{misunderstood}

It sounds like a song title. Maybe it is. This word describes how I feel when my words have been misinterpreted, taken the wrong way. When I feel my words have been misinterpreted, it leaves me anxiety ridden and frustrated.

This is not meant to bad mouth social media and current technology. I think those things are wonderful tools and perhaps I will write one day about my own struggles with social media and how the art of communication has changed significantly in my very own lifetime.

For now, I want to focus in on a situation that happened on social media and brought me close to calling it quits earlier this week.

In case you haven’t noticed or are new around here, I love words. I love to explain things in detail. Describing a situation in great detail helps me paint the picture for you in your own mind. When those details are adequately described, it can take you, the reader, to almost the exact place and time of any given situation giving you a sense of being there and experiencing it with me, the writer, as you read my words on the page.

It takes a lot of words. There is often backstory first followed by the current scene and whatever follows after. When you are telling a story verbally, you speak the descriptive words. And if you are wordy like I am or love to talk like I do, it can take a little bit of extra time to really set it up for your audience.

Social media can be very limiting. There isn’t much room for backstory and setting the stage is often kept to a minimum. I can find myself feeling frustrated often after putting something out there only to be met with criticism or the conversation heading into a direction I didn’t anticipate because that wasn’t my original idea or thought process for it to begin with.

I took part in a chat loop recently on social media. As the comments started coming in, I realized I had done it this time. I put something out there and didn’t have the room to explain myself and watched as the comments came in leaving me feeling discouraged and frustrated at myself.

First, let me start out by saying, if you happened to come across said post, I am sorry. I debated on whether or not to take it off my social media platform, but I realized I can use it as a learning tool for myself and to really take the time to explain myself on this page where I can be wordy and I can give backstory.

Second, let me also say that as a mom of special needs, I absolutely love it when I get questions regarding my daughter and her specific needs. I appreciate it when people, strangers or not, want to know more about Down syndrome and show a genuine interest in getting to know us. Perhaps they notice she looks different and that strikes up a conversation about her classic almond-shaped eyes some people with Down syndrome have, the conversation taking off from there. Or maybe there is a question as to why she’s a year and half and she isn’t walking yet. I welcome those questions, why? Because it gives me space to share our story and be open about where we are coming from and where we are headed. It also gives space for me to break down the walls of stereotypes and generalizations that plague our society while not only shouting the worth of my daughter but also showing how she is more alike than different. And, that different is OK.

It also shows me that other people are interested in our story. It feels supportive when questions are asked, even ones that make my eyes do the funny furrowed brow look because either I don’t quite understand the question, maybe I don’t even have an answer, or maybe the wording was a little off-putting. I would never want people to be afraid of asking questions, even the wrong questions, or wording things differently because they think they have to walk on eggshells around me. We are all learning, so lets learn together. If you don’t know, you don’t know. I would rather you ask than ignore us or phase yourself out of our lives.

I will be honest though, because really, when am I not. I have gotten into conversations where I have been told my daughter will never be able to communicate with me. She will never learn to speak and she will not be able to communicate with me like my other typical daughters. I have been told that once she is in school, she won’t be able to tell me what happens to her at school because she will lack the appropriate communication tools she needs, such as being able to speak. I have also been told that she will live with me forever. She will have a hard time in school. She won’t be able to make friends. She will never understand social queues.

I know the experiences I have had, I can recall the exact scenery as those conversations happened, the sights, the sounds, even what I was wearing. I have replayed those conversations over and over, more often than I would like to personally admit looking for some sort of reasoning as to why those things would be said to me.

Of course now I realize that I am sure those comments came out of either not really knowing and going off of something they had heard or read or something else entirely.

Either way, the question I put out on this chat loop was how do you navigate through the comments regarding your child’s diagnosis?

The comments that came pouring in brought me to my own realization. No matter what others say, I have to be 110% confident in my daughter and where she is at. No, I did not know hardly anything before having her. And yes, I too have made similar generalizations and assumptions based off of what I had heard and did not take the time to get to know people who are differently abled in my lifetime. Now I have a front row seat with having Bernadette as my daughter.

Another realization, on both sides of it, there is grace. There is grace for the questions and comments and there is grace for the mom who is answering them. Bring kindness, bring a heart ready to listen, and it handle your words with care and consideration. Don’t throw in the towel on whichever side you find yourself in.

Get to know people with kids with different abilities. Learn to love them for who God has created them to be. Every single one of us is uniquely made, we all bring our own strengths and weaknesses to the table and in that there is so so so much grace.

If you did read my post on social media and it made you feel like I am not approachable, please rethink that. Most of us mamas want to talk and answer any question you might have. I feel like the mamas I have met along the way are all so willing to and they are very open and honest in their answers. But feel out the situation, you’ll know.

And know that social media only gives you such a small insight into the bigger storyline. Kindness, love and support go a long way. Hearts filled with understanding and grace speak the loudest. And at the end of the day, we are all mamas, loving our kids, standing up for each of them in the best possible way we know how to.

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