Monday, January 26, 2009

The monster is under my bed, not in my children

As a parent, there are a few little myths that I have told my kids that aren't harmful, but at the same time, aren't always truthful. Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, my adolescence.... Innocent little stories that make childhood magical. Or in the case of my adolescence, to keep my kids from one day saying "Well YOU did it, Why can't I?"

As a parent, it is my job to provide an environment for my kids that is safe and secure. If they fall down, I help them up. If they are hungry, I feed them. If they say there is a monster in their room, I call their papa. I have my limits. At forty four years of age, I admit, I still worry about monsters.

No, I don't mean real life, evening news, headline making monsters like serial killers and pedophiles...I'm talking about the hairy kind with lots of teeth that live under your bed waiting to grab your unsuspecting feet, vampires whose presence you feel standing behind you when for some reason you happen to wake from a dead sleep in the middle of the night and your covers have fallen off, the noise in your closet, the thing reaching out for you in the dark. That kind of monster.

I know it's not rational, but I take a "just in case" attitude, and discreetly practice necessary precautions.. It took my husband fifteen years to notice that I can leap vertically from the doorway of our room to our mattress and stealthily land like a cat, keeping my feet a safe distance from the underside of the bed, after running up our staircase in under three seconds flat. He thinks I'm ridiculous, I feel that I am merely being safety conscious. He chooses not to believe, but like it or not, he is my designated monster disperser. It is an unspoken part of our marriage vows, falling somewhere between pledging my trough and for better or worse. It is also the reason he sleeps closest to the door.(so they can get to him first) I am waiting for the day when something from under the bed grabs his foot. Oh how I will laugh...(after I am done running)

My husbands job takes him out of town a few nights a month. Those are the nights where you will find all three of my dogs in the bed, and all of the lights on in my house. Those are the nights that at least one of my kids will hear a noise in their closet or see a shadow in the corner. Those are the nights when I have to be mature, when I have to go investigate. I'll go and comfort whoever is scared. I will turn on lights, open closets all the while secretly hoping that nothing is indeed there. I do whatever it takes to make my kids feel safe and comfortable. That's my job, I'm a mother. Scared or not, it is my responsibility to understand that they are afraid, and to calm and reassure. Like it or not, I have to be brave. Rather, I have to let my kids THINK I am brave.

Since I have become a parent, especially since my boys were diagnosed, I have come across a different kind of monster. One that doesn't hide in dark places, one that I am not afraid to fight, one that desperately needs to be destroyed. It is the monster of ignorance. Currently, there is an advertisement being shown on television in the U.K. It is for a charity called "Action For Children". In this ad, there is a young cartoon boy named Dan. Dan is trapped in a monster. This monster causes all kinds of hardships for Dan.It is destroying Dans life. In the end Dan defeats the monster and becomes a "better person". Sounds uplifting doesn't it? It very well could be if that monster were representative of drugs, violence, or racism. Unfortunately, this cartoon monster is supposed to represent autism. Not only do I find this ad abhorrent, it is inaccurate, unjust, and plain wrong. It is an insult to every person on the autism spectrum. My boys do struggle. They work hard to get by in a world that at times they don't always understand. They are different. Not monsters. Different. How can I as a parent, encourage them to be in a world that views them as monsters? I can't. How can I as a parent not do something about advertisements like these. I can. I will go to the ASAN website (useful links section) and join in their formal complaint to this agency. After which, I will run up my stairs in three seconds flat, leap into bed and pull the covers up over my head. One can never be too cautious....

Monday, January 19, 2009

To hope..perchance to dream of an empty basement

" Happy Martha Luthin King Junior day mama!"

"Martin Luther King."


"That's right, you know who he was?"

"He had a dream"

what was his dream about?"

"That he could talk to people."

"About what?"

"he talked about Richmond"

"The town?"


My first discussion about civil rights with my eight year old...I think it went pretty well.

Dr. King did indeed have a dream. Some think that it has it come to fruition with the election of president Obama . Perhaps, but I think it is only the beginning, that now, the work can really start.

I have dreams for my children as well, and not all of them involve cleaning up after themselves, or putting their laundry away in an ORDERLY fashion. I dream of them growing up to be socially conscious, responsible adults. (Who don't live in my basement.) I dream of them being accepted for who they are and not what they aren't. I dream of them being on their own (far away from my basement)and living successful joyful lives. I dream and I hope...always.

My 10 year old watched the inauguration in school. When he came home, he said to me "mama,I think president Obama is right. We need to all learn how to get along with each other. It's silly for the universe to fight itself." I thought to myself"what a great kid"and after mentally patting myself on the back for obviously having done something right, I said"good thinking buddy!, we should all learn to get along and respect each other and our differences" He looked at me and said "yes, everyone in the universe should work together so we can go and fight other universes."(sigh) O.K., It seems as though I have some more work to do. But in the meantime, I will dream, and I will hope. And perhaps one day, I will have an empty basement.

Monday, January 12, 2009


One of my sons went through a time where he wanted to become famous. For what, he had no idea. He just knew that he wanted to be on t.v. and make lots of money. He didn't like the idea that he actually had to DO something in order to achieve this fame. He just wanted it. I didn't think too much of it at the time, I figured it was something he would just grow out of. Kind of like the time he cried because I wouldn't get the rest of the family together to blow trumpets when he entered the room(that was his "I want to be a king" phase).

I can understand where he gets this celebrity idea from. Our country seems to be inundated with the idea of it. Magazines, television, even the evening news has succumbed to the lure of celebrity. Not a day goes by without hearing the latest "Brittany" foible, divorce gossip, or baby news. The more lurid the news however, the more press it gets. This in turn has spawned a new type of television show-reality t.v. A type of programming where people will do the darnedest things in order to either make a name for themselves, or in the case of dimming stars...keep their name in the spotlights.

