Family

What Would You Do?

How to know when to help a fellow mom

How often are we really willing to help?

Case in point: A mom is leaving a therapy center with her 3-year-old son. I’ve seen them there before and know the kid has autism and struggles with transitions. The little boy is having a terrible meltdown — screaming, kicking, hitting, collapsing to the floor.

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Exasperated, the mother manages to get him just outside the door of the waiting room. That’s where I saw her, on my way to throw a stinky diaper in the trash. I asked her if she needed help.

“Yes!” she says, on the verge of tears. “Please carry my bag since he won’t walk.”

On the way to the car, she tells me she can’t believe that everyone in the waiting room just sat there and stared. No one offered to help. Not the parents, not the staff.

No one offered to help. Not the parents, not the staff.

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I’m no saint either. I actually thought twice about offering to help. Not that I didn’t care, but because I’ve been there so many times I thought maybe she had it covered. Maybe she didn’t want help because she’s so tired of needing help.

Related: ‘My Son Won’t Get Off His Phone’

My children have their own issues. My oldest son, who has Down syndrome, will often collapse into a pile in the middle of the street when he doesn’t want to go somewhere. My middle son throws a mean temper tantrum. When those two worlds collide, it’s quite the show — arms, tears, and screams fly.

Not so long ago, the dual meltdown happened while I was pregnant with my third child. Sometimes strangers offer a hand. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I shy away from eye contact because I’m hyper-focused on getting through that moment.

At times, I feel like a complete spectacle.

Related: Squelch Sibling Rivalry

A couple of years back, I was grocery shopping with the two boys. The oldest was upset about something, but he had no way of telling me because of his language delay. He knows sign language, but I guess he didn’t have the sign for what he needed. He proceeded with a complete melt — very, very loud crying and no hope of consolation. I couldn’t just leave. We needed food!

As I rolled my screaming, inconsolable child through the mostly empty aisles, I got the most evil stares of my life. But frankly, I’m not sure I would have wanted help. Instead, I just found a corner to ride out the emotional wave that both of us were experiencing.

How silly is it that so often people don’t offer a hand, or at the very least a sympathetic nod, which at times can be even more valuable?

How silly is it that so often people don’t offer a hand, or at the very least a sympathetic nod, which at times can be even more valuable?

But this situation with the other mother was at a therapy center? All of us were in the same boat. We all have children with developmental delays and disabilities. We’re all there weekly, if not more, taking our children to physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and behavioral therapists.

We all should have known better. Every person there should have been on her feet instead of staring.

What if the same thing happened at a grocery store, or a gas station, or a playground? What do you do when you have no idea the child having a “temper tantrum” might have autism or some other condition that makes noises, lights, transitions, or who knows what difficult to endure?

What do you do when you see a parent struggling with a struggling child? Do you stare? Do you give a sympathetic glance? Or do you offer to help?

It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’d help in a second.” I’m sure most people would say that. But when actually faced with the situation — what do you do?

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