My Son Is the 'Bad' Kid That People Love to Judge


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This article is part of a series dedicated to providing support and visibility to motherhood in every one of its forms. To read more stories on what motherhood looks like for all types of women, visit This Is Motherhood.

Most moms have experienced the uncomfortable feeling of being judged after their kid has a total park meltdown or grocery store tantrum. For most of us, those moments of feeling judged because of our kid’s behavior are few and far between. For Larissa O., of Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose son has been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, judgment from other parents is a far too frequent occurrence. She shares her story, and a plea for kindness for other parents like her:


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My husband and I were so excited when we got pregnant with Mason. We were over the moon to have a boy after having twin daughters. I had a normal pregnancy and delivery, and he was an extremely healthy, but fussy, baby. Mason was a much harder toddler than his sisters, but we just figured that he was a rough and tumble boy, you know? 

But things started to get really hard when he hit preschool.

We put him in the same preschool his sisters had gone to (and loved!), and it didn't take long before we were getting daily calls about his behavior. He was physically aggressive with the other kids. He couldn't sit still. He refused to listen to his teachers. He was that way at home, too. Mason would go from zero to 100 in a minute. He'd hit and bite me and his sisters. I kept hoping it was just a phase, which is what our doctor told us after he shamed me about letting Mason eat some candy in his office, a bribe so he would keep it together and not have a tantrum.

Oh, the tantrums. Mason would have a fit every time we needed to leave the park -- or when someone else tried to play with his toy, or if his favorite swing was taken. It got to the point where I just stopped taking him and the girls to the park, because I couldn't handle the thought of him losing it and feeling everyone at the park staring at us. Once, he was throwing sand, and I asked him to stop. Mason kept throwing it, and I told him we were going to leave ... so he kicked me and threw sand in my face. 

I was barely holding it together when this other woman said something like "You need to get him under control! You're raising a brat!"



I went home, and cried ... and cried.

My son was eventually diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder when he was in kindergarten -- which he failed, by the way, due to behavior. His diagnosis was kind of a relief. I'm not just raising a "bad kid," you know. And, by the way, I do love him. I see moments when he's calm and content, and it gives me hope. Mason is great at art and building Legos. I know he's more than his label and his behavior problems.

I just wish other parents didn't see him as just that jerk kid at the playground. He's never been invited over for a playdate or a birthday party.

I get it. He's a handful. But I also don't get included by the other moms, and that stings.

I'm doing the best I can. We've spent thousands of dollars on therapy to get Mason the help he needs. I've lost so much sleep over him. I just wish people would realize that when you have a kid who has a behavioral disorder, it isn't fun for anyone.

I wish it would go away, too. I wish he wasn't pushing your kid or screaming in class. That kid who is acting like a "brat"? He might not be able to help it. You never know the whole story. I just wish other parents would give each other more grace. I promise I'm trying as hard as I can.

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