Cowardly Lions

Usually this blog is the place I put my funny spin on being an ADD mom raising ADHD boys. I created this blog separate  from my primary blog, Wckedwords, so I wouldn’t bore the folks looking for heavier material with my ridiculous attempts to raise my children without a mental institution getting involved. Today’s post is on the serious side. April is Autism Awareness Month and my oldest son has autism. Life has been hard for him and a couple of years ago I wrote a piece about that struggle. I’m proud of it because outside of my Fifty Shades of Puddin’ series, it gained the most attention of all my posts. It was even read in churches and portions placed in newsletters. It felt good to help shed some light on what it can be like to raise a child with special needs, especially one who is being bullied. The first post I wrote on this blog was actually another serious one about the same subject– A Tale of Three Amaryllis. I hope that you’ll take the time to read them and possibly share  with others who may benefit from reading them. I promise to go back to making you laugh on Friday.

Thank you for your support– Ash

courtesy of wikimedia commons

courtesy of wikimedia commons

April has once again come and gone. It shouldn’t seem different to me than the passing of any other month, but it does. You see, at some point April was designated as Autism Awareness month. During this time store chains ask people to donate money at check-out and tape paper cutouts of puzzle pieces on their walls. More than once I’ve stood there with my credit card in hand, staring blankly at the cashier as she waits for me to answer if I want to add a donation to go towards Autism Awareness. My son is Autistic, but she doesn’t know that. Do I give a dollar so my name can be scribbled on that puzzle piece and taped on the wall when I’ve already spent thousands of dollars fighting for my son? Do I laugh like I want to and say, “Trust me, I’m more aware of Autism than you’ll ever think of being”? Those are thoughts that run through my brain as I slowly nod and pay the extra dollar.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a bad Autism mom because I don’t fight on a public platform. I don’t organize fun runs and social gatherings. I don’t wear a blue puzzle pin on my lapel. I don’t even have an Autism ribbon magnet on my car. Quite frankly, it sucks most of my energy just trying to research and implement what I need to be doing just for my own child; so fighting for the thousands of others seems daunting– even crippling. But saying that I don’t fight publicly is not saying I don’t speak about Autism. I do every day, and I have literally bibles full of materials and everything ever sent home concerning my son’s “special needs.” I’m open with people about what he has to the point that I’m having to stop myself. I tell him he can’t let Autism hold him back, yet I find myself using it as an excuse so that others won’t just think he’s weird, impolite, or just unintelligent. Most people look at me now and say something like “Oh, I didn’t have a clue,” and then I realize that I just labeled him—handicapped him– in the eyes of others. I say I want him to be treated normally, yet I’m making sure he isn’t.

My son’s Autism has made him an easy target for predators. Just like in the animal kingdom, predators are able to pick the easy target out of the crowd. They sense their weaknesses, and once their prey is in their sights– they go in for the kill. My son has more than once been on the receiving end of targeted abuse. At school he has been physically attacked more than once on the playground by the same child who waited for him to wander away from the others as he often does to play by himself. Another child thought it would be funny to try to shove his head in a toilet, but we were lucky that some other kids went for help. At a summer skate camp my son figured out quickly that he didn’t have the same physical skills as the other kids so he resorted to riding his board by sitting down. This annoyed another boy to the point that he hit my son with his skateboard and then stole his shoes and equipment and threw them over a fence where he couldn’t reach them. Each of these encounters has left my son with bruises that run much deeper than his flesh. He always puts on a tuff façade and holds his tears at bay until he finally breaks; and I hold and rock him as he weeps in my arms, and I do my best to hide my own tears as his pain rips at my soul. As his mother I want to be the soft place for him to land, but also the solid, unmoving support that holds him up when he’s feeling weak; so I don’t cry in front of him. I march on like he does until my own wall crumbles and I find myself shut in the laundry room where the sounds of the machines will drown out my crying as I sob into a dirty towel.

These are the times I become consumed with my anger, fears, and sadness while forgetting the blessings of my son and the opportunities he gives me and others to grow as humans. So here it is May, and Autism awareness month has come and gone again without me officially recognizing it. I think it’s because I knew it would be so difficult for me to do and I wasn’t sure what message I wanted to give. I don’t want people to read this and only have pity for him and the others like him. I don’t want the bullies and predators to be the ones whose actions are remembered; so I decided to post below the speech I’ve formed in my head more than once when I’ve been crying in the laundry room. This is the monologue I rehearse in my head, that if given the chance, I would deliver to the bully who’s harassed my son. This is the message about Autism I want to share.

