“She told me most moms look at her like she has a disease … ”
That powerful line is just one of the many reasons why a recent Facebook post by Stacey Waltzer is going viral.
Waltzer, who writes the blog 40 Wishes and Counting, penned the post after visiting a local fast-food restaurant, where she watched a mother struggle endlessly to get her son with special needs out of the play area.
“She had been in there for hours and was trying everything she could think of to get her son out of there,” writes Waltzer. “He wasn’t coming down.”
For many parents whose children have special needs and don’t behave like the other kids at the park or playground, this is often their reality. They feel the stares and the judgment and hear the whispers. Yet they trudge on, day after day, doing their best to raise happy, healthy children, despite feeling ostracized everywhere they go.
Waltzer’s post is accompanied by an image of a tube slide at an indoor play area — the kind you hope to stumble across in a McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A while on a long road trip with squirrelly, cranky kids. It’s a scene most of us parents know well: We pull into the parking lot, make ourselves forget about the petri dish of germs our kids are entering, and enjoy a cup of coffee and a half-hour of them doing something other than climbing on us and yelling things like, “He touched me with his foot!”
At least, that’s what taking kids to an indoor play area is like for most of us.
For moms who have children with special needs, there’s far more to worry about than germs and counting down the clock until you have to get back on the road, and Waltzer’s post gives us a glimpse into what that reality looks like.
“He wasn’t listening but I could tell he was special needs in the way she spoke to him and he responded,” continues Waltzer. “She had so much patience and strength.”
And while this scene — of a stubborn child refusing to accept that it’s time to leave the play area — is one most of us are familiar with, Waltzer knew right away that this child was different.
“I could tell by the way mom was speaking to him that she had done this so many times before,” Waltzer tells Babble, adding that as a teacher, she has experience working with parents and kids of all kinds. “Over the years I have had special needs students in my classes so I recognized how she was handling it.”
But what happened next was nothing short of powerful:
“I smiled and told her what a good mom she was and I admired her,” she writes. “Later we tried to get my kids to coax him into leaving. I even suggested to mom we can bribe him with a later play date. With tears in her eyes, she said thank you. She told me most moms look at her like she has a disease. How heartbreaking. The next thing we knew other kids in the play area were offering up help. Kids are amazing.”
“Eventually she was able to get him out praising him on his good choices. So next time a mama is struggling … think about it. Think about what you would want to hear in that instant. Think of the courage it took. Think. Then offer kindness. It matters. Every little bit matters.”
Waltzer tells Babble that the response on her page has been incredibly positive, with many parents sharing their own similar stories.
“Some are inspiring and others made me tear up,” she shares. “There needs to be more support, less stares, and just more awareness that ALL kids are different so parenting is never going to turn out perfect.”
Waltzer also says she’d like to see a story about what moms with special needs to would like to see or hear in those situations, but adds that it’s “not going to be my story to tell because I was just there. These parents have this journey that has so many challenges.”
In the meantime, many people have told her, “I’m so glad that mom met you that day!” But Waltzer tells Babble that she’s the lucky one. “I really enjoyed meeting this mom,” she shares. “Her kid was awesome too.”
And that’s the most important part of this message: ALL of our kids are awesome — and so are we! Imagine how amazing it would be if moms of special needs kids — who have extra struggles on a daily basis and so many challenges many of us can’t imagine — were included, supported, and regularly told “Good job, Mama” and “You’re kid is awesome!”
Thank you, Stacey Waltzer, for reminding us all just how far every little bit of kindness goes.