Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maybe it takes a small town....


~"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."~

Ralph Waldo Emerson




I live in a very small town(Population in 2010: 1,760) Very small-considering that I grew up near and later lived in N.Y.C.  Funny thing is-I didn't really notice how small it was until long after we had lived here. When we moved here seven years ago, we had just started figuring out what Sam needed (services wise) Oscar(who had barely just started sleeping-for the first time in 4 years) had just been formally diagnosed, Lily was two (need I say more) and I was pregnant with Zoe.  I guess I could say that our plate was overflowing. So, we did what any other family would do...we got two more dogs...and a cat.

  Our lives were pretty full..There we were trying to catch up from years of sleep deprivation...renovating our crumbly home..we had doctors appointments..school meetings..giving birth!..and a lot of...dogs..just...so many dogs.....The life in front of me...surrounding me..sometimes overwhelming me...was so tremendously tremendous  that I didn't have time to look past the walls of my house. Forget about  the internet..I might check my email every few days..but I had no idea what Facebook was..I even had to look up the definition of "blog" when I first heard it .I admit it.  I was naive-an internet virgin..

  Little did I know how one innocent foray..a tiny peek if you will, into the world of advertising would sink it's talons so deeply into my innocent internet free brain..Oh it started innocently enough...I'd check my email...and my eye would happen to glance over to the side bar where "See how this mom lost thirty pounds of belly fat using one simple trick!" ..would be prominently displayed. I admit it...I had to know!  HAD TOO. From that one click..that one innocent instance of curiosity...I was sucked into the vortex of online social networking.  There were comments which led to blogs  which led to forums  and groups and tweets! I was enthralled! I made friends in the autism community...My small insulated view of four walls had exploded into a world of advocacy and awareness. I met so many different people-a few of them were autistic adults..something I had never thought about because I was mired in the world of raising my kids.( They actually do grow up-a thought that I must admit  has kept me going on more than one occasion. More than two even..).

  For the first time in a long time-I felt a part of something-and it was lovely. I had people to talk to..discuss or even argue things with-it didn't matter...it was a lifeline for me.  For that I am thankful.  It was because of these discussions and arguments (and a little bit of Oprah) that I started blogging. I wanted a place to tell our story-a place that any parent regardless of whether or not their child was on the spectrum could come and maybe see that we really aren't all that different.  A parent is a parent..right? I mean, the words Mother and Father and Parent don't need any embellishments.  They are powerful enough-strong enough-honorable enough to stand on their own.  Aren't they?  At least I have always (and still do) thought so.The same goes for the word "family"...and "child"... 

  A little over a year ago-I decided to step away from regularly blogging. I went from posting once a week to about once a month.  One of my reasons was that my kids are indeed growing up.  They are doing more..venturing.. separating from me and each other. I know-it is what they are supposed to do...doesn't mean it's easy to watch. It's actually more bittersweet than anything else. But-I wanted to savor this time with them while I can.  They really do grow up too fast. (most days) 

  This past year we got involved outside of our house.  We had basketball and girl scouts..play dates..and field trips. If I want my kids to be part of the world-I have to put them in it. Regardless of whether or not I feel like getting dressed and driving. I realized that I had to stop doing everything for them..so it was time to start prodding them to do more things for themselves. It hasn't all been easy.  In some ways they thrive on having the extra responsibility...but in others? 
Just the other day as I was insisting...demanding...putting my foot down...suggesting they all pitch in to clean up the house I was met with the usual.."But I'm watching a show...I'm on the computer...cleaning is boring!" Oscar, said nothing...he just quietly went upstairs-I figured it was to clean his room..Oh-I was so proud of him!...To go without complaining!!...I thought "Wow-he's really growing up-taking responsibility..seeing that getting the job done straight away is easier than complaining.." I got the other kids moving and went upstairs to compliment him on his wonderful work ethic...only.....he wasn't in his room..he wasn't in my room or his sisters room...Oscar, it seems-had disappeared!!  Where was he?  Where was my hard working industrious boy?!  And then... I heard a noise..faintly at first (the vacuum was on)..but steadily growing in volume as I approached the bathroom....  Coming loud and clear from the other side of the  door came a tune...so plaintive..and heartfelt..So thoroughly mournful..I thought..the angels must be weeping... But no...it was Oscar..lamenting on the horrific burden and subsequent pain that any eleven year old feels when asked to clean their room..
  
 "Woooork sucks...woooork sucks
    I hate work...work is lame
   I only like work when other people do it
   because then I don't have tooooo
   because wooooork sucks.." 

Oh the humanity!  The only things missing were a harmonica and guitar.. and he'd have  had a Blues rendition worthy of Muddy Waters  ...

"Oscar!  WHAT are you doing?!"
"Hiding."
"Hiding is not cleaning."
"I don't want to clean"
"Well-neither do I...but it needs to be done-and if it doesn't get done, NO ONE will watch t.v. or play on the computer..and I won't let anyone else do your work for you."
"o.k."

So-you can see that I didn't have much time for writing..the kids are growing, they are doing more things-taking more responsibility..Add the fact that I may have a burgeoning blues career to manage..and you can see that the internet isn't one of my top places to be.. I also stepped away because I didn't like what I was seeing on the internet. There was way too much vitriol..and anger- one upmanship and top dogging. It stopped being about autism per say...and more about who was the expert, who was right-who was really raising awareness...and sadly-who suffered more. I came to realize that this wasn't the autism my kids experienced-that our family experienced.. nor was it how I experienced parenting.  I am not an "autism parent" or an "autism mom"..I don't raise autism-I raise kids..some of whom are on the spectrum.   Add the suggestions for joining "Senior People Meet" and friending Regis Philbin on Facebook, and I had had enough.  More than enough..I needed to find my community. 

