On Love

angry wifeIn the morning, I accomplish what often seems like an impossible feat. Somehow, though, it happens… and only the gods know how and why.

I get myself up at 5:30 every weekday morning. The fight is epic. Every bone and muscle in my body screams “Sleep more! Text the teacher and say your kids are sick! You want more sleep! You NEED more sleep!”

Also, I am beginning to think my bed is in cahoots with the pillows and blankets. At least, that is the best explanation I can come up with. Otherwise, why would the few minutes before the Alarm From Hell goes off be the time when I am at my most comfortable and toasty?

It’s a conspiracy, I tell you.

Anyway, somehow- as if by sheer will alone- I pry myself off my bed, out of the reach of my cozy blankets, and propel myself vaguely upright.

My partner, damn him, is still lying in bed. I rationalize that I shouldn’t be too pissed off at the fact that he gets out of bed much later than I do. I tell myself the he gets up later because he is an insomniac (due to his P.T.S.D), and the morning is often when he gets the best chance to sleep. I tell myself all kinds of things like this, but the fact is that- when I’m awake too early for my liking and still half asleep- I kind of hate the guy.

For a moment, every morning before I head out of the bedroom, I have this particular urge. My partner would like this urge to be the sort of urge that sees me pouncing on his sleeping form, waking him in a pleasant but not-so-gentle way, and having my way with him then and there, only to leave him exhausted enough afterwards to (hopefully) fall asleep.

No.

It’s not that kind of urge.

As I stand there in the dark on my side of the bed for those few moments, I think about quietly going over to his side. I would look lovingly down at him as he lay there quietly. Whether he is actually asleep, or lying there and wondering what the hell I am doing standing there and staring at him like a creepy stalker… I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, anyway.

I think about bending over him, just inches away from his head, with a slight smile on my face.

“HAVE A NICE FUCKING DAY!” I’d scream, suddenly.

He’d sit bolt upright in the bed, cursing and swearing and flailing, and I’d duck and dodge before dashing out into the hallway. The possible injuries, I rationalize, might even be worth it. I’d be awake at that ungodly hour, and he’d be awake to share in it; after all, misery does love company.

Instead, I quietly exit the bedroom and leave him to sleep. Love has a way of making resist these little homicidal urges; it’s a good thing I love that guy.

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The F Bomb

swearingI used to be a lot more shy than I am now, and a lot less inclined to swear, when I was younger.

Then, I let some crappy people into my life. Now, I swear like a trucker.

It’s cathartic for me- I swear to vent my feelings, so that I don’t have to explain to a judge why I killed so-and-so. I’ll admit, sometimes I swear to get a reaction, too.

It isn’t as though it reflects a poor intellect on my part, either. Not to be vain, but I like to think that I am at least as smart as I am smart-assed. Technically, I could say the same stuff in a much less vulgar way, but frankly it wouldn’t be as inherently satisfying.

My thought is that swearing is fine, but you don’t do it until you know what the words mean and when you should NOT use them.

My partner and I do actually try to curb our use of the choice words, whenever we’re with our kids, but we don’t cut them out altogether. We simply explain that those particular words are “Mommy and Daddy words”, and hope for the best. After all, the F bomb and other words like it are an intrinsic part of what makes up our sarcastic, vulgar, smart-assed personalities. Without them, we just wouldn’t be the same people.

The problem is that not only are kids (especially A.S.D kiddos, apparently) like sponges, but they are also like broken records- they will latch onto something and, despite being warned not to, they will repeat that thing ad nauseam. My kids have done this to the point where their Dad and I are on the verge of being driven crazy by it.

My particular problem is that I find it hard to be stern with my kids when they say a word they shouldn’t, because I’m usually too busy laughing.

Case in point:

Jill had just abandoned her Magnadoodle, after writing the alphabet on it, and sat down to colour at the kids’ table. Jack, even though he actually has his own Magnadoodle, immediately pounced on the opportunity to play with two of them simultaneously. The look on his face was sheer joy.

Jill: “Jack, don’t erase my freaking letters!”

Me, wanting to use this as a teaching opportunity: “It’s O.K to say ‘freaking’, honey. ‘Freaking’ is a good word.”

Jill, while colouring: “’Freaking’ is O.K. I can say ‘freaking’. I can’t say ‘fucking’.”

It took me several minutes to stop laughing, before I could tell Jill not to use that word.

My kids’ future teachers are going to love us parents. I have a feeling there are going to be plenty of Parent-Teacher Interviews.

I can see it now:

Their dad and I will be sitting in front of the teacher’s desk, in a couple of chairs that are way too small to fit our asses, looking as contrite as we can possibly manage. Some teachers just have a way of making the parents feel like they’re also in need of disciplining, at those little meetings.

The teacher will say something like: “Your daughter has been using the F word in class lately.”

Me: “Aw, crap.”

Teacher: “Do you know where she might have learned that word?”

Me, shrugging and smiling innocently: “I don’t have a fucking clue where she could have picked that up. Do you, honey?”

The Dad: “Fucked if I know.”

