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Ways In Which I Either Failed or Excelled at Being a Mother Over the Summer, Depending Upon Whom You Ask

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Sometimes I’m pretty certain that I’m not up to snuff with this parenting thing, yet I lack the intestinal fortitude to actually do something about it. Hence, weeks stretch into months, and then we’re almost ready to start a new school year. By that time I figure it’s too late to turn this ship of fools around, so I let it just continue on its present course.

 

There’s always next summer, right?

 

If you’ve been a little, um, lackadaisical with your summer routine, then this should perk you right up and make you feel like you’re on top of your game. Because, man, I don’t even have any game this summer.

 

  1. I did not make Connor do one single worksheet this entire summer. Not even one little math problem. I should probably feel bad about that, yet I don’t. I figure that the 6 weeks he spent at ESY covers us for doing schoolwork during the summer.
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  2. The 8:00 p.m. bedtime routine went straight out the window. He went to bed at 8:30, instead. Or 9:00. 9:30 at the VERY latest. Except that one night we were out late bowling and it was, like, 10:00 p.m.
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  3. Between the two of us, we have acquired enough coal to light up the entire Minecraft universe with torches from one end to the other…probably more than once. And still I grab more coal whenever I see it. I don’t need more coal, but it’s like I can’t stop myself from compulsive coal-hoarding.
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    TORCHES
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  4. It’s possible that I let him sleep in his roller skates. A couple of times.
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  5. One day at camp a kid pushed Connor and took the ball from him. Connor waited until he had possession of the ball again, and then promptly chucked it at the kid’s head. Even though I made him write a letter of apology, I secretly felt more than a little proud of him.
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    ball to head
  6. I wrote down Lexi Magnusson’s cell phone number and encouraged him to crank call her.
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  7. The only people that call our home phone are solicitors. I always let Connor answer the phone because his first question is always “what are you selling?”
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  8. Tried to get him to listen to Guns ‘N Roses but he didn’t like it. I promptly tried to sell him on Facebook because, obviously, he can’t really be related to me.
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  9. Somehow my husband accidentally let him hear the song Wiggle by Jason Derulo. Now he randomly starts singing, “You know what to do with that big, fat butt!” at inopportune times. And I let him, because it makes me laugh.
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    wiggle
  10. Many, many days were spent in swim clothes, from morning to evening. The upside is that it sure cuts down on laundry. The downside? There is no downside, as far as I can tell. Neon orange and green swim trunks with a huge shark face, jaws wide open, is completely acceptable apparel for the grocery store, restaurants, bowling alleys, and anywhere else our summer adventures took us.

 

After writing this is occurs to me that I’d better get my crap together pretty quickly. T minus 3 weeks until school starts, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to expect some kind of parenting on my part.

Autism: Progress and Betrayal

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I know, I KNOW. Remember when she used to blog? When she had funny things to say?

 

How banal to say I’ve been busy. Which I have, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve also been…contemplative. Wondering if I should continue to write about autism now that Connor is getting older. Thinking maybe I should start a different blog, one with a more general topic and scope, so I could write about ridiculous things like middle-age and meeting Hillary Clinton on her book tour.

 

I still don’t know. I feel icky in the in-between space; unsettled, restless. But until I know for certain what I want to do, IF I want to do anything at all, if there is something I want to put down, then I will put it here.

 

This summer, I’m cautiously optimistic to report, has gone so well. We’re light years from where we were 3 or 4 years ago. Those we summers filled with dread and endless, debilitating worry. I didn’t like to write about those summers because I didn’t want to revisit how painful those times were, how scary. “Will it always be like this?” I asked myself daily. But Connor has grown and matured, albeit not to the extent of his peers. But there is progress and more understanding of what behaviors are unacceptable and the ability to try and control his impulses.

 

The reason it’s almost just as hard to write about how well things have gone this summer is because I know it’s not like that for every body. I remember how I would wince when I read about how great someone’s child was doing, or how much fun they were having. Not because I begrudged them that experience, but because I longed for Connor to have some of that inner peace that would allow him to enjoy himself more and build happier memories.  So I know that it’s hard to hear or read sometimes, wishing things were easier in your own world and hoping there were smoother days ahead.

