“Why is it ok for boys not to wear pants?”
I put my phone down and gave her my full attention, “What?”
“Why is it ok for boys not to wear pants?”
My mama-bear-full-red-alert alarm fired off in my brain, “Who was around you without pants on?”
She gave me a funny look and said, “Owen.”
My brain fired off an “all clear” and I relaxed, “Ah, well, yeah…Owen is not fond of wearing pants,” I saw him sit up a little taller but not look my way as a smile crept up on his face, “but we’ve talked about this and HE KNOWS that he’s supposed to wear clothes around you. Right, Owen?”
He giggled, grunted, and made loud car noises as he launched his teddy bear off his cardboard tower.
I smiled and turned back to Leonora, “Is someone else not wearing pants around you?”
She thought about with an expression like someone considering a deep, philosophical question and replied very solemnly, “No, not this week.”
I pulled a face at her and bit my tongue as she continued since she clearly had prepared a narrative on the subject and was putting great effort into getting her point across.
“Girls wear pants or stuff on their bottom,” I wondered what the other “stuff” might be referring to, “but boys can run around without pants on and everyone thinks it’s funny…it’s not fair.”
She was right. Huh, why the hell IS it funny to people but if a girl of her age were to do so people would be uncomfortable or outraged yet it’s still considered funny for boys or men to walk around without pants when they’re at home… Holy $#*!, my daughter is way more woke than me!
“That’s an excellent point. It’s not fair, is it?”
I gave her a side hug and asked, “Are you wanting to run around without pants on?”
She pulled away and her eyes widened in shock, “NO.”
“Ok, ok, just curious but you’re right. If someone is being inappropriate and making you uncomfortable it’s ok to say something or get away from them. ESPECIALLY if they don’t have pants on – “
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry. Just worry about you.”
She hugged me (the best way to shut someone up ever) and ran away.
I watched her as she ran out of the room and wondered to myself, why IS it ok for men to not wear pants around the house?
Just then Owen walked by chanting “butt” and I shook my head and groaned. He looked up at me and smiled with his eyes squeezed shut, his version of eye contact, and I kissed the top of his head. He laughed and ran back to his cardboard fortress.
She was right. Even though the discussions around gender, identity, self governance, and equality had changed and become more open as of late it doesn’t change the reality of there being tangible differences in the smallest nuances in our daily lives. Those subtleties of social norms that our kids pick up on and call out more readily than we do ourselves because they see them for what they are, nonsense. The double standards are so far reaching that they seep into the smallest of interactions to the largest of matters in our lives. In my children’s case, their health.
We struggled to get an accurate diagnosis for our daughter for six years. She’s eight. The crazier part? We only received that because doctors started to listen to me AFTER our five year old son was diagnosed when he was two. Leonora was five at the time. I had already been asking for help to support her for three years at that point. A particular low point was when a pediatrician met with us, seemingly listened, and silently handed me a note on the way out the door with a name of a counselor. When I reviewed my daughter’s paperwork, they had noted that I was an “anxious mother” and that she clearly didn’t show signs of autism.
Autistic women are discriminated against the moment they’re born. Not just because they’re female (check) or because of their race (check) but because all assessments and diagnostic tools are created for men and not women. (I’ll give you a moment to ponder or Google that.)
The bias in the medical and mental health fields overlook girls so often that the assessment and diagnostic tools have still yet to be updated or modified to truly be inclusive of women or girls. Which leaves parents, like myself, hanging with the proverbial question of, “So?…” Yet there’s no reply and only more questions.
We’re fortunate that we found an expert Psychologist and that our daughter now receives the support she needs yet autism is still studied and treated as a mental health issue which it is not. It’s not a disease or disorder to be cured but, in my opinion, a physiological difference that requires a different approach and sensitivity in most aspects of their lives. Just like anybody, my kids want to be accepted and treated equally. Yet, unlike parents of neurotypical kids, I feel as if I’m left with questions that the experts can’t reliably answer.
Will they ever find love and maintain a relationship?
Will my kids ever be able to live independently?
Will they be able to attend college and succeed in getting a degree?
Then again, all parents worry about these things in varying ways because deep down we’re all the same and want the same things. To have friends, to be loved, to be accepted.