Dear Bully-

Today you made the decision to hurt my son in one way or another. Something inside you whispered in your ear that by making my son feel less, you would feel greater. You chose to put aside kindness and inflict hurt. You and you alone chose to do this. I know that you had reason for doing this. You hurt inside. Someone in your life has made you feel like you made my son feel. For once you wanted to feel like you had the power, and so you chose to make my son feel even weaker than he already does.

I imagine it was easy for you to do. He’s small and doesn’t have many friends around him to help keep him safe. He probably didn’t even fight back at first because he didn’t quite understand what was happening. But you accomplished what you set out to do: you made him feel even more different, more of an outcast, more of a loser. As a mother I can say that I truly ache for you and whatever makes you hurt inside. You did not ask for whatever unfairness has found you, but neither did my son. He did not ask for the doctors to make mistakes at his birth. He did not ask to be born not breathing and have to be revived. He did not ask for countless illnesses and a first year of life that was physically excruciating. He did not ask for a condition that made his clothes feel like razorblades against his skin. He did not ask for sounds and smells and lights to be amplified by his senses to the point of being painful. He did not ask to feel like he isn’t even connected to his own body. He did not ask for Autism. He did not ask for you to remind him that he will never have the “normal” life you do.

You probably would never want to admit that you and my son are similar, but you are. You both feel less about yourself because of someone or something else. But that is where the similarity stops. You see, my son has every right to be just as angry as you. He has every reason to want to go make someone feel as bad as he does—but he doesn’t. Everyday my son chooses to take a different path than you did. He chooses to stand back up and walk back into the groups that make him feel different and bad about himself. He chooses to smile and try one more time to make a friend. He has done this everyday of his life. You knock him down and he gets back up. He chooses not to bully to make himself feel better, and that is why he’s my hero. He is the bravest person I know. His courage runs deep and the saddest thing is that you will never know those things about him because you only saw the outside. You saw a coward where I see a lion.

Maybe if you had taken a different path you could have been friends. Maybe you would have found someone that would have understood your pain and stood by your side, but you chose differently. You physically overcame my son, but know that you did not win. You’ll never win until you learn to choose differently, and my son and I pray that one day you will.

“What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?” -The Cowardly Lion The Wizard of Oz

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Life With Boys

I have 3 boys. They are currently ages 12, 9, and 4. Two have ADHD. One has Aspergers. One has dyslexia. And one was obviously just put here to torture his siblings and drive me insane. That pretty much says it all. My life is a complex mix of soccer, bug catching, mud wallowing, Lego booby traps, nut-shots, and all things relating to the release of bodily gases. Every day I teeter on the fine line between refereeing another fight over somebody stealing somebody elses shit in Minecraft and packing up my Rosetta stone and fleeing. I post occasional photos of my boys and their antics on my Facebook account, but I decided to share them here, too. This will be the first in a series that will hopefully give other moms the chance to either say, “My kids do that too,” or “Damn, I’ve got it easier than I thought.” Either way, hopefully you’ll have a laugh and hide your Learn Dutch in Two Hours tapes away for another day.

When you’re a mom of boys your youngest son will decide…

128…that your push-up bra serves much better as an ass cushion for long coloring sessions.

As a mom of boys you will discover that if you leave that same child alone with paint because, God forbid, you have to pee…

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… he will turn himself into a Na’vi in 2 minutes flat.

You will also find as a mom of boys that the same child who draws this masterpiece with sidewalk chalk…

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…will wait until a total stranger is coming to inspect your house and draw this…

March 2013 279(On the upside, this son is severely dyslexic and I was told he spelled it all by himself…you have to find the little victories).

And there’s a brief glance into the everyday antics I endure. Trust me, I have more and I will share.

Do you have boy? Well, here’s a place to share. Tell us what crazy crap they’ve done and how you keep from dropping them off at the fire station (besides that stupid abandonment law written by people with less than 3 kids).

The “What if’s”

I didn’t want to write about it. I haven’t wanted to read about it, watch stories on it, think about it. When my husband called me to tell me about the tragedy I was shopping for Christmas presents for my own children. I was blissfully unaware. With each piece of information he gave, I felt myself pulling away into the same separate space that I lived in when I was studying crime scene photos in school. It’s the same place officers, detectives, medical examiners, and others float in so they can do their job without spiraling into the emotions of senseless loss.

My clinical side kicked in and I listened only to the facts and concentrated on the issue of guns. I had to. I knew that seeing a child’s photo or hearing a name would fracture my heart and that it would be hard to stop the tears. I knew that writing about it would bleed my soul. But I can’t stay in my detached place. I’m a mother. I have three boys who go to school. I have a son with Aspergers.

I’d tried not to think about that part. It was easy to give Adam that diagnosis from just the few details I’d heard, but honestly, I didn’t dare think about a comparison to my own child. But as I hear the news refer to him only as a “bad man” and a “monster”, I have to write something.