 

So it’s okay if this is too hard for you to read. I understand and won’t feel badly if you click away now, to find momentary solace in something funny.

 

This summer has been a continuation of last summer. Days split between ESY and summer (day) camp. It’s been a critical factor in our success because it breaks up the day into halves, avoiding the common issue of Connor getting bored and restless when he spends too much time in one place. It’s also important because he continues his educational skills throughout the summer, minimizing the shock of being back in a classroom after 11 weeks off.

 

He did awesome at ESY. We had positive, happy notes every single day. Notes talking about how well he participated, how much fun he was having, how much of a pleasure it was to have him in class. And I can tell you that those notes are a monumental change and shock to the system after spending years receiving negative feedback on a constant basis. Those notes were healing in a way you can’t imagine. Every note about every problem, every mistake, every stumble just chipped away at the confidence I have for my child, and I resent the hell out of that. “Tell me something good about my child! Tell me there is value in him, that he is worth teaching and knowing!” Why do we have to ask for that? Why do I need strangers to confirm for me that my son is a beautiful, smart, creative soul? I don’t, no more than I need those people to tear away pieces of him, as though they were stripping leaves from a tree.

 

And camp has sailed by with no more than a small blip, here and there. Days where I didn’t cry as I drove to camp to pick up Connor. Days where I didn’t fear for my job because I was taking yet more time off to deal with issues at camp. There were smooth days, happy days. And we spent the summer getting ice cream and watching fireworks and ordering pizza and staying up just a bit too late. And we planned occasional “family fun nights” where my husband and I were both out-bowled by that boy. I have no shame in my score of 54, so you can just put that out of your mind. I earned that 54. And Connor…well, he earned that 108. But let’s be fair here and keep in mind that the gutter guards were up for his turns. That’s all I’m saying. You know, if I had gutter guards…

 

And he was so freaking happy after each of his turns, because he was beating his parental units.

 

I swear, this is a happy jump.

I swear, this is a happy jump.

 

But then, right at the end of ESY something did happen that derailed all those peaceful feelings. One day, the bus driver walked Connor to the door and told my mom that he’d had very bad behavior on the bus. She didn’t elaborate, so the next morning when I waited with him I asked her for more details. She got off the bus and asked me if he was on only child, which he is. She said he was the only child on the bus without siblings. Yeah, and? I guess she was trying to say he’s spoiled, which is funny (not haha) because we have spent so much time working with behaviors that I didn’t get to spoil him nearly as much as I would have liked. She went on to say that the afternoon before he was playing with his seatbelt and sharing his toy with another  child on the bus.

 

“My spoiled only child was sharing a toy? Well that sounds like a commendable character flaw to me!”

 

Well, it seems that “kids with autism have problems with sharing and they don’t always like to give things back.” I simply cannot tell you how relieved I was to get some needed insight about autism from someone who had spent many, many hours driving them places and really knew a lot about what it’s like to be an autistic child. So I asked if there was an aide on the bus, and she said there was. And at that very moment, the aide stood up and came to the door of the bus to tell us that “he just said to me to tell you all to stop talking so we could hurry up and go.” And by the way she said it, she was absolutely not amused and, it seemed, was rather disgusted by what he said. So I laughed. I laughed and I said that what he said was a very typical aspie thing to say. He wasn’t being rude, he was being matter-of-fact about the reality that they were going to be late. “Kids with autism often get anxious when things go off schedule.” Put that in your holier-than-thou pipe and smoke it, sister.

 

Anyhoo, I called the bus company and asked them to pull the tape from that afternoon so I could see it. But not before I came down hard on Connor about safety on the bus and following directions. For his own good, because safety is important and so is listening to adults. That’s what I told him.

