What is Drastic + Dramatic

Thursday, May 21, 2015

An Opinion on Compassion

I have been accused of holding an opinion I have not earned. It definitely makes me wonder how opinions are legitimately earned. My friend Nathan forwarded me an anonymous message from a parent who read my words online and said I have absolutely no right to an opinion about ADD/ADHD because of what I ignorantly wrote. She says since I have no idea what it's like to have or to parent such conditions, I have no right to any opinion. She mentioned how it's ignorant people like me who make it literally terrifying for her to take her child anywhere.

Certainly the people who formed the opinion about me haven't spent time with me, but reading the brief words I put on the Internet felt like a sufficient enough source to form an (incorrect) opinion about me. If the Internet does anything best, it is breeding swift opinions. The comment I shared about parenting cultures and dietary improvements wasn't even a full opinion about a much larger matter, but it got misapplied as my clearly ignorant entire opinion about those diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and the parents that care for the young diagnosed.

My accusers demand that I need compassion. I'm feeling in myself an opinion that opinions may be prerequisite to compassion. Tender and open opinions.
I have never been a parent to a child with special needs, but I have years of experience loving precious children, many of whom have special needs (and special powers, I am of the opinion). I have also never been a parent at all, but I have opinions about children and parenting that are valid since I've been a human aware of other humans for 31 consecutive years. Does that earn no opinions? Living while caring about others? If one has to have lived a thing before they can have an appropriate opinion about it, then we have, all of us, earned very few opinions indeed. 

Open opinions engender compassion; compassion perfects our opinions.

Being the tender-hearted human I am, I feel like my entire being is nothing if it isn't made from compassion. I am who I am almost entirely because of other people—my parents and siblings and darling husband, the people who hurt me and who have been hurt by me, the people I've loved and lost.

I'm not sure what compassion is if it's not being aware of others, recognizing suffering, and then extending in the least my heart toward them (if not my physical support when possible) simply because I know I don't know what it's like to carry the burden they carry. Perhaps compassion requires gaps in personal knowledge. If we all had experienced everything, I'm not sure if we'd be more or less compassionate.

But God knows everything. If we can't be everywhere we want to be to share our love, I know that He can carry our compassion to others and in the form of love bestow it across the world. Compassion is my favorite truth. I can't lift the fallen bricks and stones in Nepal, but my compassion, I have to believe it, has reached their hearts and lifted at least a moment of hope in a world apart.
Well, I can abide people jumping to conclusions and forming incorrect and incomplete opinions about me, and I almost just let this all slide. But what I can't abide is this incorrect opinion causing another parent to believe there's yet another person out there adding burdens and strains to the already consuming role of parenting a child with special needs. I also can't bear for those adults who have this condition to think I don't respect the measures they've taken to find inner peace and control that might have seemed helplessly out of reach.

And into the thankless silence that often surrounds parenting, I shout a resounding THANK YOU. Thank you for paying attention to your children, for attending to their needs, not because you feel like their condition is stressful on you, but because you see how they're suffering, struggling, and that crushes you most of all. Thank you for being a safe place for your child to be authentic and to recognize that if they do have a need for extra help, it's okay to accept help. Parents like you are the sunshine and rain in life. You help children grow.

And I believe that it's parents like you that are the majority of humans in parent positions. My Internet comments, to clarify, were aimed toward parents not like that. There are some parents who don't take into account meeting deep, nascent needs of rapidly developing human beings with loving, steady discipline and proper, healthful nutrition, and who then, if their child repeatedly acts out, turn not first to their methods to see if perhaps anything could improve, but rather turn to a medical professional for a fix. Parenting is absolutely challenging, and beating ourselves down when we know we're doing our best helps no one. But there are some legitimately poor ways to parent, just like there are poor words to choose to represent your full opinions. Poor patterns of parenting should change before medication changes a child's chemistry when not needed, can't we agree on that? And that's what I meant. Changing a light bulb that keeps burning out won't repair faulty wiring.
My comments clearly didn't apply to that good mother who says I'm an opinion impostor. She's NOT the type I was thinking about. But she interpreted it personally, which is too bad.

