Social media is flooded with open letters to other parents.
Dear Mother at the Park on her iPhone… To the Mother that Breastfeeds in Public… To the Parents that Let Their Kids Run Wild…
But this one is different. While it may seem at first like your typical whinge about another child’s behaviour that we all scroll past each and every day, it’s not. And it’s so important that all parents should take the time to read it.
Stephanie Skaggs is a mum to a five-year-old daughter with autism. And, like many parents with children on the spectrum, she is filled with fear and concern for her daughter and for how others will react if her daughter does have a meltdown.
It is from this worry that Stephanie finds the courage to write her letter to a mother she met at a local water park in Kentucky, USA in hopes that it might reach the mother who inspired her to write it. And it is a letter that has been shared thousands of times and read by countless other parents.
“To the mom in the baby water park at Kentucky Kingdom yesterday, I talked to you about your kids,” Stephanie starts. “Their behaviour struck me in such a way that I did something I normally don’t do, and I asked your son where his mother was so I could have a word with her…”
While you probably assume Stephanie is going to complain to the mother about the kids’ behaviour at the park, this is not the case. In fact, it is a refreshing change from the typical whinge we normally read in these types of letters.
Stephanie explains that she was waiting in line at the water park with her daughter, Baylee who is autistic. They were practising lining up, waiting their turn and counting the kids ahead of them, when, alas, a child jumped in front.
“For a kiddo like mine, who really doesn’t mind much that she had to wait longer, but is very upset that the steps of the routine she just learned are now out of whack. And to her it feels like the end of the world!”
Stephanie goes on to explain that a young girl ahead of Baylee offered Baylee her place and helped deter Baylee from getting upset. But, as is bound to happen at a busy water park, the same situation occurred later in the day and once again, a young child, this time a boy, let Baylee go in front.
Stephanie discovered the two children are siblings and asked to speak to their mum.
“When I came to you and told you about my experience with your kids and told you that they were super kids and you are doing a great job, you said, “I don’t know about that.” Well, mom, you are. A small gesture like theirs may not seem like much. But I promise it was.”
Coping with unexpected change is hard for a child on the spectrum. And it is something Stephanie and countless other parents have to deal with each and every day.
“I know there are people out there who will refuse to see those things simply because she is different. It scares me. I worry, I dread, and sometimes we stay home because we don’t want to deal with some of the unpleasant things we sometimes experience.”
It is the next generation (and how we raise them) that, inevitably will shape our society and its values. And it is children like the two Stephanie spoke to that prove parents around the world are doing the right thing, even if we sometimes think we are not.
“Sure your children’s kindness helped in that moment to avoid a meltdown, and that is kind of a big deal for kids on the spectrum, but I will tell you what is an even bigger deal though, and that is that it gave me some HOPE! When I looked at those sweet little faces, it made me happy to know that more moms are raising their children the way you are!”
So, to all the mums out there who think they aren’t raising their kids correctly, that have bad days, that have trouble staying in control, just remember that if you are teaching them to be kind, courteous, empathetic and understanding, then you are doing everything right.