 

The weekend passed and on Monday the manager of the bus company called. He’d pulled the tape from that afternoon and watched it, and he was calling to apologize to me. I was confused. He told me he’s seen absolutely nothing on the video that he would consider a safety concern or a behavior problem. He said he has three children, and he knows how kids can be, but there was nothing that Connor did wrong. He said a few times he seemed “antsy”, which is pretty common considering the ADHD. But no behaviors. I stammered as I asked him why the bus driver would have been so upset, so adamant that he was a problem on the bus. It didn’t make any sense to me. It didn’t make sense to him either, but he assured me several times that he would be addressing this with both the driver and the aide and that it would never happen again.

 

But the fact that it happened at all…why? Why would someone lie or exaggerate about a little boy that already has enough challenges to contend with every day? The confusion began melting away in the heat of the burning, seething pool of red-hot anger that was boiling in my gut.

 

Every single mother in the world will tell you this one very basic premise about her offspring: Don’t fuck with my kid.

 

But there was nothing I could do, because confronting her on the final morning of ESY would only bolster whatever flimsy excuse she would try to create. So that morning I drove him to ESY myself, leaving before the bus arrived. I’m sure she wondered where Connor was that day, but then it all clicked into place later when her boss called her in to talk about what she’d done.

 

I hate that he is old enough to be able to remember this someday when he’s grown. It’s not a pleasant memory, knowing that someone you’re supposed to be able to trust lied about you. No matter how much I apologized, it can’t erase what happened. My trust is broken now too, so I will never again take someone’s word over my child. Not without ample evidence.

 

But I haven’t let that cast a shadow over the wonderful progress he’s made and the great reports from ESY and camp. We are so far beyond where we were when he was 5. Communication has been the biggest factor in his progress and success because he can express himself and make his needs known. All the damn time, as a matter of fact. Right this second he needs my computer so he can play Minecraft.

 

I hope you all are having a relaxing summer and enjoying some qualify family time. It goes by so fast, don’t let is pass you by. Never stop believing that there will be progress and growth.

Barnes and Noble 2089, Which is Nowhere Near Bungalow 89

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The wives of Hollywood power players liked to wheel their small children here in thousand-dollar strollers, especially on Wednesday mornings for Toddler Time. They gathered to preen and posture while they sipped half-caff lattes and gossiped about the next “it” person they would be entertaining at their grinder box-house, spat out by some visionary architect that got his rocks off at pitching radical, indulgent building plans to rock stars and movie hustlers.

 

I decided to sit in the Barnes and Noble, at the Grove at Farmer’s Market, to do some writing and cull some characters from the upper-crusty crowd that was in dire need of a culling. If I didn’t get something in to my editor soon, I would be back to answering calls at a reception desk and making up excuses for the boss when he was screwing his assistant in her studio apartment at lunchtime. I waited until Toddler Time was over, since what I was looking for were three-dimensional characters, not the flat, high-gloss kind that came out of the pages of a bored and morally bankrupt magazine. There, at the corner table of the cafe I sat with my laptop, trying desperately to tease some depth from the characters on the screen. It was impossible not to notice him when he walked in, strode in, without so much as a glance in any direction to get his bearings. It was the entrance of a man who had spent a good deal of time practicing casually dramatic entrances.

 

Franco. Not this guy.

 

He was known in equal parts for throwing himself into a movie role to the extent of cutting off contact with family and friends, as well as creating videos and short stories parodying other famous people. He was the perfect yin-yang of perfectionism and douchebaggery. And on this particular morning, he was at the Barnes and Noble #2089, headed for the literary fiction shelves.

 

Now there was a character in need of a culling. His $200 distressed-by-Zimbabwean-hunters-who-beat-them-against-rocks-by-hand jeans sagged a little in the ass, and his carefully half untucked t-shirt had a crease line from being ironed by an Ecuadorian housekeeper. He was the living, breathing embodiment of a Lorde song, complete with a timepiece on his left wrist because James Franco doesn’t wear just a watch.

