Yesterday I brought Quinn to Target like I have so many times before, except this time I left feeling like an unfit mother. All was well until we went to check out. Quinn has been fighting a nasty cough and cold for almost two months and she happened to be coughing when we approached the cashier (she claims she was an active manager of the store as well). Quinn wasn’t wearing a coat (I am lucky she was even wearing clothes as she has sensory issues) but the coat was indeed in the carriage next to her. The cashier proceeded to tell me Quinn was sick because she wasn’t wearing a coat and she needed to put it on. I tried to explain she has sensory issues and she takes off her coat as soon as we get anywhere. The cashier replied I shouldn’t let my child make the rules and I needed to be more firm as a parent so other kids don’t become contaminated by her germs that could’ve so easily been avoided…
Quinn then began playing with her elf, Snowflake. You see, Quinn has severe anxiety. The idea of having the elf sitting all day in one spot spying on her and not being able to touch her was completely overwhelming. When we explained this concept she had a panic attack and begged Snowflake go back to the North Pole. We wanted her to be able to enjoy this tradition as all her friends do at school, so one night Santa wrote Quinn a letter saying she had permission to touch Snowflake and play with her, as long as she was good and didn’t lose her. She brings Snowflake everywhere. The cashier caught eye of Snowflake and began to reprimand Quinn, telling her the elf’s magic was gone and she had ruined her. I tried to explain Quinn has special needs and it was too much for her to handle, so she asked Santa and he gave her permission. The cashier then told me there was nothing wrong with my child and by letting her touch Snowflake and bring her out in public, Quinn was ruining the essence of it for all the other kids and that wasn’t fair, I needed to be more firm with my child and stop babying her. Now at this point I should’ve stopped engaging with this woman, but I continued to try to explain Quinn’s history so she would understand why my husband and I do what we do. She told me again there was nothing wrong with my child and she had two premature babies who had REAL issues growing up, everything Quinn “has” (yes she actually made “air-quotes”) she will outgrow because there’s really nothing wrong … I told her she has had 3 seizures in the past week and assured her the best doctors in the world are not wrong. She then told me her friends kid has seizures and I probably don’t even know what real seizures look like.
Why do people think it’s ok to mom-shame this way? Everyone is going through something. What we go through with Quinn isn’t any more or any less than what someone else may be going through. It is simply different. I shouldn’t have to defend my parenting choices. I shouldn’t have to carry around Quinn’s complex list of diagnoses and medical history from Boston Children’s Hospital to prove all the struggles Quinn has been through in her short life, because quite frankly, it’s not your business.
If you see a child in a store not wearing a coat, instead of jumping to accuse a parent of neglect, assume something else may likely be going on. If you see my child out in public with her elf and your child gets upset about it, come talk to us. We will happily explain our special circumstances so we don’t “ruin” the fun for your child. If a mother opens up to you about her child’s struggles, don’t get into a “pissing contest” about “who has it worse,” lend an empathetic and listening ear. We all have our own stuff, don’t belittle my journey or question my parenting choices until you live a day in my shoes. I’ll do you the same courtesy.