Tara Kennedy-Kline
I woke up to a beautiful, sunny morning. The birds sang outside my window and I could hear my husband already washing dishes and taking care of the morning chores...it was perfect! My life seems really perfect...so then why do I keep crying?

First I cried because my youngest son woke up screaming at me for no apparent reason.
Then, I cried because my husband barked at me out of frustration for being to “easy” on the kid (even though I was doing my best).
I cried because I had to spend 30 minutes trying to get my son to come in the house after he ran.
I cried because I had to cancel yet another meeting to drive him to school.
I cried because I look like Hell and I have to go into the school.
I cried because my husband walked out the door in a bad mood, without a kiss or even an “I love you”.
I cried because the secretary at the school told me “it’s only going to get worse next year...we coddle them here and that won’t happen in Middle School.”
I cried because I turned on the radio and listened to the latest “mommy wars” debate & I got so frustrated with parents who have “typical” kids finding reasons to complain about them or overreact or judge each other’s parenting...and they can’t see how GREAT they have it!

...I cried because, today, I don’t understand my son. Because he has autism, so I can’t teach him, and guide him and reason with him and calm him and discipline him and negotiate with him like other kids...and other moms.

I cried because sometimes it is just so hard and I feel like it shouldn’t be. Because just once, I want to yell and put my foot down and tell him “This is ridiculous and YES, it’s not fair but I need you to just LISTEN to me!”...and without hitting, or swearing or screaming or running or breaking anything...to hear him just say “Ok Mom”.

But let's face it; that’s not going to happen today. What is going to happen today is the sun will keep shining, my kids and my husband will come home smiling and having forgotten all about this morning, and in our "perfectly imperfect" life, this will end up being a "good day".
Tara Kennedy-Kline
As a work from home mom of 2 boys, one of which is on the autism spectrum, I spend a great deal of time on line looking up the latest tips, techniques and strategies for being the best parent I can be for my kids…but what I have come to find all too often are nasty, lashing, mean spirited comments to otherwise benign, opinion based articles written by intelligent, well meaning authors.

It seems that topics like "breast feeding", “the family bed” and “potty training” have hit some kind of personal nerve and everyone, whether they are parents or not, have suddenly grown the most amazing set of internet balls ever and are unleashing their venom on anyone who has an opposing opinion or is unaware of a personal tragedy that happened to them when they were 2 years old and has scarred them for life.

Really people? Is this what our “village” of parenting has come to? Insult, ridicule and judgment over topics that truly will not have any effect on your life at all whatsoever?…

My beef is the fact that there are children in our country who are still being abused, both physically and verbally in their homes on a daily basis…there are children being neglected, starved and even killed by the people who are supposed to be raising and protecting them and we have the audacity to tear each other up on line over whether or not we should be allowed to take our kids on an airplane?!?!? We have no problem ripping parents a new one if they dare to let their child run in the isles of a grocery store yet the person next door to at least one of us is refusing their child meals and locking them in a closet as punishment…and in those situations, when a child truly NEEDS you and your big mouth could finally make a difference...suddenly those big internet balls shrink up like you jumped into a cold shower…

You know what? The next time you feel compelled to talk smack on a mother who chooses to give her child a pacifier…think about all the babies who are being shaken or beaten for crying too much, then bite your tongue; Because in the grand scheme of things…Those of us who are looking for information on line are simply doing the best we can with the information, resources and support we have available. So if your comments aren’t offering me one of those things, then all they are meant to do is give you 2 minutes of underserved fame, so keep them to yourself.

Bottom line: If you comment critics are such “child advocates” with such big opinions and big mouths…how about using that big voice to start a campaign for children that really matters…and put your money where your mouse is.
Tara Kennedy-Kline
Liar, thief, bully, smart mouth, recluse, rebel...labels parents never want to hear attached to their children, yet chances are, it’s the parents themselves who’ve created them.

These “labels” are more accurately known as “behaviors”, and human behaviors stem from emotions. In other words, “The way we FEEL determines how we ACT”.

Since children are human...it stands to reason that their actions and behaviors stem from their emotions and how they feel as well.

If your child is acting out in a way that is undesirable or negative, chances are, they are feeling bad, scared, angry or frustrated about something (or many things) in their life...since they don’t have the same options as adults in similar situations, they act out or lash out to get their feelings out.

