Friday, June 26, 2009

Just too much

I may have mentioned that the school district here, in combination with the government, provides free lunch all summer long to all kids everyday. It is a great program: free food, lots of toys and playground equipment to play with, programs for the kids, and adult interaction for me. There are a lot of moms available to talk to, which is usually a really great break for me. My kids play pretty well, and Tommy is typically sleeping during that time, so what better time to talk to other moms?

Lately, however, I have been feeling a little less than enthusiastic about the adult interaction. J, a mom whose daughter was in Danny's class, comes to the lunch most days, and we talk. The problem is, the conversation almost always turns to something highly negative, whether it is her complaining about her sister-in-law, her son's teacher, or any number of other people, most of whom I have never met. This makes me really uncomfortable. First off, I have been trying really hard (and ok, I have definitely failed a few times, too, but I AM trying) to avoid gossip and negative talk. And secondly, the complaints seem rather ridiculous to me, as if she is actually looking for things to be upset about. I don't know what to do to extricate myself from these discussions. Any advice?

Another issue came up the other day at the lunch. A mother, whose name I don't even know, was complaining about services at the school. Her son is autistic, and apparently she has had difficulty getting services for him. All fine and well. I understand her frustration. What bothered me was that when J was sharing some difficulties she had with her son's teacher (who thought the boy had Asperger's) the mother refused to listen to J. Instead, she plowed through and explained what J should do to get a diagnosis (even though J is convinced her son is not autistic), how it is hard to face the truth sometimes, but that J needed to do so, etc. I guess this made me uncomfortable, because I got the distinct impression that this woman actually wanted J's son to be diagnosed with autism. She spoke as if it were a foregone conclusion that something was wrong with J's son, though I don't think the mother knew anything at all about the kid.

It doesn't help that a couple of years ago this same mom told me Danny was autistic. I know her heart was in the right place, but it really rubbed me the wrong way for many reasons, not least of which was the fact that she had never actually met me or my son before. The only facts she was basing her diagnosis on were what she observed on Danny's school field trip. It was his first field trip ever and he was way overstimulated and had major difficulty calming down. Because Danny was exhibiting some similar characteristics to her son, she was convinced that Danny was autistic.

The woman may have had some really good points to make, but she never even introduced herself; she just went ahead and diagnosed my son, despite the fact that her only experience with autism involved her son.

I understand the impulse to help someone, especially when you think they may be struggling with problems similar to your own. I have spoken to a few friends about SPD when they have told me of challenges their kids face. The difference is I have never actually told someone that their kid had SPD. I just encouraged them to do some research themselves to see if it might apply in their case. Also, it has always been with a friend whose child I knew and it was only after the mom shared her concerns with me.

I don't know. I am not even sure why this particular woman has bothered me so much. As I said before, I am certain her heart is in the right place, but it was just difficult for me to watch and listen as she steamrollered over J, interrupting her and talking over her, trying to convince J to face the truth. I just felt so overwhelmed. So tired of analyzing every single quirk and foible of my children. So weary of talk of development and milestones and why my kid is so different from "normal" kids.

So, I excused myself from the conversation and played some games with Danny and Charlotte.

Which was exactly what I needed to put everything back into perspective.


Mrsbear said...

Wow, I think walking away was the perfect response. I generally don't play well with others myself. I think in any arena and on any topic, a person who speaks without listening and pushes their opinions on others that way, never really has anyone's best interest in mind. There is a lot to be said for conversation cues and instincts and tact, this woman doesn't sound like she possesses any of these.

And I'm admiring your new perspective on gossip. Lately when I've been drawn in to these kinds of negative conversations, I've found myself withdrawing more and more, before shutting down completely. It just seems like such an empty waste of time. Good for you, for keeping yourself out of them. ;)

Denise said...

I'd have to say that I agree with your assessment of your situation with negativism with J. It has bothered me enough lately too....that is why I tried to just talk to you the other day....with not a lot of success. So....a couple days away, then a week away, hopefully will do the trick for me.

Wish I had more info and advice. You know all my advice....I tend to give it to you all the time.

Walking away is always my best answer for my must be a good answer for ALL of us.

Anonymous said...

You did the right thing in walking away. I might add to the lady "Thank you for your opinion, we have therapist and doctors working with Danny."

Kim said...

the woman would have bothered me too. i agree that it is fine to talk to someone and share some perspective, but it's not ok to try and diagnose someone's child. my own sister thought Meechi may be autistic but didn't bring it up until I did because she knew it wasn't her place to do so.

as for the negative woman, i think all you can do is remove yourself from the conversation or perhaps try to steer it a different direction. when i was working i had two friends at work whe were negative all the time. i am not the most positive person, but they had me beat. it got to where i could not stand to be around the two of them when they were like that and would often find a reason to just get up and walk away.

beckbot said...

Wow, dh and I were just talking about this. We have met so many parents of children with autism or ADHD who feel it is their calling to diagnose all remaining children on the planet. Even though these parents certainly know more about autism and ADHD than I do, I can't believe they would push such an idea on another parent. I much prefer your approach: encourage them to do their own research, maybe recommend a book or website, and then move on to another conversation topic.

Sarah said...

Here is the irony...special needs parents compete with one another. I don't know why some parents feel it is their mission to diagnosis other children aside from some twisted need to feel that they aren't alone. I also can't stand all of the comparisons..."oh, Emma can't quite read yet? Well Billy Bob did at her age so I'm sure it will come." Excuse me while I shove my foot up your ass....

Walking away is the only effective means of dealing with are right on the money Patty.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what everyone else said. Walking away is good.

I admit though that I have a radar now for autism/SPD. But I totally bite my tongue and not ever say anything - sometimes despite wanting to offer up the suggestion of: "get your kid some help."

There is a boy in Sarah's tumbling class that acts exactly the way Charlotte did when she was in tumbling at that age. He really does look like he's in sensory overload. She's always sighing and making comments like, "gosh he's so much more active than the other kids." Or, "Goodness this child just doesn't want to do what everyone else does."

Those are all the same things I used to say when I was in tumbling with C and she was running around crazy.

I want to say something to her, but on the flip side - I don't want to offend. It's touchy.

But what your friend was doing -that was just way out of bounds.