In this world today, it seems we all have some sort of behavioral expectation based on our own ideals, values or understanding of where children should be when age appropriate, but as I have learned just like any spectrum or curve, children also experience this in their own growth and development.

Those who knew me when I had one, knew that our precious little bundle could sit through meals at nice restaurants by 9 months. She could recite her ABC's, walk and run before 10 months old. This little one sang gleefully by 11 months old and had me convinced that I was the mom of all moms. Then I had two. I still seemed to manage that with grace but when my third came around I learned quickly that the expectations I had for children were not for every child but for the two children I currently had. I also realized then and there I could not judge a parent on a running toddler or a screaming preschooler. Children are small humans developing at their own pace with their own personality and their own strengths and weaknesses.

Fast forward 7 years and I have two more children. I have witnessed a lot of change in my own children as well as in myself and my parenting style but one thing that stays the same is the fact I cannot place my expectations for MY children or individual child on any other child in this world. They are all unique.

Today was a perfect example of society putting their own expectations on my little 3 year old. Last week I shared that on my "off" therapy days I would be working to promote life skills. These include everything from dressing to undressing, using the potty, being polite and having conversational speech to how to behave in a public place. Today? It was Shop Rite. With just enough time to spare I headed out with the tiny tot in tow and placed her carefully in the back of the cart. Gone are the days I tried to force her to sit up front, legs dangling through that little child seat. As we cruised the aisles she babbled away and sat patiently. We grabbed a small gift for her teacher and then headed towards the pharmacy to get a prescription. She sat and waited. I watched as passerby smiled as she sang "Old MacDonald" over and over and one even commented how it was more entertaining than the pre-programmed Shop Rite track that was on for all shoppers to hear. After a drawn out conversation and wait, she looked at me and asked to get down. I allowed it. She ran off once but I quickly brought her back. As we departed that department, we headed to a line to finish up our little excursion. Feeling light hearted and full of peace I let a man go ahead of me into the shorter lane while I took the longer one nearby. With only two customers in front of us I planned to make it out with no issues. Then it happened. The woman two customers up wasn't happy about a glass bottle surcharge and the cashier had to wait for the manager to override the $2.00 fee. I stood patiently eyeing my daughter who was wiggling about in my arms. Then it happened the cashier looked at her and looked at me and said "if you stop and be a good girl you can have stickers". The mom who used to cry at these instances firmly eyed the woman and said "SHE IS A GOOD GIRL. She waited patiently at the pharmacy where your employees forgot to call to confirm my script with the dentist. Then she waited through a conversation about bottle deposits and now, she's tired." I didn't hesitate to mention she was autistic and I was pleased with how she was behaving asking me to turn her upside down knowing that she needed some input into her overloaded senses. The cashier sheepishly smiled but recovered nicely, the woman in front of me offered that there is "help for that" and I smiled acknowledging that yes, there is "help for that" and we get it.

In a world where we have such unique individuals it is important that we not classify everyone, that we not ask others to fit in a box and that we don't set expectations on others that we cannot control. Today I was reminded of yet another gift autism has given me, its given me the reminder that I have no right to judge, no reason to put my expectations on other children and the reminder to celebrate children where they are and where they are headed.

So friends, Messy Momma's, Messy Poppas and family, remember to meet your children, grand-children and neighbors where they are, respect and expect nothing for children are who they are meant to be.


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