Monday, September 27, 2010

The Jackassery of Others

Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I'm not perfect, and I don't live to be. But before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.
--Bob Marley

This is my third attempt to write this entry. Sometimes an issue is difficult to write about--but I had no idea how hard this one would be.

Today's entry is about other people. People who are…well…douchebags. Many of these people are people who do not have, nor do they know any kids with Autism. Some of them also happen to think they are the best parents around. And some of them don’t even want kids, but yet esteem their own opinion of parenting and all the strategies they read about once in a People magazine while waiting to get their nails done. Some of them are even parents of Special Needs kids, but have a system they "swear" by, and no other strategy matters. Most of them are people who, I must assume, have never had, in the old terms, any "home training". (that's southern for manners, y'all)

Parents of kids with Autism, or any variety of explosive disorders already know where I'm going.

Yeah, I'm talking to you miss Snooty McSnicker and your gang of giggling cohorts. And to you Frowny McWrinkly and your narrow nose of disapproval. And especially to you, Angie Mcstagewhisper, who feel it is necessary to voice your opinion just loud enough to hear, even if it is hurtful and ignorant. You are one of the reasons I had to give up coffee and start drinking chamomile tea. YOU are the reason I am angry 70% of the time and YOU are the reason this country is going to hell in handbasket dressed with fireproof ribbons!

*takes a deep breath*

(Disclaimer: yes I know this isn't a phenomenon limited to parents of kids with special needs--Typical parents experience it too. Perhaps not as commonly as we do, but they can get it too--especially if their kid is having a bad day. I get that. Its just that our kids have bad days A LOT, so this topic is near and dear.)

My question to these people is this: Who the hell are you?

Yeah, I know it's annoying that my kid is crying in the middle of Ralphs. And I suppose you think I should "just leave" so that you can buy your processed foods in peace, instead of enduring my kid for maybe 10 minutes of your life, while I have to deal with him all day? Or that I should just give him whatever it is he wants to "shut him up", because it is somehow smarter to spoil a kid and teach him to be a tyrant? Or better yet, that I have "spared the rod" and therefore have a child with poor training.

(and these are just the things I've heard)

Ok, you say--why let the comments of others bother you? Sure, why don't I just go out in public and let people say nasty things to me and just let it slide off my back? Yes, I know their opinions don't matter. Yes, i know they're just uneducated eejits with no sense of propreity. And yes, i know i shouldn't worry about the opinions of people whom i do not respect. (contrary to some of their voiced and unvoiced opinions, i'm not the moron here) But I challenge you with this: you step out every day and have at least one stranger say something negative to you, and never hear a positive thing from any of those strangers, and then tell me to just pour a cocktail and ignore what others say.

*gets the shaker ready*

Look, you deal with something enough, occasionally you gotta say something. If people keep cutting you off in traffic, eventually you flip someone off. If someone cuts in line repeatedly at Disneyland, eventually, they get the beat down. If the bartender keeps ignoring your empty glass, chances are his tip will no longer find it's way underneath your coaster. It's the American sense of "karma" (not really how it works, but the idea tends to keep some people in check) So if I hear one more unsolicited comment about the character of my child or how to raise him, I may have to open up a can of economy sized verbal whoop-ass. It’s really just an effort to keep sane, really. It has nothing to do with the fact that you're an asshole.

You know, now that I think about it, I think I've held my tongue plenty of times when it would have been funny and hurtful to say somehting. I think it was enough to warrant a little tit for tat. So perhaps you will let me share a few thoughts I kept to myself over the past few years:

--You do NOT look good in that top--in fact it makes you look like a tramp. Would Jackie O be caught dead with camel toe? Then neither should you.

­ --What, did you spend the morning eating paste?

­ --No, I'm sorry, your kid isn't that cute. In fact, he's a little bug-eyed.

­ --Seriously--you're letting your kid have ANOTHER ice cream cone? Mix in a salad for chrissakes.

