`Shut Up About ... Your Perfect Kid!'
It's nearly impossible for a group of parents to get together without talking about their kids. And since few people will admit their little angels ever struggle with problems, the myth of picture-perfect families continues.
Massachusetts sisters Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian, both moms, have had enough of perpetuating perfection. In fact, they are likely to wear T-shirts that read: "Shut Up About ... Your Perfect Kid!" It also is the title of their new self-published book.
"They're the mothers and fathers of the perfect kids. We've all seen and heard from them," they write. "They are in our cities and towns. On the soccer fields. At swimming lessons. Behind the bulletproof glass at ballet class. You know them - the ones who drone on and on about how smart, athletic, gifted and talented their children are. Blah, blah, blah."
The duo are on the front lines of what they describe as "the movement of imperfection." Gallagher and Konjoian set out to give a voice to parents of children with conditions such as attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, Down syndrome and autism who think their kids are pretty neat, too.
Gina's daughter Katie, 12, has Asperger's syndrome, a psychiatric disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and repetitive behavior problems. Patricia's daughter, Jennifer, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 8. She is now 14.
The sisters say despite living in the same neighborhood or attending the same parent-teacher meetings, they feel "worlds apart" from other parents.
"And if it's not bad enough that we have to listen to them, we have to read the bumper stickers on their minivans and SUVs," they write.
Here's their response to those bumper stickers:
Theirs: "My honor student loves me."
Ours: "My bipolar kid loves me and hates me."
Theirs: "I'm spending my soccer star's inheritance."
Ours: "I'm spending my kid's inheritance on co-pays."
I asked the sisters if they ever ended a friendship because a parent wouldn't be quiet about their perfect child.
"Not so much ended a friendship as distanced ourselves," says Patty, of Andover, Mass., in a recent conference call with the sisters. "On your darkest days, you want to talk to people in similar situations because they understand.
"Jennifer is doing better, but I still go to a support group. You never know when the bottom is going to drop out. Jennifer is a good inspiration to those parents who have children who are newly diagnosed. Mental illness is treatable."
Both women had the blessings of their daughters to write their book. Gina, who lives in Marlborough, Mass., says it was hard to write about an incident that happened to Katie on her eighth birthday. Katie and her classmates were competing against another team during an egg-and-spoon race.
Katie dropped the egg and headed in the wrong direction. Her teammates shouted, "She can't do anything right!" and "She's making us lose."
Gina tried to convince her daughter to leave, but Katie wanted to stay.
"When I got in my car, I sobbed like a baby," she writes. "And six days later, on my birthday, I was still crying."
The sisters interviewed many parents of special children.
"We've talked with parents whose children may never walk, talk or ever live with them at home," they write. "These parents have missed out on little events and milestones that so many of us take for granted. Yes, even in our perfection-crazed world, we found warm, wonderful people who had the courage to be real."
Source: McClatchy Newspapers
Staff, H. (2007, May 1). `Shut Up About ... Your Perfect Kid!', HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/news/shut-up-about-your-perfect-kid