We have had "The Osbourne's" "The Hogans" "The Kardashian"s" "The simple life" "American Idol", "Survivor", "Big Brother", "Celebrity mole", "Celebrity fit club", "Americas next top model","Real housewives of Orange county""Celebrity Rehab","The real world",....I think you get my point, and I think I can understand where my son gets his quest for fame from. I am just hoping that his desire for fame simply means that he would rather live his life rather than watching other peoples on t.v.. I can't say that I blame him.

I couldn't imagine having a camera crew following me around. Frankly, I think that people would be bored watching me do the laundry. Although they may find humor in watching me try to vacuum up the 50,000 pounds of Styrofoam chips my son "accidentally" dumped all over his bed. He woke up today looking like a very low budget dandruff commercial for the feeble minded. I fear that I will be cleaning up Styrofoam for the next 10 years or so, as the inside of the vacuum seems to be the only place it won't go. (as a point of interest, it sticks to everything else, pets, body parts, teeth, ceiling fans....the possibilities are endless.) Although I don't consider this "must see" t.v., it is certainly more entertaining than watching a celebrity detox off of opiates. Those silly celebrities...they just don't know how to quit partying! I say just give them a few pounds of Styrofoam and a vacuum, or my household to run..oh but wait-we already have a show called "survivor".

What truly boggles my mind is that these reality shows are deemed acceptable. People actually want to watch them. Somehow, addiction, meanness, jealousy and just pure vile behaviour sells. They wouldn't be on t.v. if there wasn't an audience. What I would like to know is why is there an audience?

When one of my sons started school a few years back, it was noted that he self stimulated. Meaning that he would flap his hands whenever he was distressed or excited. I was asked if I wanted them to "redirect" his hands when he did this. When I asked "why", I was told that some parents find this behaviour embarrassing. Embarrassing. Lets see, he doesn't do drugs, he isn't obese, isn't trying to win a million dollars by slandering and back stabbing everyone around him all in the name of a "game", he's just trying to cope. This is reality and it doesn't sell. Perhaps if I added some Styrofoam?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

we need your votes

If anyone reading this has a moment, I ask that you go to and check out the website. There are a number of ideas that are going to be presented to the Obama administration next week. There are many many ideas-all good. However, only the top ten voted on will make it to that meeting. I have supported "the autism reform act of 2009". I am hoping to get as many votes necessary-in order that this idea be presented. Your vote is important-and this act doubly so. Thanks, Kathleen

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Who is changing who?

I think that once a person becomes a parent, they start aging in dog years. For every one year of having a child-the parent ages seven. That would make me roughly 114 years old. Unless of course you age seven years per child-in which case I would be 219. By all rights, I should be collecting social security...or at least living in Florida.

No doubt about it, having kids changes your life. In an instant. I remember bringing our first baby home from the hospital. We carried him in, placed his seat on the floor and just looked at him. Now what? I had absolutely no clue whatsoever as to what to do with him. You would think that he would have come with some sort of owners manual. There I was with this 8lb. 6oz. ball of need, and I was overwhelmed. I had never really had to take care of anyone other than myself, and I wasn't always very good at that. I kept waiting for a representative to show up from the hospital saying "We made a mistake-we'll be taking him back now" I was an irresponsible, self centered and flighty kind of girl. How could anyone possibly entrust me with the care of a baby? How could I possibly do this? What was I thinking?

I remembered a story that my sister had told me about when she had brought her first child home. She too was overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation.

She had been up all night with her crying baby. She was tired and at her wits end, thinking, "when is this going to end?" At that moment, she realized that it wasn't. That she needed to accept that this was how things were going to be-that this was what her life was about now. That things would change, he would grow up, it would get easier. She needed to accept and move on. She told me that once she had come to this realization-things got better

That is the single most best advice that I was ever given as a mother.

That first year was quite a learning experience for me. I think that I had the cleanest most fed, washed and changed baby on the planet. I sterilized his bottles, his pacifiers, his clothes. If it fell on the floor, it was washed or discarded. If he drooled on his shirt-he was changed immediately. My poor boy had so many baths, we dried his skin out. I was uber-mom, and I was going to do everything right.

Imagine my dismay, when my curly headed chubby boy of baby goodness started to retreat into his own world. His words, his eye contact,...slowly diminished before my eyes. What had I done wrong? What was I doing wrong?Was it the tuna I had eaten during my seventh month of pregnancy? Had some errant germ broken through my barrier of sterilization? I panicked. I was so afraid that this was somehow my fault..that perhaps my greatest fear was reality-I shouldn't have had a child, I was obviously not good enough to be a mother. Oh it was quite the pity party, I should have had it catered.

It took us two years to get a firm diagnosis for our son. During that time, I forgot about being the "perfect" mother, I stopped stressing out about clean laundry and sterile bottles. The only thing I cared about was my son-him. Not his clothes or his bottles or even his lack of eye contact or language- Him. It was during that time that my sisters advice came back to me. I needed to accept that this was who my son was. That this diagnosis, though helpful in explaining some things, didn't alter anything. I was still his mom-and he, still my son. Nothing in the world can ever change that. Not even dirty dishes. For that I am thankful. We accepted and we moved on.

I think that, 3 kids and 10 years later, I finally may be getting the hang of this mothering thing. My house certainly needs cleaning, there is laundry to do, and my 3 year old is chewing on something that I hope is edible. I think that at age 219 (in dog years) I may finally be growing up.