I’m always railing about tolerance and support for individuals with autism and their families. So when I got hit by the obvious hammer last night, I felt like the stupidest person in the world.
Simon participates in Special Olympics bowling. He loves it. We love it. It’s awesome.
But two or three years ago, he was on a lane with a teenager who apparently had a few more issues than he did. The teenager first whipped out his penis and started stroking it. Not a big deal to me. Clearly, that was his thing. Okay. The aide with him told him to put it away, and he did.
I guess that bothered him, though, because when they were doing all the opening ceremonies, he reached out and smacked Simon on the top of the head.
Not a little gentle tap, either. A loud THWAP that must have hurt because Simon started crying and freaking out. Couldn’t blame him – a completely surprising smack on the head would probably make me cry and freak out, too.
The teenager was moved away, we comforted Simon, and it looked like the game was going to go on.
Something else happened with the teenager, though, and next thing we knew, he was pulled from the game and his parents were called to come pick him up.
And I thought horrible, horrible thoughts.
At the time, I didn’t think they were horrible thoughts. They were thoughts about defending my son. I was glad the teenager was tossed out. What is wrong with his parents? I thought. Why aren’t they here? Why aren’t they working with him more?
Time for the obvious hammer.
Really, Kate? I asked myself last night as I was thinking back on the bowling day. Really?
The parents (or other caregivers – I had and have no idea about his home life situation) might not have been there for any number of reasons, including the fact that maybe they were just reveling in some time off. No one wants to be a martyr, but it can be hard. It can be tiring. It can be one of those things where a few hours of time off makes all the difference in the world. Maybe they had to work to help pay for his therapy or even just their lives.
For all I knew, they had been working with him. They could have tried therapies, could have tried medications, could have tried psychological care. I didn’t know what they tried. I didn’t know what they had done. He could have been getting 50 hours a week of ABA, and it made no difference. I had no idea.
Why the hell was it okay for me to judge them?
Because, and here’s the super important thing, I DON’T GET TO JUDGE THEM. It doesn’t matter if they’ve done all or none of those things. I don’t need to make excuses. They don’t need to make excuses. Because, let me repeat it again, I DON’T GET TO JUDGE THEM.
It’s super easy to judge. It’s easy to forget that we don’t have that right. Easy to think that we know better, that we’d do better, that we’d be better. But, news flash from the obvious hammer, it’s not our business, and it’s not our right to judge them.
The sad part is how long it took me to realize that I’d been doing it in that situation. I had been proud that, while I tried to offer advice and help and experience, I hadn’t judged without knowing a situation. Fail.
Thanks, obvious hammer!
(To be fair, there are times when judgment is acceptable. A parent killing their child? Judged. A parent who abused their child? Judged. A parent who doesn’t care and neglects their child? Judged. That’s a whole different blog, though…)
I belong to a lot of mom groups online. They range from funny to scary to informative. In one of them, though, there was recently a post that first made me giggle and then made me think. Sadly, it has been deleted, so I can’t share a copy of it here, but I wanted to at least share the content.
A mom posted because her mother-in-law had warned her that she might be turning her son gay by painting his toenails. The mom felt that what she was doing was okay because it was only his toenails, and she only let him pick from green or blue. She wanted input on if this was acceptable behavior or not.
I had to wonder – what about painting his fingernails was going too far? Would he suddenly snap and start liking boys? And what about the color choices? If she let him choose pink or purple, would he start cross-dressing? What kind of rules had she created, and what was the logic behind them?
I went back to look at the posting again because I wanted to see what advice the other moms had offered up to this woman.
As for me, I hadn’t – and didn’t plan on – leaving any advice because it would have been wasted.
Anyone who worries that they will “turn” their child gay – honestly, anyone who worries that their child will be gay at all – has their own set of issues, and they aren’t going to listen to me.
But maybe you will.
Let me tell you a story.
When my son was about two or three years old, he found a greeting card at the store that had a picture of a super-muscled up man, naked from the waist up. My son loved the card. We bought it for him, and he would carry it around, propping it up wherever he was so that he could stare at it.
We didn’t worry about it or stop him from looking at it in fear it would “make” him gay. We didn’t worry about it or stop him from looking at in case he was feeling same sex attraction (albeit at a super young age). What we did worry about was how his autism would affect his future relationships if he continued to have the same level of communication and sensory issues that he already had, as well as other problems that we knew he might run into as he got older.
Because, let’s just be honest here, what’s wrong with being gay? How is it bad? Why is it something to worry about?
Worry about making your kids judgmental.
Worry about making your kids cruel.
Worry about making your kids insecure.
Worry about making your kids rude.
Worry about making your kids ignorant.
Worry about making your kids assholes.
Those are all valid thing to worry about. Worry about them.