April 26, 2010

Confirmed Bachelor

Here is a conversation that occurred on Friday between Sassy and Bubba:

Sassy: "Bubba, why don't you like girls?"

Bubba: "Because they like romance."

Sassy: "Why don't you like romance?"

Bubba: "What...kissing? Love? Yuck!"

Sassy: "And you don't like kissing?"

Bubba: "No! It makes me think of girls!"

Hmmm...I'm getting the feeling that he has something against girls. I wonder if he knows that I pray God will find him a wife...

April 8, 2010

G.I. Jane? Yes. Joe Barbie? Forget It.

A word of warning for you, dear readers. I have pulled out my soapbox and I am climbing on top. I've decided it's time to address the infuriating double standard that exists among our children. Truthfully, this double standard even exists among adults, but my concern for the moment is only for my kids. What I'm talking about is the fact that girls can be boys but boys are not allowed to be girls.

Let me elaborate. My daughter is a princess, as most young girls can be. She loves to dress up, wear jewelry, make-up and nail polish, play house and Barbies. She is a girly-girl. But she also likes to play Pokemon and Star Wars, have pretend battles with her brothers, play with Legos and soldiers. For Halloween, she dressed up as a commando soldier complete with faux six-pack and stuffed pectoral muscles. Everyone's reaction to my daughter's choice of costume and leisurely activities? "How cute, you have a little tomboy."

But here's the flipside. My boys (one or both, depending on the activity) in addition to all the rough housing and normal boy-type games, have enjoyed dressing up in sissy's dresses and jewelry, having their nails painted, playing Littlest Pet Shop games, and even playing house. The typical reaction to this? "You need to be careful so he doesn't get confused." I've had close friends actually imply that I need to watch out that these activities don't lead them to an alternative lifestyle.

I'm going to take a moment to scream at the top of my lungs in frustration before going on. Okay, I feel better.

Are you kidding me? Do you actually think that my son wanting to play a game of dress up is going to make him gay? Why is it okay for my daughter to do everything the boys can do and no one is worried that she's going to end up a lesbian? Why do boys have to always be rough and tumble creatures? Why can't they be free to explore their softer side?

I would love to be able to start a Men's Liberation Movement. Women have been demanding equal rights and equal treatment for years. Now it's time for the men. I want my boys to be able to do anything the girls do without fear of being judged. At the ages of 9 and 11, they already know that the things they do at home are not looked favorably upon in society. That's just not what "boys" do. To anyone who makes boys feel like they can't enjoy things that are typically considered "girly", I say take a long leap off a short bridge. It breaks my heart to see my son debate with himself over whether or not to have me paint his nails (even if I'm using green or blue) because he's afraid of what other people will say. He should be able to do it because it's fun, not worry about being judged for it.

If my daughter wants to be a Pokemon, Power Ranger, Luke Skywalker or Army ranger, she's applauded for being a strong, tough girl who knows her mind and as well she should be. But if either of my sons wants to dress-up, sew, bake, dance or wear jewelry, he does so knowing that he will be teased mercilessly. I've had enough. Boys can be sensitive. Let them be sensitive. Has anyone ever considered what would happen if our boys learned sensitivity, creativity, compassion, and artistry when they were young? How would things be different if every tough, macho man out there also knew how to be sweet and tender?

I grew up playing with Tonka trucks, watching He-Man and Transformers and hiding out in the woods playing soldier. When my husband was growing up, he learned to cross-stitch and paint and he was invited to girls' slumber parties. I think we can attest to being one of the most stable married couples around. Why not give our little boys a chance at growing up with the same opportunities and allowances that we demand for our girls?

April 2, 2010

Autism Awareness

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness Month. It was just a coincidence that last night I watched a movie called "Adam", about a woman who starts to fall for a man who has Asperger's. It came from Netflix and it's been sitting here for more than a week but I finally watched it last night.

Take my advice and watch this movie. It's just beautiful. Hugh Dancy plays Adam and he does a wonderful job. Rose Byrne is Beth, the woman who moves next door and finds herself drawn to him in spite of his quirks and oddities. It's a story of friendship, of love, of learning to adapt, of living in a world where you don't quite fit in. It's a great story.

Honestly, it didn't matter to me what the story line was, I had to watch it to see how well they portrayed Asperger's. I was very impressed. Hugh did a wonderful job of conveying the social awkwardness, the lack of empathy, the halting, stuttering way of talking and moving, the singular focus on one subject, the fear of change, the incapability of eye contact. He was just lovely as a man who is still a man despite not fitting in with those around him.

I have to be honest and tell you this movie made me cry. It does have some sad moments but I know the reason it made me cry was that I was seeing my son on screen. Not the son that I have now, and not the son who was first diagnosed, but my son just a few years ago. Bubba is not the typical Autistic child (if there could ever be such a thing). While he may have regressed into a non-verbal, screaming machine with no eye contact and little regard for danger or people around him, he has made amazing strides to become a social, talkative boy who has--for the most part--learned to cope with transitions.

When Bubba was little, I never in my wildest dreams thought he would be where he is today. In my most secret dreams, the ones I didn't want to speak out loud for fear of jinxing them, I prayed that one day he would grow up to be as high functioning as Adam. I prayed that he would be able to hold a job, make a friend or two, maybe even be able to live on his own with some assistance. In all your dreams for your children, you just want them to live a happy, normal life. "Normal" takes on a whole different meaning when you are living with Autism.

Watching the movie last night, I cried. Okay, I sobbed until I thought my heart was going to break and I'm crying now. I cried because I recognized Adam. I cried because I recognize the frustration--of both Adam and the people who are trying to understand him. I cried because I know how painful it is for someone with Autism to be faced with change. I cried because I was familiar with his movements, his way of speaking, his bluntness, all the unspoken social nuances that went right over his head. I cried because he found a friend. I cried because he found someone to love him just as he was. I cried because he had to deal with a world that is harsh. I cried because he managed to make his way in that world, carving out a niche that suited him and his differences. I cried because I'm grateful that Bubba has progressed beyond what I ever dreamed possible. I cried because most Autistic children aren't like that. I cried because I have learned more from my son than he's learned from me. I cried because God has entrusted me with the care and upbringing of such a special soul.

Living with Autism is not an easy task. It drains the mothers. It's hard on the fathers. It wears on siblings. I have days where I have to convince my other children that they do love their brother no matter how difficult he makes life sometimes. There is nothing more heart wrenching than to hear your child say they wish they didn't have a brother. That's a knife to the heart with a wicked twist for good measure.

No one chooses this for their life, but it's my life. He's MY son. I love him 'til it hurts. I pray every single day that he will grow up to find someone who will love him just as much.