If she really knew me, she would know that when I find out that someone I know has diagnosed ADD/ADHD, I don't silently reel back inside and exhale, "Whew, thank goodness I don't have that and that really sucks for her." I think, "Wow, I never would have guessed. She sure balances her challenges well. I respect the hell out of her." She would know that when I see a rowdy child, I don't immediately wonder, "Jeez, what's wrong with that child and his parents for letting him get so wild?" I will be the first to smile and wonder, "What's going on in that magnificent explosive mind of his? I'm so glad his parents let him chase his imagination where it grows wild within him." She would know I would be the first to offer to play some silly, endless game with her child because I recognize that it's precisely what his brain and soul are connecting with in that moment and he should get to see it through. She would know I am a trustworthy option if she had to attend to something where she absolutely needed to leave her child in someone else's care.

She would know that for five years I was a school bus aide and driver who loved, LOVED (if I there was an I'm-feeling-a-choking-sensation-in-my-throat emoticon, I would insert it here) children just like hers deeply, daily. She would know that I authoritatively gained a monstrous opinion of respect for her and dug deeply into compassion because I witnessed those parents and grandparents and dedicated guardians prepare their children for school, stand with them at the bus stop every day, help them onto the bus (and sometimes with tough love rather force them onto the bus), and then they would stand, nearly crumpling from worry and trembling, I suspected, because sending their child away on the bus that morning felt as terrifying as it had felt letting them go the first morning—every single morning. And yet surrounding that worry and trembling, I observed, seemed to be a thin glaze of relief. A few hours of time to get a few of her million things done until she would walk to the curb again to receive her babe joyfully back into her arms.

She would know I've sensed the awesome power and intelligence and purest love locked behind a variety of physical impairments. She would feel my compassion for what I don't know that she goes through daily, because I observed her child and formed an opinion: that he is wondrous, perfect, brilliant, challenging, developing, filling the mysterious universe within himself. And I love that child. I know in part, I love that child because, through compassion, I sense how much his mother loves him.

She would have so much more than an opinion about me if she knew more than those words that introduced us.

As inherently flawed people, we have flawed opinions. I appreciate when people present their opinions about my opinions; it gives me a chance to consider my opinion, whether it needs development and discipline and a change in its nourishing. I'm of the disposition that if I'm wrong, I'd much rather not be, and so I listen to others. I prove what they say against what I know about myself and what I perceive to be truth. I want to be like a child, always discovering this big world, never shutting out its wonders and realities.

And children are the most compassionate people I know. Not because they know much, but because they love much. And God bless the parents everywhere who love much. I love you for your dedicated diligence. It counts, every imperfect moment, every joyful moment. Keep living the moments. You're superheros, in my opinion.


Anonymous said...

I am the individual who's comments were passed along by Nathan. I appreciate the tone of this article much more than the original comments. ADHD is a tough problem and even those who have built their entire careers around it, or who have lived their entire lives with or around it, often get it wrong. Just remember that no matter how ridiculous that child is acting, the story is a mystery to you. The behavior of the child is not always the reflection on the parents that it seems, and sometimes it is not a fair reflection on the child either.

The most important things that happened to me as a child were the places and times and people who cared for me unconditionally and managed to find the best in me, apparently (for reasons that defy explanation) entirely blind to the completely outrageous behavior that dominated every facet of my social interactions. I remember every one of these individuals because the way they treated me was so unique, so rare, that it left an indelible mark on my memory and on who I eventually would become.

emilyf said...

Thank you for commenting. Your experience furthers my awareness to be careful always. People are fragile and love is the best handling. Even a seemingly fleeting moment of impatience can be shattering. I am so glad you had such supportive presences in your development.

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