Listening to the President name the children taken, I broke into tears. I thought about how it had been such a challenge to pick the perfect names for each of my own children. I thought about how all of these parents had done the same and how they’ll never call that child again. Adam’s mom also chose his name. She pictured a perfect child and watching his normal, wonderful life unfold. She didn’t expect what she got. None of us do.

I don’t know enough about them to truly give any insight into their situation. I can only comment on mine and the life I imagine Adam endured. Aspergers makes social interaction difficult. My son wasn’t withdrawn like Adam but I see that changing. Carson has always sought out interaction but hasn’t known how to handle it. He doesn’t know how to do small talk or tell jokes that others will get. He’s quirky and others don’t know how to deal with him. He’s been bullied. We moved schools because of it. At his new school he’s not bullied, he’s just politely ignored.

I volunteered at lunch one day and I saw him sitting with 3 other boys. The boys were excitedly talking to each other while Carson quietly sat beside them. I went over to him and sat down. “Do you ever talk to the boys?” I whispered. “No. I’m just not invited.” I had to fight back the tears. He got up and went to recess with the boys. They let him play football with them, but he’s clumsy. He came back inside three minutes later because he’d been hit in the eye. He was crying. I checked him out to take him home and while we walked he asked, “Mom, why can’t just once bad things happen to someone else? Why does it always have to be me?” He wasn’t wishing pain on others he just wonders why it seems to be so skewed in his direction.

That’s how he feels and I honestly can’t blame him. Why is he the one who the midwives had to screw up on? Why did he have to always be sick? Why did he have doctors who misdiagnosed him? Why is he bullied? Why is he the one who always gets hurt? I’ve watched him change slowly over the years. He’s been beaten down and his spirit dims almost everyday. He turns 13 next year. How will he survive middle school and all of the vicious idiots that age tends to produce? Will they kill the empathy he has for others? He has trouble making decisions and looking at the consequences actions hold. He has trouble controlling himself. I have to ask myself if he continues to be beaten down, ignored, ridiculed, could he become a man as troubled as Adam?

I’m not sure what all Adam’s mother did or didn’t do for him. I’m extremely active in my son’s life but I still feel that I haven’t done everything for him. There’s always guilt about what I could have done different. What if I hadn’t gone to those midwives? What if I had been to a different pediatrician? What if I hadn’t let them immunize him while he was sick? What if I’d switched schools earlier? What if I’d fought harder against administration that clearly made bad choices concerning my son?

Adam’s mother can’t ask those questions now. The living who interacted with him can. Did they do enough to include him? I don’t know. All I can say is that it’s really easy to ignore the weird, especially when they’re prone to withdrawal. We can’t do that. One kind word can change a person’s entire day. Inclusion, even a smile can give the hopeless some hope.

I don’t know why Adam chose to take out his rage on the most innocent of people. I do know from my past profiling studies that the killing of the mother is not that uncommon and pretty telling of the relationship. I can’t judge her without the facts. I do empathize with her life as a mother of a special needs child. She probably felt as lost as I do. But I don’t think she made a wise decision by keeping guns in her home.

I’m not against guns. I can certainly shoot a gun. I grew up with a rifle in our home. I knew damn well not to touch it, but I was a mature, cautious child without any disabilities. I will never own a gun as long as children live in my house and the main reason is that I know that children are curious and my son does not always think through the consequences of his actions. He’s very passive but even the most laid-back person will eventually cave under years of undeserved pain. I’ve seen him push down his pain and rage only to explode on his brother or another child that hurts him. What if we never find a way for him to work through his pain and the emotions he doesn’t completely understand? What if the years tick by and the abuse and hardships continue to bleed him of compassion? What if he suddenly cracked and couldn’t take one more ounce of pain? I can’t allow him access to something that can so quickly change the lives of others and himself. It takes an instant to pull a trigger and that can never be undone.

This is the time for us to use common sense. This is the time to do more in our mental healthcare system to support patients and their caregivers. This is the time to look at the reality of our world. Our weapons technology has far surpassed the weapons our forefathers used during the time they wrote our constitution. That was a time when land was stolen by force. We stole this country with guns and back then there was the real possibility of a foreign militia pounding down your door. That’s not today. There is NO need for hollow-point bullets. PERIOD.

I don’t know what the answers are on any of these things. I’m just a mother of three boys who could have easily been one of the victims. I’m a mother of a sweet, loving boy who still kisses me and wants to climb into bed with me and snuggle. A boy with Aspergers. A boy who has found no place among his peers. A boy who needs attention and inclusion from people other than his family. I’m just a mother who grieves for the 27 victims of Adam’s rage. A mother who grieves for the life Adam was dealt. I’m just a mother who grieves for her own son’s pain, fears for his future, and prays for change.