My daughter is sweet, loyal and loving. But, she’s also a handful. And I know it.

I know it when we’re out, and people look away.

I know it when I see the eager eyes of a teacher at the end of the day.

And I know it when birthday invitations go home—and her backpack is empty.

And I want to scream.

Because they don’t know how far she’s come.

They don’t know that just months ago she laid in a bed, lifeless.

They don’t understand that when she’s screeching it’s because a seizure has robbed her of her words.

They don’t get that when her arms are flailing it’s because she’s happy.

And they don’t know that when she’s in their personal space it’s just because she longs to play alongside them.

But that’s just it. They don’t know. And I owe them at least the same grace I’m expecting for her.

Especially because if I’m good and honest with myself, I’ve been there, too.

I’ve been in a grocery store wishing someone would silence their screaming child.

I’ve stepped over someone else’s kid in meltdown mode, questioning “how can a parent be OK with behavior like that?”

And I’ve yanked my kid away from others on the playground because “they weren’t respecting her space.”   

And never, in any of those scenarios did I ask myself, “Why?”

Not because I intentionally didn’t care, but because I didn’t know I should care.

And that’s a common mindset. Until something directly affects us, it’s not our problem.

So, I share my experience—my guilt and my hurt—in hopes it opens another’s eyes.

There’s a common sentiment among women about motherhood that “we’re all in this together.”

But we’re not.

We’re parenting in silos. Living in circles.

“The good kids” and “the bad kids.”

Those who are “typically developing” and those with “special needs”.

Those in our neighborhood, and those in others.

And the list goes on.

And I’m not even suggesting that that isn’t OK.

Because it’s natural.

But be aware.

Practice empathy. Ask questions. Offer a hand.

And if you can’t do those things, and you can’t widen your circle to be inclusive, for the love of everything, just be kind.

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Cara Arnold

I’m a mama to 3 whose learning to balance parenthood and chronic illness at the hands of autoimmune encephalitis. Some days I’m a soccer mom, carpooling like a boss; other days I’m a relentless advocate, taking on doctors and insurance companies alike. But, if you’re looking for consistency every day I’m a hot mess. My life is a puzzle that’s still not together. I used to think pieces were missing. But it's all finally fitting together. It’s not what I envisioned, and some days I mourn that; but it’s mine. And knowing how fast that can change I try to appreciate every moment of it.