You Said What, Now?

your-e-cards-miltonious-101Being an autism parent, no matter where your kid falls on the spectrum, is not an easy ride.  When you factor in other people’s offerings or responses, the result can be frustrating or even heartbreaking.

I’ve come to believe that, when it comes to any sort of disability, there are four kinds of people out there:

1/ People who either have a disability, or are related to someone who does.

2/ People who may not be either of the above, but are knowledgeable and understanding anyway.

3/ People who have no direct experience, who are ignorant but well-meaning.

4/ People who are just plain assholes.

In my 5 1/2 years of being a special needs parent, I’ve encountered all three of the other types of people out there.  If I know that they aren’t trying to be jerks, I do my best to be polite.  Sometimes, though…  I really wish I had the balls to say what I’m thinking, out loud.

Since I’m not that sort of person in real life, I figured I’d put together a list- a list of the worst things I hear as an autism parent, including how I usually respond and what I would really like to say.

Fair warning: my attitude’s showing.

1. “All kids do that”, or “All kids have weird fears.”

How I Respond:

“I guess so, to some degree.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Really?  Are your kids afraid of dandelions?  Do your kids cover their ears, or slap their head when they’re upset? Do your kids break into screaming and crying fits when you brush their hair gently?”

2. “That’s funny, they don’t look Autistic”, or “I never would have known!”

How I Respond:

“You really have to spend some time with them to notice.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Funny you should say that, because you don’t look like an idiot.”

3. “It could be worse”

How I Respond:

“Yeah, I guess so.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“I know there are kids who are lower functioning. I know there are parents with more than two special needs kids. I know there are kids in wheelchairs. I know there are fucking starving kids in fucking Africa. I’m expressing frustration, and what you’re doing is the opposite of helping.”

4. “He/she’ll outgrow it.”

How I Respond:

“You don’t outgrow Autism, you just learn how to thrive in spite of it.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Do you have any idea how much therapy and extra teaching will go into turning my kids into fully functioning, independent adults? They don’t outgrow it- we just teach them how to work around it.”

5. “He/ She’s so cute. It’s a shame about the Autism.”

How I Respond:

“Why is it a shame?”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Why is it a shame? My kids are pretty awesome little people, if you give them a chance. They’ve just got a different way of expressing it.”

6. “They’re just trying to get attention.”

How I Respond:

“I know what ‘trying to get attention’ looks like, thanks.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Really? Because I thought that all the inconsolable screaming, crying, ear-hitting was a meltdown. My kid is having a sensory-overload meltdown, you ass. They aren’t ‘trying to get attention’.”

7. “Don’t Autistic people have special talents, or something?”

How I Respond:

“Sometimes they can appear to be talented in one particular area, like anyone else.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Sure. My daughter can fly, and my son can shoot fireballs out of his eyes.”

8. “I don’t know how you handle it/ I couldn’t deal with that.”

How I Respond:

“It’s stressful, but we just keep pushing forward.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“How do you know? Have you tried it?”

9. “Like Rain Man?”

How I Respond:

“Um… no.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“You know, I enjoyed that movie. It really did a lot to raise awareness for people with Autism and other learning and sensory disorders. The problem is, now everybody thinks all Autistic people are like the fellow on Rain Man. Seriously, crack open a book, or at least Google it.”

10. “Everyone’s a little Autistic”, or “She/he’s just being a kid.”

How I Respond:

“Seriously?”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Oh, well that makes it O.K then. By the way, thanks for undermining our struggle.”

11. “Let them stay with me for a while- I bet I can fix them.”

How I Respond:

“Thanks, but we’re handling it.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Is there someplace you can go to fix your attitude?”

12. “There’s a word for that kind of behaviour: brat.”

How I Respond:

“My kids aren’t being brats, they’re just having a bad day.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“There’s a word for your kind of behaviour: asshole.”

13. “It’s nothing a good spanking won’t fix.”

How I Respond:

“You can’t beat the Autism out of a child, you jerk.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“I’m guessing your parents didn’t succeed in spanking the asshole out of you.”

14. “So he/she’s a retard?”

How I Respond:

“No, he/she is Autistic. Please don’t use that ugly word when referring to my children.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“That’s funny, I didn’t think my kids were even related to you.”

15. “He/she’s one of God’s special little children.”

How I Respond:

“I guess so.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Why? Why should my kids be considered any different from any other kid? Sure, they’re special to me, but they shouldn’t be put on a pedestal or set apart from other children.”

16. “I hear it comes from the Dad.”

How I Respond:

“Well, that’s one theory.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Well, that’s one theory…out of literally hundreds.”

17. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

How I Want to Respond:

“Thanks, but we’ve got a handle on it.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Why are you sorry? My kids are awesome.”

18. “You must really have your hands full.”

How I  Respond:

“You bet!”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Doesn’t any parent?”

19. “He/she can’t be Autistic, because he/she speaks.”

How I Respond:

“Yes they can. Not all people with Autism are non-verbal.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Oh. Well, I guess she’ll just have to stop talking, so that everyone will believe me when I tell them.”

