To the Trendy Boys Being Catty

There was a story circulating Facebook a little while ago about a woman who had given a note to some mean girls she had overheard at a Starbucks. I read it, as well as all of the armchair quarterbacks chiming in on whether or not they would have done the same, and who the hell was this woman, anyway?

Well, she happens to be an author of a book about middle school relationships, and has developed a curriculum for social leadership in schools, so she kind of knows what she’s talking about. I knew plenty about middle school girls being mean, from my own experience, and from teaching middle school for so many years. I did not chime in and become yet another judge like so many choose to do these days. I read the story, thought about it, and moved on.

pexels-photo-87835Last Friday, The Man, The Boy, Grammy & Poppy, and I went out to eat as we are wont to do at the end of the week. We decided to go to a place that is a bit trendy, but also has good food, reasonable prices, and is a favorite among the hipster-ish crowd in the area, small though it may be. The Boy likes it because they have a tabletop multi-cade video game that he can play, and in fact chooses to eat at that table while he’s playing. As we’re eating and enjoying each other’s company, I watched The Boy get up to get more lemonade. And I watched as two boys waiting in line watched him, as well. They seemed to make particular note of his footwear (crocs), and begin making comments to each other.

As I said, I spent many years teaching middle school and high school aged kids, and as a teacher, you get a sixth sense about when food fights are about to go down, when a young couple has broken up, and when someone is getting talked about.

In the article I linked above, Michelle Icard, the woman who “spoke up” at that Starbucks had this to say to critics who questioned why she told the girls they were “pretty”:

“I think it’s an important part of the story,” she said. “I think that’s a way a lot of girls hide their bad behavior, by fitting in perfectly physically.”

And Heidi Stevens, Chicago reporter adds:

“I think that’s true of grown women as well. Heck, men and boys too.”

I know that’s true of boys, too. Down here, it manifests itself in wearing the right shoes (and shin-high socks, apparently).

Did I say anything to the boys? No. They were with their parents, I hadn’t heard anything concrete, and this is the South, after all. One of the boys was wearing a Coors Light ball cap, after all. I doubted Mom & Dad would be too receptive to whatever I had to say. If I had been alone with The Boy, I might have gone over to them and said, “I noticed you admiring my son’s crocs – they’re hard to find these days!” or something along those lines. But I was with my family, and they clearly wanted me to focus on something else.

I can only be thankful that The Boy was oblivious. And I am more certain that this cattiness crosses gender lines, and needs to be addressed more often at home, at school, and by perfect strangers at a Starbucks.

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Acceptance Begins with Our Own

I have a friend with a young daughter on the spectrum. She regularly posts on FaceBook about her struggles with her daughter, and how she loves her daughter but hates autism. She complains that they often have to leave school events early, and just once she wished she could stay through a whole event and watch all of her children.

I admit that I only have one, and he is relatively high functioning.

I also remember feeling that way.

And I was a single mom.

(I know not everyone will agree with me, as this is a major point of contention within the autism community, and the line drawn seems to coincide with functioning levels. Autism is a struggle for most, and parents will spend our whole lives trying to figure our kiddos out. This opinion is based on my own experiences.)

At some point, though, there was a shift for me. The more “battles” you have to choose whether or not it’s worth it to fight, you begin to see hypocrisy all around you. You begin to question the structure and rules in our society, and how arbitrary they seem. Why do you have to keep your shoes on during a play? Is it really that big a deal if someone wears the same shirt everyday, as long as it’s clean (I’m looking at you, Troy Landry)? Do I really have to worry so much about the guy with the white beard being approached by my child who thinks he’s Santa?

You begin to think about the fundamental difference between children and adults, and how boring we all get. How we lose that sense of creativity and wonder. And how freeing it can be to not have to worry about all of that stuff.

My friend made a comment in her last post about the fact that her daughter needs to adjust to the world, and not the other way around. I respectfully disagree. Yes, we have to teach them to adapt to the best of our (and their) abilities. But. There are enough of us to really make a positive change here, and we have to stop being so hard on our kiddos. We have to start being harder on this cold, dead world that has a vice grip on its arbitrary social structures and rules.

My friend says she’s tired of it (autism), and that she’s exhausted. The fact is, my friend’s daughter will never lose her autism, but the rest of us neurotypicals only need a shift in perspective to allow her to be who she is.

And we need to accept our own kiddos as they are if we ever hope the world to accept them, too.