(Please note-that there are still many wonderful blogs and websites online-I was just getting mired in the not so nice ones)

  So, I stepped out of the online world...out from behind the walls of my house..and started becoming more involved in the real world around me. What I found was really kind of nice.  It  seems that while I was busily typing away on the internet talking about awareness-my kids, just by being the wonderful people that they are-were busy raising it. Autism-to them, is an explanation.. Other than that-it really doesn't matter-it isn't something they talk much about.  In other words-they could care less. Because they are just too busy living their lives-being kids. Now, I am not in any way trying to say that it doesn't affect them..It most certainly does. Some of my kids more than others. Communication...social interaction...these hurdles can be really challenging at times..But the thing of it is..no matter what their difficulty...the majority of people in this small town of ours..have learned to understand it...accept it...and following my kids lead-take it in stride. My kids have been welcomed just about everywhere-because they are good people...and they are fun to be around.  

  We have traveled very far in the seven years that we have lived here. Our house is still a bit crumbly..there are still too many dogs...add the three cats and two chickens (sadly one was lost  to my least favorite dog) and you can see that our lives have remained pretty full to overwhelming...but, seven years later-(and not to late) I also realize( all credit to my kids) that we are surrounded by roughly 1,760  aware, accepting and inclusive neighbors.  If four kids can can raise awareness in a small town-imagine what they and a small town can do in the world.

  So, it has been almost four years since I started blogging. I still have not learned the trick to losing thirty pounds of belly fat- nor the secret to erasing wrinkles that has dermatologists everywhere angry..I have not friended Regis Philbin..and I am definitely not joining "Senior People meet".  I figure though that I'll keep on blogging at least sporadically until I run out of things to say.  We are also thinking about getting a goat. I'll let you know how that turns out.  

11 comments:

jazzygal said...

I hear and feel what you're saying Kathleen but I'm glad you're not pulling away totally from blogging. We started around the same time, you and I. I too was an internet virgin and checked emails sporadically. I used to tell people that i was too busy to join facebook. Seriously, I withheld for months! Look at me now...I've now no time for booorriinng housework! Just like your Oscar.

I do pull away from time to time. It's good that you are finding a better balance. I should do the same!

Can't remember if you've read my 'Changes' post but, just so you know (as one of my longest blogger buddies)I am pulling away from writing about my boy.

xx Jazzy

Looking for Blue Sky said...

I love the fact that your kids are so much part of the community, and I hope that one day my son will be too! I'm glad you're not stopping blogging, and I understand the dilemma and am also pulling back from blogging every last detail of my son's life x

Socrates said...

Goat? Definitely.

Our village tops out at about 1000.

Lets play demographics:

therefore we have...

100 gay men (where on Earth are they?)
166 non-white people (where on Earth are they?...


Ah, this isn't working :(

farmwifetwo said...

Contrary to those that think the world of autism revolves around the internet... most of the "awareness" is done in villages of 500 people in our case.

Then you take them to town and since it's still a small world they learn to recognize you at the bank, your regular stores, the pool (both), karate (mild), scouts (mild), piano lessons (severe), your fav family restaurants. You discover smiles and patience and every day kindness. IMO that's "awareness" and all the "about me's" on the net will never impact people as much as that child that comes up to the bank teller with his Mother.
Last week...
Teller "How are you today?" to the severe ASD kid.
Without prompting of any kind (which 99% of the time is required to respond to strangers)
Kid "I am fine".
:) Gotta love small towns.

Stephanie said...

Instead of getting off the Internet (which I need for my career), I've widened to a less autism-focused group of people.

Same problem. Different solution.

I do understand, but I also want you to know that you're missed.

kathleen said...

@Jazzygal-I know! I so remember when life was too busy for the internet..yet, I still manage to do all the things I did before I ever went online..I have enjoyed watching your boy grow up...I absolutely understand pulling away from writing about him...they grow up fast don't they?

@Bluesky-He will be! I see how much a part of the community that you are! He can't help but follow in the path you are making for him..:)

@Socrates-yes...I would like for my kids to have a bit more diversity around them...However, having a papa(and family) who is from a totally different world/culture does help a bit..Yes-goats are great.

@Farmwife-YES! you do have me beat for "smallness" town wise...My kids are way too busy just being kids..I don't ever see them being part of the "autism online community" It isn't something that interests them..There have been far too many barriers put up there..I doubt they would even be accepted.They just aren't fluent enough I guess...*sigh*
@Stephanie-a solution is a solution..so glad you found one too. So glad I am not alone in thinking the way that I do...I will still be around-just not as frequently...hoping you will be too. :)

Stephanie Allen Crist said...

I'll be here...and you do have my e-mail. :)

Papa Bear said...

Hi! Just wanted to let you know that I'm still reading your blog, even though I don't often comment. I have trouble keeping up with reading blogs (despite dropping quite a few) and I don't post as often as I used to, for many of the same reasons as you mentioned. But I do enjoy reading your blog. We, too, live in a small town (but not as small as yours) that has proven to be remarkably accepting and inclusive:
http://findmyaddress.blogspot.com/2012/08/last-night-in-grocery-store-employee.html

kathleen said...

Hi Papa Bear-No worries! I absolutely understand..yes, sometimes life gets so big that commenting on a blog is the least of our worries..I know that you are around..THAT is what is most important. I hope that people reading the comments here go on over and take a look at your post-it was lovely. Your son-just by being the wonderful kid that he is-is raising awareness..in a very real way. He walks the walk. :)

Papa Bear said...

You can post it at Kicking Kittens if you like.

kathleen said...

Thanks Papa Bear-I just did! :)