 

I ignored the excited teenage giggles I heard echoing from the corner of the bookshelves where I knew the actor/professor/writer/self-caracaturist was being idolized somewhere between Twilight and The Secret Life of Bees. My attention wandered to the bakery case where I ogled a slice of chocolate mousse cheesecake. There was no telling how old it was since nobody in this neighborhood would be caught dead eating cheescake. I pushed it out of my mind and took another drink of cranberry juice. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. The location was proving to be more distracting than inspiring.

 

As I slowly pecked away at creating a catalyst for my character’s slaying of the two guards outside his rented Moroccan slum, Kitty, by POTUS blaring through my ear buds, I sensed a presence had entered my personal space, and I glanced up.

 

As if a lightswitch had been flicked, the face in front of me instantly lit up with a smile that was just a little too bright, a bit too…rehearsed.

 

Franco.

 

As I yanked an earbud from my left ear, I heard him saying “Mind if I use this seat, it’s pretty crowded in here today?”

 

The long, drawn-out sigh wasn’t meant to be audible. Physical betrayals like that are only one tiny reason that I would never be part of that crowd in this town. Somehow I summoned half a smile, nudged the chair opposite me out a few inches with my well-worn Chucks, and said “Sure, help yourself. Hopefully my keyboard tapping won’t bother you too much.”

 

I popped my earbud back in before he could respond and wondered to myself if people like Franco fear being too close to the common people. We of the wristwatches and Gap jeans and subpar grooming habits…after all, I hadn’t had a haircut for at least three months, and manicures were an unrealized extravagance.

 

Tap-tap-tap, I glance up only briefly, but long enough to see the book jacket that he’s behind. I yanked out the earbuds again.

 

“Why would you choose something that’s so utterly expected?”

 

He lowered the book and peered around at the title, as though he’d forgotten what he was reading. A large black box with the name Sacrilege was on the front cover. He looked at me with one eyebrow raised, his left one, and replied “Not a fan of Salinger?”

 

“It’s not that,” I answered. “It’s just that after the Lindsay article, I would expect a new gimmick.” I’d never been one for flattery, simply for the sake of flattery, yet this was beyond my usual boldness. But I didn’t care. What’s he going to do, write a “fictional” story about me? Pffft.

 

“‘Gimmick’ is an interesting word choice. What makes you frame it that way?” he asked.

 

“It made for a nice story, didn’t it? Reading Salinger in bed to a fragile, fallen star? It’s pure image promotion.”

 

“Ah, it would seem that way, wouldn’t it? That is, if one assumes that the ‘fragile’ starlet had nothing to do with the story being written and released.”

 

So he’s insinuating that Lindsay was on board with the release of this ‘fictional’ story? I suppose a nice bit of sympathy couldn’t hurt in getting her back in Tinseltown’s good graces.

 

“What’s in it for you?” I asked. “You took a lot of grief for that story, so why did you bother?”

 

“Because sometimes it’s better to do no harm. She’s seen enough harm come her way. A few shitty articles aren’t going to affect me much, one way or the other.”

 

“Aren’t you benevolent!”

 

“Nope, nothing that lofty. I’m just a story-teller. Speaking of which, what are you writing? I trust you don’t mind my asking since we’ve already discussed the nuances of my shameless self-promotion.”

 

I briefly wondered how I’d gotten myself in this predicament, dissecting morals with someone who probably had a very different idea of morality than most. Deciding I may as well ride it out to the end, I answered “It’s a book called Murder in Morocco. It’s my first full-length novel. I’ve only published a few short stories before this.”

 

“Could I read the first chapter?” His eyes glinted and I could clearly see the challenge he was proposing; after the boldness of my accusations, would I be confident enough to let him read my writing?

 

“It’s a first draft, so it’s raw, but go ahead.” I clicked over to the first chapter and turned the laptop around to face him.

 

For a moment I considered moving my chair next to his and resting my face against his chest while he read. The thought made me laugh, but I stayed in my own seat.

 

He looked up after a few minutes, pushed the laptop over to me, and said “It’s actually a really good start. I look forward to reading all of it when it’s published. Do you have an agent?”

