The Invisible Illness

The Invisible Illness

            You’re sitting at a restaurant and you see a family with a child. This child has breathing tubes in and out of his mouth and strange sounds emulating from some type of machine. When mom goes to feed him and the child kicks or screams you say to whoever you’re sitting with, “poor thing”. An hour later as you go to exit the restaurant, you paid no attention to the tantrums of this young child, because you felt bad for everything this child had to go through. You walk up to the mother and give her a pat on the back and say something to the extent of, “you have such a wonderful family” or “you are such a good mother” or something like that to give her a piece of encouragement. You leave the restaurant feeling good about yourself and the world in which you reside.

            A week goes by and you find yourself at the grocery store. You are killing time and just decided to pick up a few things to add to tomorrow’s dinner. Immediately you feel the jolt of a cart hitting your leg. The pain isn’t immense but you definitely feel it. You are slightly irritated as you turn around to a mother with a red face. Her hair is in total disarray and she seems to be fumbling her groceries around as she tries to bargain with her child to stop ramming into things with the cart. You notice the child pays no attention to what the mother is saying, and the mom quietly mutters an apology to you as she quickly slams her items into the cart and appears more than ready to leave the store. You mutter to yourself, “that kid needs a good swift kick in the butt” or “if I had that child…” You leave the store disgusted with society and ready to condemn all young mothers who have no idea how to raise their kids. You are proud of how well you did as a parent and you are quite certain you could educate at least half the world on how to be a great mother.

            Here is my question to you; “If you had that child, what?” I would like a response to that. Honestly. I would like a response. The problem is, if you had that child you would be going through the same exact problems this mother is going through, or you would be a child abuser. I guess the choice is yours. See, society tends to judge parenting on what they see, not what they don’t see. The mother at the grocery store could be ten times the mother you or the lady at the restaurant was because she can tolerate her child’s illness, though she gets absolutely no credit at all. Children who have invisible illnesses get picked on, judged at school by teachers and students, get discriminated against by society, get told constantly how “bad” they are, and the parents of these children have it no better. They are constantly condemned for not measuring up to parental expectations. They are constantly told how to raise their kids and are often called, “bad mothers” by others.

            These mothers hurt. Not only do they hurt due to the way society treats them or their ill child, but they also hurt because nobody recognizes the pain they and their child experience. They are constantly put down, scolded, or pushed away from society. These mothers try to shop during off hours, they don’t go out to eat for fear their child will cause a problem that offends patrons, they constantly endure ridicule, and quite frankly they don’t deserve it. Invisible illnesses such as Autism, separation anxiety disorder, selective mutism, childhood depression, oppositional defiant disorder, Asperger’s, mental retardation, etc, are not easily recognized by appearance. These children look “normal” (I DESPISE that word!) so people expect them to act as such.

            My point is to not fall victim to being a complete and total idiot. If you go to the store and you get hit in the leg with a shopping cart, and mom looks extremely overwhelmed, smile at her and tell her she’s doing a good job. Chances are- she really is. She’s loving a child that society rejects. She’s loving a child with an invisible illness, and that can be just as difficult, if not more, than loving a child with a visible one. And the next time you say you would spank that kid, think of a child full of breathing tubes- would you hit him for being frustrated about his illness? Nope. Now try again. 

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