Acceptance is a far off destination.

adhd, ASD, autism, equality, motherhood, neurodiversity, parenting, special needs, Uncategorized

Cathexis. Definition, the concentration of mental energy on one particular person, idea, or object (especially to an unhealthy degree).

I’d never heard of this word until yesterday. It’s an accurate label for this phase of my life and for the many parents, like myself, that have kids with special needs.

It takes a dedication and level of commitment that no one can prepare you for. Much like the all encompassing weight of stress and worry over their well-being and future if you’re not there to care for them some day. The fear that they’ll never be independent. That your life will end too soon and fall short of the length that they need you. Is there a greater fear than your child dying? For me, yes, the fear that I’ll leave them alone in the world unprepared, or incapable, to care for themselves.

Parenting kids with special needs becomes a vocation that seems only achievable if you throw yourself fully into researching on their behalf and supporting your kid as much as possible. I’m reminded by well meaning, unintentionally insensitive folks, that I really need to focus on “self care” and “get out more”. As if care workers are sprouting on the vine and all of them are willing to watch my kids overnight. Strange, but most sitters don’t want to stay over to watch two kids on the spectrum. One of which has ADHD and likes to wake up throughout the night to sing and scream demands while he rattles his baby gate. Quite often dragging his baby bottle against the bars like an inmate with a tin cup begging for water. Funny that.

Here’s another truth, it’s lonely. Even if you find other parents to kids with special needs that commonality makes it difficult to congregate. It’s difficult enough with small kids to have a conversation but with our kids we might not even make it to the door or we’re occupied with keeping them from running off, melting down, or some combination so maintaining a conversation beyond exchanging names is an accomplishment.

Autism Awareness month, for most of us, is bullshit.

What we need is acceptance. What is required to make that possible is equality.

Acceptance for our kids within families; because, yes, extended families are known for shunning you once your child is diagnosed. I’ve experienced this first hand and have had many arguments to explain that certain stereotypes are untrue and, no, us accommodating your preference of food is not the same as us asking you to make an “accommodation” of putting up baby gates before we visit so our son isn’t injured or elope out the door.

Acceptance in our communities. I can’t count how many times we’ve had to bodily remove our kids from an event or a public space because of others being rude or insensitive and triggering a meltdown that we then couldn’t avoid because of their presence. Insult to injury, those same people want to argue about our parenting while we’re trying to calm our child or, worse, continue to stare and trigger our child as if they’re baiting them into acting out. The mumbled agressions as we leave as the cowards then feel brave enough to comment to our retreating backs.

“If I had a kid like that I wouldn’t take them out of the house.”

“Why don’t you tell that kid to shut up?”

“Some people really need to learn how to parent.”

“That kid just doesn’t belong her.”

“If that was my kid I would spank him.”

We’re limited as to where we can take our children. We know that most places won’t accommodate us and not to expect it even if they have in the past. Many times we’ve had to leave places with our kids in tears because we couldn’t stay. The line was too long and no one would help us, the sound was too high and they wouldn’t turn it down, the restaurant was too busy and we couldn’t get a table in a quiet spot,… We’ve become accustomed to being discriminated against. Our kids have internalized their otherness and anything we say to bolster them up against it is futile to heal the wound of being rejected. We try our best and keep asking for accommodations but every day feels more and more like a gerbil wheel of failure. I’m chasing cheese that I can see and smell but never reach.

Accommodations are a form of acceptance in action. Awareness simply means you know about a condition or topic. Awareness means that you know when discrimination is occurring but acceptance is doing something about it and creating equity for others.

Equality is allowing my child to attend his neighborhood school so he can make friends in his community and be accepted as a member of that community, yet we’ve been turned away not once but twice. I have two separate drop offs and pick ups for my kids every day.

Equality is a place at the table, equity is having a functional chair.

For instance, my daughter’s school has ADA accessible entrances but half of the door buttons are malfunctioned so if you’re wheelchair bound you have to wait for someone to open the door. The school by law is up to code for ADA standards yet they chose to house the children with special needs on the second floor so they have to use an elevator to access their classroom when there’s ample space on the first floor for their class. Yet that would be mean them being visible to other students and part of the daily community. A community that they entered into after most likely a long battle on their parents part because I’ve yet to win that battle for my son who is not allowed to attend the same school as his sister.