 

“No. My short stories were published by a very small, independent publisher. They’ve expressed interest in seeing the book once it’s finished.”

 

“It might be good enough for a bigger audience. I have a friend who’s a literary agent, I’ll give him a call and ask him to take a look at it once you’re finished. Let me give you his name and email.”

 

How does one react, exactly, when a movie star saunters into a bookstore, takes a seat at your table, reads part of your novel, then offers to connect you to an agent? I’d like to say my skepticism and complete commitment to remaining unimpressed won out, but ultimately self-interest prevailed. So I thanked him sincerely for reading it and for his offer. I grabbed my phone and punched in the agent’s contact information.

 

Perhaps he anticipated that an awkward scene transition was imminent, because he chose that time to stand up. “Thank you for allowing me the pleasure of sharing your table, as well as the advance reading of your first chapter. Good luck with the story.”

 

“Thank you for reading it and for the contact. I really appreciate it.”

 

And with that, he strolled out with the Salinger book in hand. It was like watching a unicorn disappear into the mist, taking its magic with it.

 

As the door closed behind him, the barista approached my table and set a plate in front of me. It was the chocolate mousse cheesecake from the display.

 

“Compliments of Mr. Franco,” he said.

 

How the fuck did he do that, I wondered.

 

***

I’ve always hated the saying “time flies.” As overused as it is, it was what came to my mind five years after that chance encounter at Barnes and Noble.

The contact he gave me proved worthy, and my book was published a year after that day in the bookstore. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably already aware that it was a bestseller.

Things changed so dramatically after that day, sometimes it seemed like a dream. The biggest change came just last year, when a major studio bought the movie rights. I spent much of the last year consulting with the script writers, and now we were a month out from the start of production. Casting was complete, but I had no part in that process. Still, it should have come as no surprise to me to learn who would play the lead character.

James Franco.

Somehow this guy always comes out on top.

Except for Lindsay Lohan. He still swears he was never on top of her.

 

 

This fictional short story was inspired by James Franco’s recent short story, Bungalow 89. Mr. Franco, it seems, is a font from which flows boundless artistic expression. And other things, I assume. But I don’t know anything about those other things.

 

 

 

 

 

I Hurt

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It’s easy being angry at injustice. It feels right, especially when it’s a cause greater than yourself. I can channel all my rage and anger into beating my fists against the walls of inequality, knowing I’ve put enough of myself into it when the blood runs freely down my fingers.

 

Humor comes easily, too. It would be impossible to put one foot in front of the other if I gave in to the feeling of defeat. You can’t make me cry. I’m able to find humor in the most unlikely situations, and the darkest of places. Laugh with me, friend. We will lose ourselves if we become too serious.

 

What’s not easy is pain. Pushing the words “I hurt” past my throat feels like giving away a part of myself. No. That’s not even right. It’s like…like I just trusted you with the most vulnerable part of myself and hoped you wouldn’t drop it and break it.

 

I had no business being surprised by the results of the state testing. No matter how much I shore up the dam of emotions, they just seem to spill out around the edges.

 

It doesn’t mean anything. Life isn’t about how well you do on tests. Not everyone tests well. It’s only a snapshot, of that moment on that day.

 

Still, I hurt.

 

(It’s less gut-wrenching to type it, than to say it.)

 

There will be extra classroom accommodations put in place for the next school year. They will focus on helping him in those areas…because the test told them to. I could have done that. I did do that.

 

So many words, they all blur together.

 

I’m glad for those supports, truly. Sometimes though, I just want my boy to be a boy. Just a boy with a sassy mouth and a new pogo stick for his birthday.

 

Just once…to be defined by his strengths, not his weaknesses.

 

The other day in the car, Connor began singing along to the radio.

 

“And I am feeling so small

It was over my head

I know nothing at all.”

But I didn’t start crying until I’d dropped him at school.

Because, there in the car alone, I hurt.