For example: If you are a parent, you probably have another adult person in your life. If that person is disrespectful, hurtful, angry or even physically violent toward you...you have options. You can tell them off, you can fight with them, you can have an adult conversation with them, you can choose to not be in relationship with them and/or you can leave. Our children have NONE of those options...

Now, can you imagine the anger and frustration you would feel if the person you lived with had total control over you? What you ate, when you slept, who you were friends with, what you wore, how you were allowed to talk and what you were allowed to do...ALL THE TIME!!! And if you dared to disagree or argue or not comply, you would be punished or disciplined...Can you imagine if that person were allowed to yell at you, insult you, embarrass you or even hit you when you did something they felt was wrong or inappropriate?

How would you react to that person? What would your relationship look like with him or her? Would you trust them? Would you lie? Would you hide mistakes? Would you refuse to speak to them or choose to speak to them with rudeness? Would you sneak the things you wanted? Would you fight back...or fight with others? Would you shut down? Would you run away?

These are all normal reactions that as adults we can see ourselves doing...but in children, we label those reactions as “issues” and we look to treat, medicate or discipline them.
I see this behavior as treating the symptom instead of the disease. If the cause of the pain in our leg is diabetes...do we take asprin for the pain, or do we treat the diabetes?

I’m not suggesting for a moment that children be allowed to roam free and have no guidance or accountability...but I am suggesting that when we engage in correcting our children, we should also be thinking about how we would react as an adult if we were being handled in the same way. If emotions truly are the basis of our behaviors...think about it; what emotions are you building in your child and what behaviors are you causing?

Seek first to understand...then guide in the direction of your dreams.
Tara Kennedy-Kline
I am rather active on many blog sites, parenting sites and magazines...and the topics are pretty much the same no matter where you go. Spanking, Piercing, Discipline, Homework, Feelings, Feedings, Manners, Who's really in charge and who does it the best...

But what I realized today is that nearly all the people who most actively participate in those conversations are either degreed or self proclaimed "experts" who are basically doing little more than telling each other their philosophies and what makes THEIR opinion (or research or diagnoses or program) right! I'm starting to wonder who is really benefiting from all these studies and research and parenting programs...I very rarely hear from a real world parent...and almost never hear from one who is ASKING for help!

I'm starting to believe that the only people who give a crap about how parents are raising their kids are the "experts" who think they know how everyone should be raising their kids! Because while all of those experts are spending their time battling beliefs and studying research & statistics to get their "parenting PhD"...the rest of us are spending our time parenting our kids.
Tara Kennedy-Kline
As I sat at the table during my son's IEP team meeting...I realized something.
(Shocking, I know!)
Hearing my son constantly referred to as "Special Needs" really just kind of irritates me!

They kept saying things like "Well I know that behavior is a result of his "special needs." and "That teacher is better suited to him because she is trained in working with kids with "special needs" and "We understand that tests and homework may have to be handled differently because he has "special needs"...

But all I kept hearing in my head was..."Don't we ALL have "special needs"?"

I know I do! And I know my husband does. And I know my best friend does, and her husband does, and the neighbor’s kids do...and my oldest son does...But not in an IEP way or autism support way or even a medicate able way. Just in our own "unique" way.

For example: One of my "special needs" is; I have to be asked if I have the time in my schedule before I will be willing to do a "favor" for someone.

I also have a "special need" to be told when people are leaving or retiring for the night...if you leave me without telling me, I will flip out. (So what! It's MY special need!)

My husband's "special need" is he wants us to have chores done by the time he gets home and/or without him having to ask. He also has a "special need" that we talk to him before loaning out anything (even if it's someone else's to loan out...like MY car or Max's airsoft equipment) He "needs" to be in control of our family’s belongings and whereabouts.

These things may seem trivial and even a bit odd...but they are the "special needs" which are unique to us. And when these “special needs” are met, it just makes our lives easier and happier. It's about knowing and understanding the people around us in order to keep peace and harmony more than it is about diagnosing and labeling a person based on the number or severity of the needs they have.

Personally, I think ALL kids should be treated as though they have "special needs"! All kids should go through an "evaluation" process with their teachers to find out what will help them to have a happier, easier more successful experience in school (and at home too for that matter)! What the heck? Why not? Isn't it our goal to raise happy, successful children?

So if all it will take is a bit of communicating, a bit of listening, a bit of understanding and then a bit of specializing or customizing to make every child a happy, successful student and every family a happy, healthy, successful team...then I say label every one of us "Special Needs" or just scrap that term completely and just call us all “Unique”!!!
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