Even if I was to get my son into the neighborhood school, they like many others, make it very clear that they do not accept children with special needs. They are aware, they will accommodate them begrudgingly by law, but they do not accept them as equal to all other students. It’s not as if a sign is posted telling them to “go home” but it’s unmistakable when every area of a school is geared towards able students and kids with special needs are excluded.

So often children with special needs are shoved off into inadequate classrooms and corners. Given “sensory corners” to sit in and calm down when they are overwhelmed. The clear message being that it’s their problem, their fault, for being over stimulated not that the class needs to be reminded to keep their volume down or that the space needs to be reconfigured. The child with sensory issues is told to put on headphones and sit in a corner. It sets them apart and reminds them that they are different and unaccepted.

School assemblies and celebrations, a flood of students all talking at once in a high ceiling gym without a single student with special needs or disability in sight. Every week or month appointed for awareness around Developmental Disabilities, Autism, or a physical condition goes unrecognized as children make decorations for other events for more important to the rest of the school to acknowledge like Presidents Day or a “Fun Run”.

The cathexis of my existence is my children. That might seem unhealthy or unwarranted to some. To that I say, do you feel accepted? Do your children fear being excluded at every moment of their life? Do they feel unwanted in their own classroom? Can you leave the house and experience moments as a family, together, without fear of being discriminated against and turned away?

I’ll continue on with my cathexis until all the chairs at the table are functional and every person has a place.

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Stop being an @sshole.

equality, March for Our Lives, parenting, politics

It’s a simple yet, at times, difficult expectation we have of our children. We ask them to be kind.

We try to teach them about the balance of justice in our small acts of asking them to return a borrowed toy, to say “hello”, to say “thank you”. Where does that kindness go as adults? How do our kids make sense of a world where parents and educators ask them to be kind yet they can’t expect to be safe in their own school? How do we stop violence before it begins?

They witness violent tragedies every time they hear of another shooting and every time they have to participate in yet another drill. Every shooting brings about impassioned responses about guns, mental illness, school policy, politicians, and our children. Yet the words “every shooting” should upset us more than any of those topics.

When our own children are calling “bullshit” and saying “enough” for us then we have failed them.

We have colossally missed the simple mark of keeping them safe in one of the few places they should never doubt their safety, other than their home, their schools. Yet we see no forward movement in making any positive change in the situation other than our schools now becoming accustomed to “active shooter” drills and locking down the building as if our kids are imprisoned rather than being educated.

Where does this end? What will it take to change the habituation to violence that has reached so far that our kids are having to endure the fear of being attacked in their schools?

In the past, I’ve been guilty of stating “no guns” and being filled with dread for my kids. Now, I see why others might find this dramatic but I find the apathy of others horrifying. You’re right, it’s legal to own a gun and you can choose to do so. I don’t agree with that right but I’m willing to hear you out as to why it is so important to you. To me, that’s being open-minded. Just the simple act of listening with kindness.

I have a crazy theory that I’ll throw out there. Stop being an asshole. Stop valuing your political beliefs over the safety and lives of our children. No one is asking you to give up your rights. The reasonable request being made is to be responsible and vote with logic that no one with a criminal background or violent history should have access to a weapon.

We wouldn’t allow a pilot to fly a commercial plane unlicensed and risk the lives of hundreds of people yet we’re ok with the idea of armed teachers around our kids every day. Some states require little to no training to own a firearm and many don’t require background checks.

Personally, I don’t think anyone needs to own a firearm; on the other hand, I have no problem with an adult owning them if we had proper controls in place to keep violent criminals from owning them. If there were proper laws and if they were followed: an adult owner would be fully researched and registered, have proper training, and storage for their “boom stick”.

The gun owners that frighten me are the ones that cry foul over such protections for all of us and feel that the right to own a gun is fundamental when, clearly, they have no idea how the Constitution works or why the Second Amendment was created. You could Google it but allow me, the Second Amendment was created to protect states rights to protect themselves before the days of the National Guard.

I sincerely doubt the original intention of our forefathers was to allow someone to have a gun rack on his truck and show off his AR-15 to his buddies at a tailgate party. If a gun serves as a grown up dangerous toy then just spend money on something far more enjoyable but potentially harmful like Botox, a trip to Taco Bell, or a lap dance during happy hour. All bad decisions but perfectly legal.

