Thursday, July 30, 2015

Have a Nice Day

When did it become ok to judge others for their parenting style?

I have been so honored to write articles about my family's life with autism.  It has been my pleasure to open myself up to others in hopes that one person will read our story and say, “YES!  That’s like my life too!”  And maybe not feel so alone.

Parenting autism, while amazing, and glorious, and educational, and enlightening, can also be isolating.

I typically read comments after one of my pieces has been published.  And it makes me sad.  Not sad for myself, because my family and I are a strong, solid unit, and we know what we say and do is for the best.  The best FOR US.  

Never once have I said, in any of my pieces, “This is what you should do…” or “this is how everyone should raise their child.”


Why is it ok, then, for the anonymous reader, safe behind the glow of their screen, to spew venom at me and my words?

Please know that I agree that everyone is entitled to their opinion.  I’m just curious about when it got to be ok to be hateful, instead of kind.  That cruelty is the go-to before anything else.

I’m not writing for support.  Or kind words.  Or popularity.  Or to be liked.

I’m writing to express myself, to tell our stories, and to help others. 

Please disagree.  Healthy debate is an amazing thing, and I have learned so much from others who engage me with thoughtful criticism, bringing up perspectives I may have not otherwise thought about.

I’m ok with debate.  I’m not ok with cruelty.

My sons read these pieces.  They read your comments.  They ask how people can be so mean when they don’t know us, or don’t know why we choose to do what we do.

I tell them that some people choose cruelty over kindness.  And these people do the rest of us a favor by showing us their true nature. 

So we can walk on by.

So please, comment away.  But know that while I completely appreciate the kind words, and words of support, the cruelty can’t touch us.  Go for it.  You are affecting no one.

I take that back - you ARE affecting us.  

You are giving us a great example to show our kids how NOT to behave.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Heroes

There has been some talk of heroes lately.

My childhood friend put up a Facebook post regarding heroes - specifically,  some people judging others for their choice of who a hero is.  She said, 

“If anyone else wants to debate the meaning of 'hero' with me, bring it. I'm baffled and discouraged that people continue to discount who someone's hero is. A bit presumptuous and negative, don't you think? 
Just so all of my wonderful friends know, whenever you tell me who your hero is, I will never tell you they are not a hero.”

I totally agree.  She’s a smartie.

And this got me to thinking about who my heroes are.  There are a bunch.  But three stand out.

First, my son TJ.  He is an amazing kid, autism or not.  I admire him for so many things, but mostly for his unwavering kindness, his honesty, his confidence in himself, his sense of humor, and his bravery as he faces every day head on.  As he often finds himself in situations where he may have to hold it together until he can fully relax at home, he does so with determination and an open heart.  At 15 he is well practiced in finding ways to get through those days that may overload his senses.  And I admire him so much for how far he has come, and for how far he can go.  

Next, my son Peter.  In his 13 years he has already been face to face with more challenges than most kids his age.  It’s not easy having a brother with autism.  He has handled the toughest challenges it presents with bravery, determination, and an open heart.  He is a fierce advocate for fairness, kindness and inclusion, no matter what the situation.    And when he chooses you as a friend, his loyalty is unwavering.  He has a sense of humor and maturity that draw people to him, and has a way of making even the most mundane of activities fun.  His spirit shines from within, and he is such a light in our lives.

And finally, my husband Sean.  Amazing father, amazing partner, amazing friend.  We have faced some high highs and some low lows, and we still find a way to smile throughout our days together.  Strong when I can’t be, vulnerable when he needs to be, and always providing a solid, safe, and loving place for his family.  I call this boy “Dreamboat” for a reason.  He is, quite simply, dreamy and wonderful.  I am so lucky to call him my husband and best friend, and I can’t imagine my life without him in it.  Every day may not be easy, but there is joy in every day, because of him.

It is because of these three heroes that I find the courage and strength to face every day with a smile.  These three have made me who I am - a happy and grateful lady.

And so, so lucky.

Friday, July 10, 2015

I Will Do My Best

My boys love mini golfing.

We have the best mini golf place just up the street from my house - we go there often.  Last summer was one of those times.

My younger son, Peter, is athletic.  And competitive.  Every golf stroke counts.  My older son, TJ, has autism.  He loves to mini golf, but gets frustrated that he never wins.

It’s a good lesson for him that sometimes you just have to learn to lose gracefully.  He is doing such a good job with that lesson.

Anyway, there we were, mini golfing and enjoying each other.  It was just like any other mini golf excursion.

Until suddenly, it wasn’t.

There was a young couple with a young child just behind us.  I think they were babysitting the child, as they seemed to not be parenting, per se.  Who knows.  What I do know is that they were very close behind us, right on our tail.  

I felt no need to rush - we paid for our game and I didn’t want my boys to feel the pressure of rushing just to accommodate someone else.  We didn’t drag our feet, at all, but we didn’t rush either.  I could sense that we were not going fast enough for the too-cool-for-school couple behind us, but I was determined to let my boys feel none of that pressure and just have fun.

There was one hole where you had to hit the ball over a tiny path over a ditch.  If the ball went into the ditch, it ran down a path to water, and came out on the green by the hole, but not in a good a spot as it would have if you had made it over the path.  TJ loves it when his ball hits the ditch and goes through the water.  Even though it put his ball in a not so hot spot, I figured there was something about the water that made him love it so much.

Peter hit the path, and his ball landed near the hole.  TJ hit the ditch, and his smile watching his ball go through the water made me smile.  Until I heard the comment from behind me,

“That stupid kid - he doesn’t even know where you’re supposed to hit the ball!”  Then he and the girl laughed.

I saw red.  My stomach clenched.  My boys walked forward to continue their game, but I turned around to address the boy.

“My son can hit the ball however he damn well pleases.  And he has autism, you insensitive dick.”

Then I turned and walked back to my boys as the boy stood there with a stunned expression, and said weakly, “I’m sorry….”

Peter immediately, and quietly, said to me, “Did he just say something about TJ?”  And as calmly as I could, through clenched teeth, I replied “Yes, he did.  But he seems to be an idiot and what he thinks doesn’t matter.  OK?  Just ignore him and let’s have fun, sweetie.  Everything is ok.”

Then I started to thoughtfully and purposefully slow down my breathing.  I had to stop myself from crying.  I was starting to shake, I was so mad.  But I didn’t want TJ to know that the jerk behind us was making fun of him, and I didn’t want Peter to think it was ok to call someone a dick.

Even though he was.

I learned a lot about myself that day.  I learned that I don’t necessarily think before I speak when I’m suddenly very angry.  I learned that being calm is a choice that sometimes requires some work.  And I learned that as much as I didn’t want to take the so-called low road and call someone a name, it is ok to show my boys that I am human, and I get mad too, and I can recognize that maybe I could have made a better choice.

Who knows what would happen if I was faced with that same scenario today?  I’d like to think I could come up with something more clever than calling someone a name.  But to tell you the truth, when it comes to standing up for my boys, I really don’t know.

I am grateful to be able to say that this hardly ever happens to us - most people are not so blatantly rude, and if they have something negative to say about TJ, they must keep it to themselves.  I certainly don’t hear it.  It seems that most people are decent enough to not say mean, thoughtless things.

But just in case they do, I will do my best to defend my boy and my family in a calmer, more positive manner.  I will do my best to use it as an opportunity to educate others.  And I will do my best to make sure that I clearly communicate that different is ok, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

I will do my best.