“Well, if she’s another special needs parent….she won’t judge you!” Oh how wish that was always true!
Competitive Parenting, you know what it is. They make TV shows about it, from Real Housewives to shows about dance, pageant and sports parents. For some reason, on some level, some parents are wired to compete with each other when it comes to parenting. Why is that? And if you think the special needs world is exempt from this……..think again! People are people, and chances are if the person was the kind of mom who was competitive and loved drama before her special needs child came along….that still happens.
Surely you know some of these moms, but are you one?
The Know-it-All: This is the mom who, well, knows it all. Not in the “Wow, she’s a great resource!” kinda way. In a very condescending “You’ll never know as much as I do” kinda way.
Tips for dealing with the Know-it-All: Smile, nod politely and listen between the lines, because she may actually have some tips you may want to pursue. Although her intrinsic goal is to make herself feel better by showing off this knowledge, she may indeed have information you can use.
The Naysayer: Not to be confused with the Know It All, the Naysayer has nothing nice to say about anything you’re doing. No matter what you mention–either the “therapists aren’t good there” or “their teaching methods don’t really work” and on and on. Whatever decisions you have made, they are not the right ones, according to the Naysayer.
Dealing with the Naysayer: She’s just insecure in her own decisions and doesn’t know how to constructively deal with it, so she tries to make others feel insecure. Don’t let her get to you, and don’t share any information with her if she bugs you with always finding fault with your decisions.
The Tight-lipped Mom: This is the mom who does have information and experiences to share, it’s just that her own insecurities prevent her from doing so. See, some parents think that by getting their child some special service or activity or assistance, that they’ve unlocked some secret code–and one NOT to be shared. They’re afraid that if others utilize this service, that it will then become unavailable to them. As a Special Education Advocate, I have actually had other parents suggest to me this notion–the “Why would you want to help other families get services? That will mean fewer services for your own child.” Yes, I’m serious.
Dealing with the Tight-lipped Mom: Don’t. For me, friendship and/or networking is a two-way street.
The “My child has more services than your child” Mom: This one is probably the most annoying one, in my opinion. Every child is different. Therefore, every child needs a different level and quantity of services and service hours. My guess is, if this mom had or has other typical kids, she’s probably an annoying sports or dance mom.
Dealing with: This is one that I avoid, both as a friend and as clients. It’s very difficult to work with a parent who is only interested in seeing how many hours of services they can rack up for their child, regardless of the needs. This type of parent also tends to not heed advice from professionals, they base their decisions based on what they see other parents doing.
Oh Woe is Me Mom/The Wallower: This is another type of one-upmanship, but in a negative manner. If you vent that your child has a cold, hers has pneumonia. If yours is allergic to one thing, hers is allergic to ten things. Her life is just sooo bad, she never has anything positive or enlightening to say. And forget about talking about solutions–life is only going to get worse, much, much worse!
Dealing with: I think this is one we can all relate to at some point, even if it’s not a permanent condition. We all have life’s ups and downs, we just have to be careful to not get stuck in a rut when we’re in the downs. If you know someone like this, and other than this trait you pretty much like them, talk to them. Give her a “Hey, you seem really down lately with not much good news to share. Is there something I can help you with?” If the person is a true wallower, then I walk away. I’ve had a few friends, we had some things in common, then if I said something about what K was doing right now, every.single.time I was hit with a version of “Oh, just wait, because it’s going to get much worse……….” Who needs that all the time? Sure, I want realistic perspectives from my friends and colleagues, but I’m also a glass-half-full person who looks for solutions.
As an advocate or as a parent, this isn’t a competition for me. At work and at home, it’s all based on one simple concept: what the child needs. It’s tough making friends and even more tough when your household has a number of personal restrictions on it, like a child with special needs. It’s human nature to try to find common ground with people, but more and more, I’m learning that the “Hey your kid has autism, mine has autism, let’s be friends!” is not the greatest basis for a friendship. In fact, out of all my friends that have kids with special needs, none of them has a child whose skills and abilities and limitations resembles my son’s. But, they do have kids with special needs so they do ‘get it’ as far as what I deal with daily, but we also have mutual interests in shopping, clipping coupons, drinking wine, exploring the outdoors, dogs and so on.
Life is too short to spend it with people that bring us down. If you have people in your life who bring you down, resolve to spend more time with the positive people in your life instead.
This guest post was originally published in 2012 and has been recently updated.