Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Tribute to Waiting Room Moms Everywhere

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Tribute to Waiting Room Moms Everywhere

Article excerpt

In my life, a few women really get me. Women who have seen me at my most hopeful and most devastated. Women paled by lack of sleep and bad fluorescent lighting. Women whose last names, and sometimes first names, I don't know.

I call them Waiting Room Moms (WRM).

Waiting rooms are oases for mothers of children with special needs. We congregate in these small holding areas, sitting on musty couches, while our children receive the latest therapeutic interventions.

Sometimes we sit quietly, sneaking glances at each other while pretending to read year-old People magazines. Sometimes we crawl under a row of waiting room chairs and steal a quick nap.

But mostly, we Waiting Room Moms talk.

I tell these women things I'd never tell my "regular" friends with their "regular" kids--like how much I hate when my regular friends talk about their regular kids. They say things like, "That stupid soccer coach still isn't giving Ben enough field time" or "Jesse's so angry that I can't invite all of his friends to his birthday party" or "I took Carly to the new sushi place, and she told me she has a crush on a boy!"

Sometimes I just want to scream at my friends. I'm tired of hearing them whine about things that I covet. I'm tired of pretending I'm not insanely jealous when they crow about all of the milestones I'm not experiencing.

I'm just plain tired.

Not to say that my friends aren't wonderful. They invite me to all their social gatherings, despite knowing I am rarely able to attend and never able to reciprocate. They celebrate small victories with me, like the day my son finally ate a protein food after years of gagging every time he tried. (It was bacon--I know, I know, loaded with sodium and nitrates, plus I'm Jewish, but ... yay! He ate a protein!). They listen patiently to my relentless whining (yes, I whine too) about the teacher who thinks my son's behavior is oppositional, rather than a result of social and sensory challenges. My regular friends are everything regular friends should be.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But Waiting Room Moms are my lifeline.

A typical waiting room conversation goes like this:

MOM 1: How's Josh doing these days?

MOM 2: Pretty good. Only two calls from school this week.

MOM 1: So the safe area is working?

MOM 2: Yep. He goes to his beanbag chair whenever he gets overloaded. The teacher said it's helping her see what's been triggering his meltdowns. Like, he always leaves when the kids pull out the Legos.

MOM 3: Omigosh! Josh too? Kelsey can't stand Legos either.

MOMS 2 and 3 (IN UNISON): The clicking noise! (Everyone in the waiting room laughs knowingly.)

The waiting room community is populated by amazing women. I once met a WRM who moved here all the way from China after reading about the conglomeration of autism treatment options in my city. She and her husband had to improve their English, find housing and work, overcome culture shock, and spend away their savings. Yet she always had a huge smile, holding her son's communication device in one hand while cradling her nursing infant with the other. She was so grateful to be here, and it made me realize how fortunate I am to have so many services in my own backyard.

A particularly zany WRM taught me not to take life too seriously. One afternoon, she burst into the waiting room and said, "You won't believe this one. …

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