I’ve been thinking a lot about judgement lately. Judgement is unfortunately a part of the human condition. For example, people judge my son Z, who has Aspergers all the time,
Other kids say…
Strangers at the grocery store think…
why can’t he behave?
People who see Z mid-meltdown have been overheard commenting…
What’s wrong with that kid?
People judge me too, mainly people I don’t even know, but sometimes it hits closer to home…
The parents at Z’s school…
Why can’t she control her child?
Friends have commented…
I would never allow my child to behave that way!
The outside world judges my life all of the time as a result of Z’s behaviour. It hurts. It is frustrating, disheartening and sad. Are we not all human beings, with happinesses, problems, joys and suffering? The answer to that is yes! Each and every one of us has a burden that we are carrying around. No one’s life is perfect all of the time. Some of us are ill, some have lost someone close to us, some have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet, but we all have something. No one gets through this crazy life unscathed.
There was a very specific moment that occurred in my life 3 years ago that made me vow to not judge anyone ever again and I’d like to share it with you.
This day is very vivid in my mind. J was fighting for his life in the NICU. He was on a lung bypass machine and I honestly didn’t know whether he was going to live. He was only a couple of days old and he was desperately ill. I was struck that day at the unfairness of life. Despite the fact that my baby was hooked up to countless machines and being monitored every second to make sure that he was still breathing, LIFE STILL WENT ON!!! There were groceries to be bought, bills to be paid and another young child to take care of. The world did not stop for my pain. It just went on and on and on like a diabolical merry-go-round and all of the mundane things still had to be tended to. This day in particular, I had to go to Target to fetch some diapers and milk. The absolute lunacy of this almost funny. How dare life go on? It wasn’t fair that I had to be running errands while I was in such horrible turmoil. I just wanted to get in and out as fast as I could because the whole experience was so surreal and painful.
To begin with, I was overwhelmed at the normalcy of it all. Nothing had changed, Target was as it always is, bright and busy with people rushing around tending to the business of life. Every one of them completely oblivious to the magnitude of my pain. One woman even had the audacity to laugh and I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure I remembered how to laugh and even if I did, it was doubtful that I ever would again. I ran in as quickly as I could, got my stuff and was relieved to get to the checkout line. This would be over soon.
As I was standing in line, wondering why Target wasn’t painted black in mourning for my baby, I slowly became aware of the people behind me. It was a young woman and her child. This girl was truly beautiful. She couldn’t have been more than two with long blonde curls and wide innocent blue eyes and she was trying to get my attention. Her mother was holding her and this sweet thing was trying to play peek-a-boo with me. She would look at me, say “hi” and cover her eyes up, giggling all the while. Seeing her was like a knife in my heart.
I tried my best to ignore her, the truth was that I was on the verge of tears, but that just seemed to be a challenge to her! The more I averted my eyes, the harder she tried to engage me. Smiling and cooing and saying “esssuse-me” in sweet baby girl talk. She wasn’t doing anything wrong, she was just being a toddler, but I simply couldn’t interact. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Scratch that, I DID have the weight of the world on my shoulders. Is there any feeling worse than that of thinking your might lose your child? J may have been only a couple of days old, but he already owned a big part of my heart. I was near panic at the thought of losing him.
As I neared the checkout person, I stole a quick glance back at the girl and the mother was regarding me with a look of disgust. I could feel the judgement emanating from her…
What’s wrong with you that you can’t give her a simple little smile, an acknowledgement or a peek-a-boo back?
All of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t she see my pain? My anguish? My heartbreak? In that moment, insanely, I wanted to stand up right there on the checkout counter and scream at the top of my lungs. To rage at the unfairness of the world. To take that little girl and shake her, just to make her stop looking at me and to make that mother understand.
How the hell can this world still be spinning. How can all of you go on acting like it’s a normal day? Can’t you see that the universe is coming to an end? My baby might not live to see tomorrow! And here you are playing peek-a-boo with me! Judging me! You’re world may be fine, but mine is hell on earth
I barely made it out of the door that day, but when I did, I fled to the safety of my car and sobbed until there were no tears left. My story wasn’t plain on my face, I looked normal, so therefore this woman had expected me to act in a certain way, according to societal rules, and when I didn’t, I was automatically judged and labelled as a “bad person”, maybe even a “witch”. In reality, on a typical day, I would have looked right back at that little angel and given her a great big peek-a-bo. I probably would have thrown in an, “Isn’t she precious?” to the mother. I love kids, but on that day, the actions of this girl just rubbed salt into a gaping wound. How could I possibly appreciate her when my son might not live to giggle and smile at me one day as she did? The truth is that I couldn’t. I was just doing the best I could to put one foot in front of the other.
That experience has changed my life a great deal. Now, when a stranger is ill tempered to me for no reason at all, I squelch down the urge to judge. Instead I think to myself,
I have no idea what’s going on in their life. Maybe they lost their spouse, perhaps they just learned that they have an incurable disease or maybe they suffer from a horrible anxiety disorder. I’m not in their shoes and I have no way to understand what is in their heart right now.
The experience of raising a child on the spectrum has brought this home even further to me. I’m only human and trying not to judge is not easy, but I work on it every day.