When out with Rachel, my daughter with autism, I’ve been stared at and judged more times than I can count. She has stripped naked in public, held screaming tantrums, had huge tangles in her hair, spoken too loud in a quiet place, and exhibited a host of other behaviors some people think their children would never do.
This morning was unusually cold, which meant the kids would be inside most of the school day hibernating like the good Texans we are. When Rachel climbed into the car with a long-sleeved dress and only biker shorts—not leggings—underneath, I thought about changing her clothes…
Then I thought, “Am I crazy? I should just be glad she is dressed!” We’ve gone far too many places without clothes, including school. So, off we went.
You’d think I would be used to the stares by now. But when I walked Rachel into school, moms peered out of their minivans at me, scowling, glaring, eyes roaming up and down Rachel’s bare legs, expressions spewing hatred toward such an irresponsible and stupid mother who dared not dress her child appropriately.
Sheesh. I should have brushed it off. What did they know? Rachel wouldn’t go outside again until afternoon when it was almost 60 degrees. But my heart twisted. Tears burned my eyes. My insides wrenched.
And I thought the unthinkable. I shouldn’t. Even. Admit. It.
But I will.
I wish that lady had a special needs child and had to deal with all that I do. Maybe then she would shush her ugly judging.
Yes, I totally thought that. And yearned to swallow it back. How could I wish such a thing on someone and their children?
Furthermore, wasn’t I being every bit as judgmental as she had been to me?
Rachel’s teacher noticed I was upset and pulled me aside. Here is what she told me and what I realized:
1. People judged Jesus, and they will judge you. But it’s not on you. It’s all them. He was perfect and they still judged him, so you know it’s gonna happen to you.
2. You love your baby. Jesus knows it. You know it. I know it. And if they knew you they would be ashamed of themselves.
3. Don’t let other people’s misguided notions hurt you. They are the ones with a problem. They don’t know your baby. They don’t know your struggles. You don’t have to pay them any attention.
4. Do your best. Let the rest go. It’s easy to wallow in mistakes or issues. Truly I know. I’ve wanted to curl into a ball in the corner of my closet more times than I can count. I have curled in a ball in my closet. But I didn’t stay there. You don’t have to either.
5. They are just as lost and imperfect as the rest of us. Realize that no one is perfect. I’m not. You’re not. They’re not. That means I must allow others to make mistakes, even when that includes judging me. The only one who was and is perfect … see #1.
How about you, my friends? How have you been hurt by others who might not even know they hurt you? What helped you get past it? What would you say to a hurting friend in this situation?