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It’s OK to be Offended

It’s funny how much our culture is influenced by the young. It’s probably our obsession with youth and inability to age gracefully, but whatever the youngsters are into is what you’ll see on TV, in the stores, and in the comment section of anything you read.

Have you seen the term “butthurt”? Yeah, me too. I hate that term. It’s part of this prevailing attitude (thank you, hipsters) that if you get upset or heaven forbid, offended, you are part of the problem. “Everyone is so sensitive these days”. “Everyone has to be so politically correct”. “If you don’t like it, just keep scrolling,” they say.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to be offended. It’s ok to be upset when someone says something mean or crass, or that is derogatory to someone else. It means you have a strong sense of values, and that you are brave enough to speak up either for yourself or for others who are not able to stand up for themselves.

Do you need to fight every battle? No. That would get overwhelming. As the great Mama Fry from Autism with a Side of Fries says in her latest post, “I’d rather on doing something else than having the same exact fight again and again.” She is referring to a troll who is continually poking the bear to get a rise out of the autism community, and I wholeheartedly agree with her. There are times when people do this crap for attention, and because they think it’s funny to see a bunch of people to get pissed off. This world clearly needs more therapy.

But don’t be bullied into thinking that you shouldn’t give your opinion, especially when people are being mean or derogatory. Don’t be mocked for reacting negatively to bad stuff. We need to stand up to that or it becomes commonplace, and we lose our values in this society. I’m not sure how it got to be so cool to not care about a damn thing or anyone’s feelings but your own, but I’m done with that attitude.

Besides, I’ve never been cool, so why start now.

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This One or This One?

As part of the “Wishing Away the Autism” debate, one of the posts I read argued that we show too much of a positive side of autism to the rest of the world, and that we need to share more of the horror stories, that we, the autism community do ourselves a disservice by showing the nicey-nice stuff because people are less likely to support funding for research and resources if autism “doesn’t look all that bad”…

Well.

Which is clearer?

Sounds like a sales pitch to me.  I guess I just don’t have patience for anything less than the truth, which is why I share the good, the bad, and the ugly on this blog.  So that others on a similar journey, or even one that is not similar in the least can share in my hope, commiserate with my frustration, and celebrate our milestones right along with us.

We are all people.  When you focus on showing society that autistic children and adults are real people, you will have accomplished something.  No one wants to be sold a bill of goods.  No one wants to see  one side of the story.  So why would we, the autism community, even try to do that?

Write and share your experiences, take those photos and plaster them all over your facebook wall, and bring those kiddos with you everywhere you go.  By doing so, you are showing that our little ones (and not-so-little ones) are a part of society, that they are human, that sometimes they need help, and that in many ways they are just like everyone else.  THAT is advocacy.  Participating in society, carving out a place for them, even where they don’t quite fit.  THAT models for the rest of society how our kids should be treated, THAT will show them why we need funding for research and resources.  THAT tells our own kiddos that they have a PLACE in our society, and THAT creates self-advocates, which is the name of the game.

 

The Look

"Now I can buy the things I love^ Here's ...You know the saying about there being a fine line between bravery and stupidity?

Increasingly, I have been getting “the look” from people I know and work with.  The look that says the person can’t quite tell which one I am, brave or stupid.  This “idea” of giving it all up and moving south.  “Is she really gonna do it?” is what that look says.  Mostly it’s people who don’t know me too well, because the people who know me well also know it isn’t an “idea” — it’s a reality.

I can understand the look.  I can understand the thought process behind it.  But the truth is, my parents prepped me for big moments like this the entire time I was growing up.  Education, education, education was the key to independence, independence, independence.  For a long, long time, I assumed it was freedom from depending on someone else.  But it isn’t just independence from other people.  It’s also independence as my own person.  Independence from a job, career path, lifestyle, society, thought, etc.  The ability to think for myself and know myself enough to know when to walk away.  To walk toward something simpler, easier, more satisfying.  Toward a smaller pile of money, sure, but much more happiness.  And not just for me, but for my boy, too.

And it’s not all that easy.  Some things will be infinitely harder down there.  But there will be love.  Lots of love.  And I guess I never quite stopped believing that love is enough, especially now that I know what true love feels like.

The most interesting part about “the look”?  Mixed in with all of the incredulity, disbelief, and sizing up?

There’s more than a little jealousy in there, too.