Here’s something else to consider: every school shooting has been a male, typically, lone white assailant. Women get accused of being crazy far more often then men yet we’re not commmitting school shootings and mental illness is the cause according to staunch gun advocates.

So where do we begin? It starts with our parenting, with our choices, and the act of being kind. Raise your kids to be kind. Do I need to be more blunt? Stop being an asshole.

Stop arming our teachers.
Stop scaring our kids.
Stop blaming the mentally ill.
Stop the violence.

Boys will not be boys. Violence doesn’t need to be condoned. We need to focus on what has driven a child to become violent and help them before it starts.

Mental illness is not dangerous or criminal just the choices people make.

Your gun is never as important as a child’s life. This is about our kids getting an education without the fear of violence. Please, here’s your public service announcement, stop being an asshole.

https://event.marchforourlives.com/event/march-our-lives-events/search/?source=ggnp_mfl_b&utm_source=gg_mfl_b_&utm_medium=_p&utm_campaign=mfl_b

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/nra-guns-second-amendment-106856?o=1

https://www.army.mil/article/70758/national_guard_marks_its_375th_birthday

https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/

It’s just a joke.

equality, freedom of speech, politics, Times Up

The recent revelations about high profile sex offenders are more than a wanted poster for the #MeToo or Times Up movement. They’re living examples of misogyny that have been the impetus to a discussion that at times sheds light on the casual observer more than the accused.

It says more about the people reacting to them than the people themselves. The facts of the scenarios show many of the accused to be criminal yet people like Dave Chappelle and Matt Damon want to joke about whether it’s funny, or “that bad”, instead of using their celebrity to support others who don’t have the benefit of their privilege. Rape and harassment are criminal, it’s not funny, but celebrities like them are insulated and delusional enough to want to argue over the semantics of such crimes as if it is amusing, or theoretical, as opposed to supporting those speaking out about oppression.

Dave Chappelle kicks off one of his latest stand up acts, “The Bird Revelation”, on Netflix with this line, “Sometimes, the funniest thing to say is mean…You know what I mean? It’s a tough position to be in. So I say a lot of mean things, but you guys got to remember. I’m not saying it to be mean. I’m saying it because it’s funny.”

Throughout the show they pan over the audience and make a point of zooming in on women laughing (most of whom are doing so while looking down) as if to show this is proof that they agree with him rather than politely acquiescing, as all good gas lighted women are expected to, or possibly reacting out of shock. Because if anything, our societal gas lighting has taught us as women that we need to give in and “take it”, as Chappelle says himself, because we need to be in on the joke. That true comedians know what they’re getting themselves in for since harassment and abuse are part of that world.

This is nausea inducing, this is misogyny, and this is someone rationalizing their part in enabling such behavior. Simply put, if that were true for all comedians and not just female comedians, then Dave is saying he’s ok with being raped.

“And everything is funny until it happens to you…,” If only he listened to his own advice.

“Yet, and yet, it is important that I acknowledge ladies. You are absolutely right. There you go. And we gotta all be mindful of that, guys, because…this could have happened to any of us. It could have happened to me. I can see that.”

He then proceeds to insinuate a connection between attractiveness and the likelihood of giving consent because apparently if Brad Pitt wanted to rape you it would be acceptable as opposed Harvey Weinstein. I’ll take the non-rape option, thank you. It’s easy to joke about rape if you haven’t experienced it, if you haven’t had a loved one attacked, or as he likes to say himself “everything is funny until it happens to you”.

He makes jokes implying that the victims should have known what Weinstein intended when they were asked to meet “at 3am” but then contradicts himself by saying what a “nightmare” it would be if someone “pulled their dick out at a meeting” to him. Why, yes, Dave, half of the population can imagine that since most of us females have experienced criminal behavior of some kind at work or otherwise in regards to being harassed or abused.

He goes so far as to label victims to have a “brittle spirit” if they couldn’t withstand being abused and to say that Louis C.K. losing his career was “disproportionate” to the crimes he committed. Those with similar views to Chappelle don’t call these events “crimes”, which by legal definition they are, they call them “sexual acts”. Much like Alec Baldwin coming to Woody Allen’s defense or the schmuck clapping Trump on the back (take your pick as to which one).

