Lately I’ve put a lot of thought into how OCD affects our family life. And I realized that it affects our life more when it’s just our family. That is something I am so very thankful for.

Friends and family might see some things as we are together. But hopefully they never have to see the full extent of this illness.

And maybe some people who know our family don’t even have a clue that OCD is raging a battle behind our closed doors.

Now that my son is older, he can hide his OCD and his irritability a lot better in front of others. But when he was younger, he couldn’t hide his tantrums as easily. So I felt people’s eyes on me, watching me as I dealt with him. I knew some of the thoughts people were thinking. She just needs to be stricter! That boy could use a good punishment for his behavior. Maybe if she didn’t let him walk all over her, he wouldn’t act like that!

And here’s the thing…he was crabby a lot. He really was. He had sensory issues that bothered him constantly. And being away from home and in crowds overwhelmed him.

I remember walking through the grocery store one day when he was about 4 years old. He cried the entire time. He had asked me a question before we got into the store and I didn’t answer it exactly as I was supposed to. He had lots of repetitive questions that he would want us to respond to in the exact same manner every time, and if we didn’t…well, that could ruin the entire day.

I realized that I could easily walk out of there. Just leave the cart sitting and go! But I needed groceries something fierce! I had already put off going to the store as long as possible because it was always a struggle to go with him.

So there I was, walking (more like running) through the store, and it just so happened that I kept seeing the same lady in each aisle. And every time I saw her, I could tell she was disgusted by me and my crying son. It got to the point where she wouldn’t even hide the look of disgust on her face and the rolling of her eyes.

I kept my head held high, hurried through the rest of the store and the checkout, loaded everything in our vehicle and drove home. The minute I pulled into my driveway, the floodworks started. Let me tell you, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself!

But guess what? It was a good experience for me to go through!! And having a son who struggles with OCD is a good experience too. I’m learning though it all. I’m learning that appearances can be deceiving.

Now, every time I’m at the store and I see a parent struggling with their child, I smile at them. I try to ask if I can help them with anything. And I make sure to tell them that it’s ok. Just because your child is acting out right now doesn’t make you a horrible parent!

I hope I can touch someone’s life through this. I hope one day there’s a mom at the end of her rope that happens to walk past me in the grocery store and sees my smiling face. I hope she knows that she is enough! That she is not screwing her child up horribly, that she is not a bad mom! That it is perfectly normal for kids to act out!

I mean come on people … do we expect young kids to instantly know that they are in a store so they should behave like perfect little angels so they don’t embarrass their parents?!?

The next time you see someone struggling with their child, please smile at them. You don’t know what they’re going through. You don’t know the circumstances of their life. Maybe that young mom who’s struggling with her toddler just lost her husband. Maybe the child is autistic. Or, maybe the child is just being plain naughty! It shouldn’t matter what the reason is.

Make sure that dear young mother knows that she is not being judged by some stranger who does not have a clue what is going on in her life.