20. “You won’t even be able to notice they are Autistic, when they are older.”

How I Respond:

“One can only hope.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Do you know how many hours of therapy and specialized teaching they have already gone through? Do you know how many hours they will have to go through between now and adulthood, just to be able to function normally, like everyone else?”

21. “Everyone is Autistic these days.”

How I Respond:

“Um… I guess so.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“The reason it seems like everyone is Autistic these days is because it’s being researched and diagnosed better. We have better tools and tests, and are able to properly diagnose those people who, only a generation ago, might have been considered a dreamer, anti-social, or severely mentally disabled.”

22. “God only gives you what you can handle.”

How I Respond:

“I guess so.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“I really wish God would see fit to send a babysitter my way every so often, so my partner and I can take a break from what God thinks we can handle.”

23. “Did you get him/her vaccinated as a baby? I heard that vaccines can cause Autism.”

How I Respond:

“Yes I have, and that’s only one theory as to what causes Autism.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“There isn’t enough conclusive evidence to support that theory, actually. Frankly, even if it were true, I’d rather have kids with Autism than kids who die preventable deaths because they weren’t vaccinated properly.”

24. “Does he/she ever sit still or stop talking?”

How I Respond:

“Sometimes, but they are naturally very busy and chatty.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Do you ever stop being an ass?”

25. “What end of the spectrum is he/she on?”

How I Respond:

“They are high-functioning.”

What I’d Really Like to Say:

“Why does that matter? Will it make you treat them differently?”

 

Well, there you have it: the things that make the Momma Bear in me come out.

A Girl, Lost in the Translation

“You’ve got to find yourself first. Everything else will follow.”
Charles De Lint, Dreams Underfoot

11010281245_d0e6a1c6d9_zWhen I was young, I had it all figured out. I was going to be a cowgirl; there was no doubt in my mind.

I had a favourite pair of rain boots that looked just like a tiny pair of white cowgirl boots. It didn’t matter that they were made of rubber and not leather- I thought they were the genuine thing.

As I grew up, my idea of what I wanted to be changed.

Sometimes, I wanted to be a writer.

Sometimes, I wanted to be an artist.

Sometimes, I wanted to own a shop.

Sometimes, I wanted to own a publishing house.

In high school, grade eleven to be exact, one of my teachers asked her class a simple but very loaded question: where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The time frame would have put me one year after college, but that didn’t matter. I knew beyond a doubt, at that point, that I would be working on getting my second book published, and that I would be married to an awesome man, with 2 kids (a boy and a girl, naturally), and a house of my own.

To say that things didn’t work out according to that plan is a massive understatement. I attended a Fine Arts program in college, and it was roughly then that my font for writing inspiration seemed to dry up. It didn’t matter, though, because I had other creative outlets.

When I graduated, my lack of self-confidence prevented me from applying to arts-related jobs that I should have been perfectly qualified for. So, instead I turned to housekeeping. Perhaps I should say, I turned back to housekeeping, since I had been doing that type of work intermittently since high school, as a way of making some extra cash.

Over the next 15 years, I tried all kinds of other jobs, but when they inevitably fell through I returned to housekeeping- my safety net. I didn’t particularly like the work, but I was good at it and could always find jobs. In that time, I also had a series of bad relationships (including a marriage) that did little but make me feel as though I was being pushed into a neat little box and kept there.

Being so busy trying to be whatever they needed me to be, I lost all sense of who I was as a person. Instead, my sense of identity became wrapped up in who I was with, and what job I was doing. If I didn’t have either, I felt lost.

Eventually, having little time to devote to it, even the font of inspiration for art dried up. A creative person who loses their outlets is like an automaton, going through life without the thing that made them a real person.

I felt hollow, so when I finally decided to let myself be alone for a while, after going through a number of damaging relationships, I filled the empty spaces in my soul with so much work that I had little time to think about myself.

I hated the way I lived.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across a housekeeping client that liked me so much as a person that she started asking me to get together with her on the weekends. We would meet at her house, and make beaded jewellery or paint her bird seed bins, or do something else creative.

It was enough to ignite the spark again, though it still took a long time for the flame to really catch. I stuck to housekeeping, still not feeling like I had a path of my own to walk. I stuck with it for a few more years, in fact, until I was settled in a place across the country, with a family I’d made with a man who wanted nothing more than for me to love myself and be whatever person I wanted to be.

I stuck with it until life kicked me in the ass, and made it virtually impossible for me to work as a housekeeper, by the simple expedient of having me accidentally drop a kettle full of boiling water on my foot. The scarring made it impossible for my foot to flex completely- something that is kind of important in some parts of housekeeping.

The idea of returning to writing had been percolating in the back of my mind, in the months leading up to that accident, but I pushed it back because it seemed risky. Although it hurt like a sonofabitch, both physically and emotionally, I took the accident as a kind of sign. I had to stop playing it safe, to have the freedom to figure out who I am.

I untied the ropes that bound me, and walked into the great blue yonder. I started walking my path, and writing my story.