 

Misogyny is an Inconvenient Scapegoat for the Isla Vista Murders

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You make me sick. You, Washington Post. And you, The Guardian. There are too many media sites to name that are working overtime to sensationalize the tragedy in Santa Barbara as a “misogynistic” rampage.

 

Elliot Rodger was mentally ill; it’s as simple as that. Anything or anyone he hated was secondary to, and a consequence of, the primary issue of mental illness. All the relentless chatter and moral outrage at what took place is an insult and an affront to both women and people with mental illness.

 

You want to draw attention to misogyny in our society? You want to start a movement to end the discriminatory way that women are viewed and treated? Good for you. But to use this horrible event as the catalyst for that is insulting. If you want to change the way women are treated in our society, then why not address the fact that women still earn less than men in comparable professional positions? Or how about taking a good, long look at how women’s reproductive rights continue to serve as a political pawn by male (and some female) politicians? Or hey, how about the way women are portrayed in advertising? No? Is that too REAL for you? Too…pedestrian?

 

But NOW you want to talk about women’s rights and dignity? Now? A mentally ill man has to go on a shooting spree for some of the media outposts to decide that misogyny was newsworthy?

 

Here’s a newsflash for YOU: misogyny has been going on for a long, long time. Fuck you for taking this horrendous nightmare and turning it into a self-serving, opportunistic media circle jerk. Thanks for trivializing the real challenges that women face and hanging the issue neatly on the door of this man whose issues were much, much bigger than just hating women.

 

Why not talk about the shortage of quality, intensive mental health services in this country? Wait, you’re not going to insult people further by spouting off the uninformed drivel about there being plenty of mental health services out there, are you? I have many, many friends that could enlighten you about that myth. They are people trying desperately to raise children with mental illness, and they have been left to fend for themselves time and time again.

 

No, you guys went for the easy approach, the low-hanging fruit. Murder! Death! A tragedy against women! A trail of blood and a manifesto, the son of wealthy parents, privileged!

 

Real journalism would look somewhat different. It might reflect on society’s misplaced values in the way we treat (or don’t) our population of mentally ill, disabled, and elderly people. Real journalism might explore the great American secret, that we simply do not value the lives of the mentally ill, disabled, and elderly as much as we do the lives of others. If we truly did, there would be as many comprehensive mental health facilities as there are botox clinics.

 

We simply do not value human life as equal among all people. If you are flawed, you have less value.

 

Thanks, but I don’t want your salacious headlines about misogyny simply because it’s a convenient time to bring it up and catch a ride on the media circus train. You want to impress me with your heartfelt embrace of women as equals? Then show me the money and keep your laws off my ovaries.

In the meantime, at least Time got it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey You Guys, I Invented Something! At Least I Think I Did.

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As a child, Sunday nights were a mix of anticipation and dread. I looked forward to watching The Wonderful World of Disney each week, but I knew that bedtime followed the end of the show, and that meant the very next thing would be going off to school the next morning. I still dread Mondays, when the weekly rush of getting Connor and myself out the door will begin.

 

This past Sunday evening I was feeling particularly unsettled. We don’t do ADHD medications on the weekends, both to give Connor a break from them as well as to try and maximize their effectiveness during the school week. Unfortunately that means there is a lot of correcting of behavior and constant reminders about respect and personal space. Sometimes I don’t feel good about the weekends because it feels like we spend more time punishing or criticizing behavior then actually having fun together.

 

I was thinking about how frustrating it is to tell him something, and have him turn right around, completely forgetting what he was just told, and do the undesirable thing again. The phrase “working memory deficits” flashed through my mind, and then I had an idea for a game that would  practice memory skills AND build his self-esteem.

 

I have no idea if a game like this already exists. If it does, someone should let me know so that I can stop saying that I invented it! But if it doesn’t already exist, then hells yeah I’m taking credit for it.

 

I also have no idea if it will actually improve memory. I’m not a doctor, people! But it certainly can’t hurt, and the game will still be providing the child with a positive feedback loop, which is a good habit to start. At the very least, it will help with self-esteem.

