To the woman in the Target Checkout Line (Gas Station, Grocery Store, Restaurant, or Mall) I saw you staring at me the other day. You were dressed to the nines, and had the most adorable Kate Spade purse (BTW I LOVE Kate Spade). It had been a VERY rough day for myself and the two precious girls I had with me.
YES I heard you gasp as one of my girls slapped me. You then roll your eyes and stuck your hand on your hip as my other girl started screaming LOUDLY VERY LOUDLY! Read about our Foster Journey Part 1 Here.
TRUST ME I understand how insane this may have looked to you, because a few weeks prior to this I would of had a similar reaction. Maybe not quite as openly as you did, but I am sure I would have had some judging thoughts run through my mind. I could hear your thoughts loud and clear as you continued to stare at me with your jaw dropping. I felt your eyes piercing my skin. You made it very clear to me you did not approve of what was going on with every disproving noise you made.
I wish you could of known I did NOT approve either.
I did not approve of what had happened to these girls to make them react this way. I did not approve that they were in my care instead of their biological home. I did not approve of a messed up system that left them in less than foster homes prior to mine. I did NOT approve of so many things; including the way they were reacting in the Target checkout line.
You see a few weeks before your judging eyes met mine; these girls had joined our home late one night. (You can read more about that on this post – Fostering Journey Part 1) This was our first foster placement. We had one daughter, Lilly 11 years old, and she was an extremely easy child. She is the kind of kid you look at wrong and she melts into a puddle. Never wanting to disappoint and almost ALWAYS following the rules. You have to understand that this was all new to my husband and I. I was trying. I really was.
As soon as the melt down in the Target checkout line started happening … I was on top of it … I had a game plan. I know it may not have looked that way to you, but I was approaching this how I needed to with two fragile little girls. Two little girls who had been through more in their short lifetime, than I could ever imagine. When a child has trauma there are some things that are triggers, and the result is usually a melt down. It can not be approached with your standard parenting methods. Unless you have dealt with childhood trauma you could not possibly understand.
I know it seemed to you that I was hesitating and letting them carry on this way. Instead I was taking a QUICK second to race through in my mind the countless books and articles I had been reading that dealt with trauma. I wanted to tackle this head on and quickly, but in the manner they would respond to.
Dear Woman From The Target Checkout Line
I am asking you to PLEASE STOP judging the unknown. Trust me I know that is easier said than done. I use to look at the parent whose child is having a tantrum at the store, and wonder how on earth that parent was allowing the behavior. I SLAP myself now for ever thinking that way. If only I had known. I would of put my hand on the mother’s shoulder and said, “You’ve got this. Keep going. You CAN do this.”.
You have NO CLUE what is going on in those situations. None of us do.
-Maybe the child is autistic and became overstimulated with the crowded store full of noises, people, and new things.
-Maybe the child has experienced a type of trauma such as; death of a loved one, sexual, physical, or severe emotional abuse.
-Maybe the child has moved homes so many times they don’t know where home really is.
-Maybe the mom is severely depressed or just flat out exhausted, and she’s doing all she can to make it through the day.
-Maybe the child is having your standard temper tantrum…
If that is the case you should try applauding that mom! You may think I am crazy right now … but yes I did say applaud her. If the child is throwing a temper tantrum that probably means the mom is not giving that child what they want. She could have easily given him the candy bar he was screaming for to avoid this melt down. Instead she chose to stand her ground as she should. You may want to try giving her a high five, a fist bump, or a kind word of encouragement.
We are all in this together – I am pleading with you to lift others up. To encourage instead of tear down. Next time you see that mom whose children are out of control maybe you will think twice before you start judging her. Instead I hope you will offer her some help or a few kind words.
Why don’t you tell that mom she can do this. Tell her what she is doing matters, and to keep moving forward. Because you have NO IDEA if that mom was just about to quit. If she almost gave up on helping other children who need a loving home, because she didn’t know how to move forward anymore. Or maybe she almost gave up on her own child with special needs, because she felt alone and isolated. Maybe just maybe she was about to give up on herself, because she couldn’t bare to take one more step in her messy life.
Kara Woolery (Bio mom to one & Foster mom to two so far)
To MOMS everywhere who have difficult children, or are struggling in a difficult situation trying to do this on your own. You can do this. Please know what you are doing matters, and KEEP GOING!
*This letter was written from a few instances where I had our two girls with us and had several people stare, complain, and make very judging body gestures and noises. Target checkout line was just one of the instances I experienced.
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