t assume that the child yells because his parents do.
Don’t assume that the kid’s misbehaving because her home life’s screwed up.
Don’t assume that a difficult child doesn’t have positive qualities, too.
Don’t assume the kid doesn’t care. Don’t assume the parents don’t.
Don’t assume that the parents aren’t trying everything, haven’t tried everything.
Don’t assume this isn’t breaking their hearts.
Call a child a freak.