 

I’ve not tried this yet, but am going to implement it this next weekend. If any of you have a chance to try it out, be sure to let me know how it goes. My hope is that it will help Connor learn how to hold something in memory, like “don’t slam the door”. But I also want him to know, despite the many, many reminders about not doing this or that, that he is still an awesome kid.

 

I wrote out the game on a handy sheet that you can print or share. Be sure to let me know how it works for you!

 

memory game

 

 

What’s In a Name?

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What’s In a Name?

Something that comes up from time to time is the subject of my name. Although I started blogging on a whim, I made a conscious decision to use a pseudonym as a means of protecting my son’s anonymity. Since one of my hobbies is genealogy, and there is a lot of Scots-Irish ancestry in my family, I chose a name that represented that. And I was fortunate enough to be able to tie in my name to the name of this blog, as an homage to a wonderful writer.

 

In addition to my pseudonym, I don’t post pictures of my son where his full face is showing. I could go into all the reasons why I made this choice. I could talk about him not being of an age to give informed consent to put his face or name out there. But all that really matters is that I gave it considerable thought before making the choice that I thought was best for my child.

 

It’s odd, though, that the name issue comes up. If I blogged under the pseudonym of “Tammy” or “Claire”, I suppose no one would say anything. It’s funny that my choosing of a unique name is what makes people question me. I get the impression that people think they would somehow know me better if I used my real name. But you wouldn’t. If you don’t know me through my writing, then you will never know me. And believe me when I say that you can know everything about a person, and still not know them. There have been people in my life that never uttered their thoughts or opinions on things, always playing it safe. And all it does is leave me with an empty space when I think of them, because I will never really know them.

 

Many bloggers have chosen to put their child’s face and name out there, as a proud declaration about autism. That’s their choice, and I don’t judge them for it. Some of my very close friends share their children’s beautiful faces. They made a choice for their children, just like I made a choice for my child. Different choices don’t make anyone better than the other, just different.

 

How we write, and the different choices we make about what we share in our writing is very similar to advocacy. People choose to advocate in different ways. For some people, autism is something they celebrate. They make a concerted effort to never publicly discuss autism in a negative way. Others experience autism in a different way and, for them, it’s not always a positive experience. They might choose to write about autism in a more honest way that reflects their personal experience.

 

My approach, in case you’re a new reader, is one of honesty. This blog wasn’t created with advocacy as the main concept. I created it so I would have a place to write about my feelings and experience as an autism parent, as well as other random things that come to mind. I write as honestly as possible because, as a reader, I don’t like reading things that leave me feeling like I’m only getting part of the picture. If I read a blog and it leaves me feeling like I’ve just spent time with a used car salesman, someone who tells you about all of the great and wonderful features but neglects to tell you that the air conditioning doesn’t work or the car was in a fender bender, then I usually don’t come back to that blog. That’s my choice, because I want to experience authenticity when I read about people. But some people prefer a purely positive experience, I suppose. Some people can’t handle anything negative, so they want to hear about fields of daisies.

 

And since the spectrum is so very vast, I think that different people need different kinds of advocacy. People that can communicate and function reasonably well will advocate for equality and inclusion. But others that have found no way to communicate their needs will have someone advocating for them, and they need much more than equality and inclusion. Each is doing their part to advocate, but ultimately their needs and sense of urgency is different.

 

Imagine the absurdity of someone insisting that all bloggers must use only their real names, and photos of their children must have a full frontal view of their face. How laughable would it be for someone to presume to tell others how they should write about their family on their own blog?

 

It’s about as laughable as telling people that they all must advocate in exactly the same way, using exactly the same language.

 

There is someone out there right this moment, who is in crisis with their child. They are desperate and they are frightened, and right now they don’t have the kindest things to say about autism.

 

There is also someone out there right now who is learning to celebrate their uniqueness and feel good about everything that makes them different. They want people to know that autism isn’t always something to be feared.

 

Can both of those examples be right? For me, they are just as right as the fact that I blog as Flannery, and you blog as Joe.

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