Last Updated on May 10, 2018

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?


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  1. Nell Kirk says:

    Even parents with children who are not special needs are judged for the way they handle their children. I have been a number of times when my girls were little. I must admit that I was also the one judging other parents. Until we walk in someone else’s shoes, we can not truly understand the situation.

  2. I like #4. Do your best. Let the rest go. God knows you can only do what you can do. Anything else necessary, He will supply. Thanks for your honesty!

  3. Too true, Nell, and thanks Robyn. I loved your post from yesterday!!!!
    It’s nice that I am growing to be less attached to what other think. Perhaps learning to stop worrying about what others think is like building an immune system to diseases. It can be a painful process, but worth it in the end.

  4. Angela De Jager says:

    It’s easy to feel judged for all kinds of things, although our children make us feel especially vulnerable of course, especially when they’re especially vulnerable themselves. But over the years I have realized that much of the “judgmental” stares are coming from people whose mind is elsewhere. They may be looking at me or my child, but its impossible for me to know what they’re actually thinking. They may even be frowning, but actually remembering something from their own past/present life that brought them pain. So now, when somebody is acting a bit snarky, I assume until proven otherwise, that its not about me: they may simply be having an especially bad day themselves, so I can be gracious. If they prove to be consistently unkind, that’s still not about me: it means they’re probably an unkind person, and they still need my compassion because they’re miserable. A consistently judgmental, unkind person is not a happy person.

  5. So so sorry you dealt that Jennifer. I’m so glad you were able to be encouraged from that. It’s just so unfortunate that there’s always a need to compete.. Even in motherhood. If one mom isn’t judging you because you aren’t breast feeding, another mom is judging you because you are. As moms we know there are tons of issues we are constantly judged on and it just has to stop. I’m so glad you wrote this. My prayer is that God would help me see the beauty of motherhood and embrace each other regarding of how we run our household.

    Hugs to you,

  6. My son is one of the youngest in his class and when he started school his wee legs sometimes couldn’t move fast enough to get him in on time. Other mornings he just plain refused to go. On those mornings, or if we were running late, I would push him in a buggy (stroller). One mum always called him ‘lazy bones’ as we passed and it used to set me up for the day in the worst possible way! Especially since she used to drive her kid right up to the school door! She had no idea what kind of a struggle I’d had in the morning. We just need to be aware that sometimes even the silliest of comments can be hurtful.

    And having a daughter that never feels the cold and won’t wear tights, cardigans or anything with a long sleeve has taught me not to judge how other mums dress their kids!

    God bless you as you do your very best in His strength.

  7. Precious Jenn, thank you for exposing us at all our very worst…may 2013 be the year, in those moments we pray for each other, not judge each other!

  8. Sometimes I think the parents and guardians of children/adults with Down Syndrome are the more fortunate ones. Why?

    Those affected by autism and Fragile X Syndrome (a form of mental retardation with aspects of autism) LOOK normal. The unmistakeable features of a Down Syndrome child or adult almost immediately elicit sympathy and understanding rather than judgment.

    While I’m not the parent of a special needs child, I am legal caretaker for my brother and guardian for an uncle who have Fragile X Syndrome. My brother is 2 1/2 years younger than me and I have been groomed for the caretaker role since my early childhood. If you think you are getting judgmental attitudes when publicly coping with an autistic child’s behavior, you haven’t seen anything until you are dealing with a special needs adult’s meltdown! Especially since when an adult is involved and other people may feel threatened by his words/actions, the police can very quickly become part of the equation. Fortunately, I live in a small town and my brother is registered with the police department as a vulnerable adult (as is my uncle in his community).

    So, while not a “mom,” I play, and will play for the rest of my life, a “mom” role in the life of my brother, and until he passes, my uncle, and I will just keep on trying to “do my best.”

  9. I was so worried about this when I was pregnant with our son and we found out he had a serious birth defect that could also be indicative of a whole host of problems. I was worried how people would treat him if he did happen to have a deformity or a special need, and honestly how people would treat me. I was already figuring out who I could trust when I would tell people about his birth defect and they would just brush it off as inconsequential. His defect was reparable and he is otherwise perfectly normal, but you know I was so mad when I took him to a playgroup and the other moms stared at me when he screamed because he was done with what he was playing with and had to learn to crawl! I just wish we would get over having to judge others to feel superior or better about ourselves and just learn to support one another instead. (and I hope that didn’t sound judgmental! 🙂 )

  10. Great post! I don’t have any children with special needs but I really needed that after my daughter’s very first swim lesson that she cried the entire way through and tried to run from the lifeguard! I could feel the judgemental stares burning into the back of my head. I may have to print this post and carry it with me.

  11. Great share Jenn!. Love your honesty! Just ignore those people who keeps on judging you and your baby. For the reason that they don’t understand you, they never know your baby, they never know how the pain you have been through.