It’s that time of year again, full of family gatherings and festive events. For our family of four young children and two tired parents, even the smallest excursion can be difficult. Additionally, whether we like to fully admit it or not, our children’s challenges will most likely affect the degree of merriment.
Between our four children, they have diagnoses of Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, and Epilepsy. We know that each time we venture out in public the cards are already stacked against us, yet we still like to experience all the holiday season brings. The challenge, however, isn’t always just for us. Sometimes it can be a challenge for those that are attending the event alongside our clan.
We are like a fart in a theater- you just can’t ignore us.
This past weekend we attend “Elf Jr.” a musical for children. It was cute, engaging, and most of our children loved it. Our children’s ages are 2, 3, 5, and 7. We probably should have left our littlest one at home, considering the 2:00 show was during his naptime. However, we like to be out together as a family, even if that means one parent is going to have to leave with “the difficult child”, whoever it happens to be that day.
Our row of six seats contained four buckets of popcorn, five bags of fruit snacks, two bottles of water, and a sippy cup full of milk (ooh- re-read this sentence singing the twelve days of Christmas).
Anyhoo, besides a bit of loud talking and messy popcorn eating, the three older kids behaved fairly well. The 2-year-old however, was up and down, throughout the entire show. His messy fingers graced the hair of the mom in front of us, and when he demanded his shoes and socks off, I am sure she could smell the pungent aroma coming from his little toes. Finally, as he lay quietly on the floor by my feet, the scene in the show fell silent, and that’s when he farted loudly… and my family giggled.
Let it be known, that farting loudly for all to hear is not the way to spread Christmas cheer.
I am used to the looks we get, some empathizing and forgiving (like that mom), and some disappointed in our parenting. Usually, I try to not spend time engrossed in what others are thinking of me. I know what we look like from the outside- a chaotic crazy mess of children, a frazzled mom trying to control them, and a dad that is usually working and can’t help with the chaos. While that is true on many days in public, behind the scenes we are doing a few things right.
Therefore, if you see us out and about looking a mess, please also understand these:
10 things you should know about my out-of-control family
1. We know we are a lot. We’ve got a lot of people, stuff, and sometimes problems. We’re still in the stage of sippy cups, snack bags, and travel toys. We need those to help avoid outbursts and meltdowns. That is who we are, and we are ok with that.
2. We get each other. My husband is stressed when the house is too messy. I get worked up on party days. One child demands on figuring everything out on his own, while our girl can’t stop crying when she’s tired. Another child hates public bathrooms, and his brother very literal. He isn’t being difficult, he’s trying to understand or be understood. We have our quirks and we’re learning how to handle them better, but we also give each other the room to be who we are.
3. The most valuable things in our home are not fancy cars or gadgets. The most valuable things are tall block towers, custom crayon artwork, trains with working batteries, day-long Lego creations, and whatever toy their sibling has.
4. Our manners are not the same as yours. We say please and thank you, but farts are still funny. While we practice what to do/say in public, at home we’re not always polite.
5. Our punishments are probably not the same as yours either. We use time out only when they get kinda crazy. Instead, we spend extra time coaching our children to deal with their emotions, to make better choices, and to use their words. Consequences are based on their intentions, not their actions.
6. We are committed. My husband and I are in this crazy messy family that we love, together. We are committed to raising the best versions of our children. It might not be exactly how others would do it. That’s ok.
7. We FEEL real hard: If we are happy- we’ve got to share it with you. When we are sad or hurt, you’re sure gonna know how bad it is. When we love, our bottom lips quiver and eyes fill up with tears because our hearts are so full.
8. My children face challenges and sensory stimuli that you cannot see. Please understand that when they are at their worst, sometimes they are trying their best.
9. Parenting is hard. Parenting four children who have special challenges is hard. Add any other variable = even harder. We as their parents are doing our best.
10. We wouldn’t change it. These are our people and we are going to let them be little. They’re only that way for a while.
Outings, no matter how stressful they can be, are a part of life. From doctor appointments to Target runs to musicals, we will be there with our crazy messy selves, growing up a little bit each time.
Are you a special needs parent (or just a parent trying to get through events)? What would you like others to know about your public or private life?