“This is all happening for a reason. And, ladies, I want you to win this fight. Ten years ago I might have been scared, but, you know, I got a daughter now. So if you win, she wins. So I’m rooting for you. And I agree with you. At least, ideologically, I do. I don’t know if the- I don’t know if you’re doing it right, but I mean, who am I to say? I don’t think you’re wrong. I just think that…You can’t make a lasting peace this way. You got all the bad guys scared. And that’s good, but the minute they’re not scared anymore, it will get worse than it was before.”

“Fear does not make lasting peace.” Now isn’t THAT amusing. His contradictions epitomize the no-win scenario most women face. If we speak up then we’re bitches and if we stay silent then we’re complicit with our attacker. If we strike fear into the hearts of those that oppress us then we’re causing civil unrest apparently. Here’s an idea, maybe make jokes about the attackers and stop tearing down their survivors. Maybe be a positive force in helping out other comedians to be able to perform without fear of harassment or attack from fellow comedians. I would imagine it’s pretty difficult to be amusing when someone is cornering you backstage and threatening you.

“Because men want to help, they’re just scared. Ben Affleck tried to help. “What happened to these ladies is disgusting.”” Then makes an exclamation about Affleck’s past abuse and jokes that’s why men are unsupportive and unwilling to get involved in the discussion around misogyny is out of fear. If that were true, that all “good” men didn’t want to get involved in supporting their fellow citizens out of fear of incrimination doesn’t that mean in essence that these men are not all that great? If you have nothing to fear about your past behavior then why would it be an issue to stand up and say “Times Up”?

“Yeah, man. Well, you ladies were right. Be honest with you, your lives look terrifying to me. They do. Man, I know nothing about being a woman, but I know fear.”

He goes on to equate being a woman with carrying around a backpack full of money. “Then I thought, “Holy shit, what if I had a pussy on me all the time?”

Scattered male laughter, “That’s what women are dealing with.”

No, Mr. Chappelle, we’re dealing with living in a world that is shaped by people with opinions like yourself that equate women to a commodity. Reduces our existence to a monetary value of our genitalia or the quality of our work and art by how attractive we are. The reality is that people still pay money to go to shows like yours and have their hatred perpetuated and supported by your jokes that make them feel ok about objectifying women. It is terrifying to be a woman because I know that I am not given the same rights as a man and that if I’m attacked I will most likely need to justify why I’m the victim and the attacker is unlikely to be found or convicted. The Equal Rights Amendment never passed, our rights are eroding as fast as the environment that is now largely unprotected that we live in, and I am horrified at the prospect of what this means for not only our daughters but our sons.

“Everybody gets mad because I say these jokes but you gotta understand that this is the best time to say them…you have a responsibility to speak recklessly…”

It’s probably the one redeeming part of the act I agreed with yet it just made me shake my head, not laugh. I wish I could go back to when I found Dave Chappelle funny and thought he was kidding but we all know there’s little that’s funny about the times we’re living in and that we all were kidding ourselves in the past by smiling and trying to be in on the joke.

Freedom of speech is just that, the right to speak freely; however, it is not freedom from consequences. It gives you the right to speak recklessly but it does not forgive you from the responsibility of doing so. If you shout fire in a crowded room you are responsible for the mob. If you perpetuate stereotypes, even as a joke, you have the freedom to do so but not the right to cry foul when others find fault with you. Who has the brittle spirit, those that survive or those that simply deride?

I don’t love autism.

adhd, ASD, autism, motherhood, neurodiversity, parenting, politics, special needs

“Mama, why am I so different?”

For some reason I wasn’t expecting this question, not yet, not from my six year old. How can I explain to her and convince her of what I see and believe about her when everyone around her finds fault with her for those same reasons?

I love my family but I hate how they are treated by others. It makes me hateful towards their autism as if it’s an invisible villain stealing our happiness.

She speaks softly and melodically. They tell her to speak up. She is achingly vulnerable without any guile and it terrifies me every day that she’ll be hurt by someone. They think it’s wonderful that she’s compliant to authority.

You see, she’s every teacher’s dream. A quiet kid who listens to directions and does everything she can to please them and doesn’t question authority. Yet she’s also the kid that gets forgotten, mistreated, fears speaking out, bullied, misunderstood, and is bewildered by the malice of others.

She “can’t find the words” and hits herself, “I’m a bad girl. I can’t get it right.”

