The other parents stare, first at him, then at his mother, waiting alone by her car.
"How long has he been crossing this lot, anyway?"
"I'd never let my kid get away with that."
"Bless him. That'd stop if he just got a little extra attention and love."
"That kid needs a good whipping. Then he'd move!"
If you are horrified, you should be.
If you think this cannot possibly be real, you are probably right. At least I hope you are. After all, what kind of person would criticize a child so obviously in pain? What kind of jerk would blame his parents because a broken leg had slowed him down?
Yet thousands of families endure something similar every day. Every. Single. Day. Not because of something visible, something obvious like a broken leg, but because their child suffers from wounds unseen, some of which were inflicted literally from the very first. Some combination of hunger, abuse, trauma, and neglect caused the child's brain to develop in unexpected ways, with a broad range of maladaptive behaviors to match.
For parents of these kids, the phrase "pick your battles" takes on a whole new meaning. We have to pick so often and so quickly –yet somehow also carefully–, that I can just about guarantee we're not picking the ones you want. Yet trust me, we believe in love and discipline and everything else that goes into making a family work. It's just that our normal looks way different from yours. I wish I could say we 're sorry, sorry that our families make you so uncomfortable, so concerned. But we can't. We can't waste time apologizing for something that isn't our fault. Like the mom whose son is wobbling around with cast and crutches, we have bigger fish to fry.
What we can do is ask you to give us the benefit of the doubt, accept that we are actually doing the best we can, however imperfect that may be. Maybe this video will help. Do we all experience everything in it equally? No. But it does give people a chance to speak a lot of hard truths, truths they want the rest of the world to hear.
Remember, the support you give the family is love you show the child.