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....


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Action for Children has made another ad that parents with MS find almost as horrifying: I haven't seen it (I'm in the US, so they don't have those ads here), but apparently it features a young girl who has to take care of her Mom because her Mom has MS. And Action for Children helps her. Parents are incensed because it implies that children automatically become carers for disabled parents (when they don't, or shouldn't have to).

The Facebook group focused on the MS parent ad is at

I suggest that the campaigns against both ads (the autism ad and the MS parent ad) would be more effective if they were to work in tandem. I also suggest that letters should focus NOT ONLY on removing the two offensive ads but ALSO on urging Action for Children to consult more closely with disability groups in the future for ALL relevant ads.

kathleen said...

Hi Andrea, I have just posted links to both of the advertisments being run by "action for Children" I do agree that working together would have a greater impact. As for consulting with disability groups...the response I received from Gary Day,(head of supporter care at "Action for Children") was thus- "These pictures depict how he saw himself and what he felt he needed help with before. Action for Children helped Dan and his family for a number of years. Action for Children helped Dan gain control over aspects of his behaviour - this was about helping him feel more at peace with himself,as he states in the advert, and clearly his autism is an intrinsic part of himself. The animation in the advert is a representation of Dan's own individual feelings of anger and frustration, not of autism."

I find this fascinating-as that is not the impression I got. Gary Day defends this ad, because he had Dans permission..So is he saying..."well if you don't like it, don't blame me, this was dan's concept" He is placing the responsibility on a child...scary

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