She cries easily. Her feelings are often hurt. She feels so intensely the emotions of others around her that her stomach pains her with anxiety.

I love my daughter and accept everything about her but that doesn’t mean I love her autism, or my son’s, or my husband’s. Watching someone you love struggle to navigate the world is never a pleasant experience when it ends in tears or explosive tantrums. There are days where I feel like an incompetent ringmaster running from lions. Please hold my hat.

My least favorite moment recently was when a therapist asked, in front of my very verbal daughter with sensitive hearing, “How did you explain to her she was autistic?” Sometimes I wish I could pause the world for my children so I could ream someone without them hearing my obscenities. I managed to bite on the inside of my cheek and ask, “Good question, she can hear you so why don’t you ask her?”

Nora smiled good-naturedly, waiting patiently, as the woman blanched in embarrassment. We continued the appointment and I suffered through yet another barrage of convince-us-your-daughter-is-autistic. It’s a great game, it only costs hundreds of dollars an hour, no one wins, and it always ends with, “Oh, yeah, she is…”

Diagnosis isn’t a one shot deal. It’s a process where you try to convince people of what you’ve observed and they test your ability to stay calm as you struggle to understand what the &$#% is going on with your kid. We’re at the tail end now and facing more therapy as we try to grasp at what we can do to make her life easier.

Accepting your children’s autism has little to do with yourself and more to do with what choices you make for them. Constantly debating when to get out of their way and when to push, when to go mama bear on their behalf, and when to let them struggle. I’ve made mistakes. I’ll make more mistakes. I can only hope my kids know how much I love them. Even if I’m the mom that says &$#% a lot.

“Mama, why am I so different?”

I bit back tears, hugged her, and looked her in the eye, “Because you’re wonderful.”

I took a deep breath for the next part, “You know how Owen and Papa think differently than others?”

She nodded and looked down at her lap. I made a mental note to myself as I noticed she was picking at her hands again and the skin on her lips. I would need to tell the doctor. I took her chin gently and kissed her cheek.

“You think differently too and that’s a good thing. You’re special.”

Politely Defiant

ASD, autism, marriage, neurodiversity, parenting, politics

“No, ‘tanks. Not yet…No, thank YOU.”

I hear this statement frequently from Owen. It epitomizes his character and willful spirit. Even as he is defying you he is doing so politely. He is kind yet abrupt and I love him all the more for it and find it to be true of most people I love in my life, my two children and husband. To be autistic for them is to continue to be true to their nature despite the insensitivities and intolerance of others. To embrace their otherness is a daily act of defiance in the face of those that are unwilling to accept them.

Not that long ago I received a message from a reader who referenced an article having to do with the privacy of children and this person felt “mommy bloggers” like myself were sharing information that their children might find embarrassing some day. Let’s just ignore the misogyny and judgement and focus on the obvious flawed logic. The message implied that I was betraying their confidences and that they would resent me someday for doing so. As if it’s possible to raise a child and have them NOT be embarrassed by their parents. Yet part of me gave pause, questioned the validity of their argument, and the fact it made me question my own beliefs lead me to my decision.

Starting next month I will be moving all political and social commentary to a new site, Politely Defiant, at http://www.politelydefiant.com. All anecdotes and discussion about my kids will remain at Kelso Kids but I will be limiting access to the site to protect the privacy of my children. Not only because they’re now attending school (and can read!) but to allow them the chance to make mistakes and not fear what I share.

This will also give me the freedom to share opinions and discussion on Politely Defiant without fear of it upsetting those I love or causing conflict for them. And by “conflict” I mean them getting upset with me personally for disagreeing with their politics. I know I have lost followers in the past because of my beliefs and to that I say, farewell. Whether you are a loyal reader or a blood relative, I have not hidden my views and I won’t to please anyone.

Parenting children on the spectrum, being accepting of autism, is an act of defiance in itself.

Not that long ago, parents like myself were pressured by doctors and educators to institutionalize their children. To commit to parenting an autistic child was seen as foolish at the least and shameful at the worst. Such attitudes still influence society’s treatment of neurodiverse children and I do not deny that it hasn’t taken on a large part of my focus as a writer. For those of you that are looking for support and a safe place to share your experiences with neurodiversity then I welcome you to Politely Defiant. For those that want to find out when Owen figured out how to remove the heating grates, come see us at Kelso Kids.