­ --Nice work. Can I take a day to suck at your job, too?

­ --Why don't we save some time and just send you home to re-dress yourself.

See? The world is much nicer if we just keep these things to ourselves--or at least blog about them in an anonymous fashion so that the original recipient isn't hurt or insulted. By all means--take a moment and update your FB status with your opinion about my parenting, but maybe you can remember your good manners and keep your comment there, and not 2 feet from my ear--loud enough to hear but just out of striking range? Coward.

Or better yet--here's an idea: take a moment and think about what that mom or dad is dealing with. It might be bigger than anything you've ever had to deal with. And it probably does not have an instant off switch to make your world more peaceful. And realize this, if you are annoyed by it, I'd say it's a good guess that the parents DIRECTLY DEALING WITH IT are annoyed as well.

I don't know--maybe it's the Midwest upbringing. I mean, I was taught that if you don't have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself. That includes all opinions and views on Jesus too. That's why G-d created liquor--to keep your mouth busy. It was one thing to think all manner of things about parents of whom you do not approve, but it was a social taboo to state it out loud in their presence. hell, i remember any time my grandmother would say ANYTHING about someone else, she had the decency to wait until she got home (or in the car) and even then she STILL whispered it as if the taboo police were right outside. To make a remark that could be heard by ALL was a sign of "poor breeding" or "lack of home training" and was the one thing that would single you out as white trash. That and the dirty cut offs with a torn monster truck rally tee. And a sixer of Natty light.

I've noticed it in the last few years--the uprising of rudeness. I mean, it's one thing to stop in the middle of a grocery aisle not allowing anyone to pass while you peruse the choice of Jell-o flavors, but we are way beyond that now. There is some sort of entitlement/my opinion is the most important/how dare you drink milk in my presence attitude that has taken over. And it is this attitude that seems to justify people telling me or any other stranger around that my child is monster.

So here's the deal, douchbags. If I ever turn to you while my son is screaming his head off for a chocolate milk I would never let him have in the first place, and ask you, "what do you think of this situation?" you will then be free to regale me of all opinions, bible verses, song lyrics and casserole recipes that you think are appropriate at that moment. Because I would have asked for it. Until then, shut it.

I can't stop the looks and the frowny head waggles, and while it may bug me, at least you are keeping your mouth shut until I am gone. And good for you for trying to have some semblance of manners. I cannot teach you compassion. I only hope that at some point in your life, you will learn some, and maybe instead of judging me, you'll pat me on the back, make a joke, or even pour me a drink. Until then, I can only model the behavior that would be helpful at that moment, and then later eviscerate you online. Yeah, I'm talking about you, miss picklepuss at Ralph's last Friday, over by the eggs. And btw, that top made you look ten pounds heavier AND a middle aged tramp--which is no mean feat.

As I come down from this well deserved tyrade, I am reminded of an old lesson. Having recently returned to some of my Wiccan habits, I remind myself daily of the one basic teaching, or rede: "an if it harm none, do what ye will". Similar lessons exist in all religions. So here's a thought: maybe it would benefit us all to return to the spirit of that lesson and just give everyone a break. Odds are, they've got their own issues to deal with, just like you do. Ain't nobody got the right answer, because everyone has their own paradigm to live. So ease up a little, eh? And move your friggin' cart over when you stop in an aisle at the grocery, for petesakes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Tonight marks Rosh Hashanah, a.k.a. the Jewish New Year. Now, I know I don't talk much religion with y'all--just being polite really, since my beliefs tend to differ from…well…society...including my own Jewish community. But this is a big day, and as I've been preparing myself to greet the year 5771, I have, of course, turned my thoughts to my own parenting and wifing, as well as the care of myself. This time of year--as many New Year's celebrations can be--usually bring about thoughts of renewal and change. And indeed, it is always good to reevaluate what's going right and what's going wrong in your life and make adjustments as need be. For instance, my blender is a consumer model, and I think we all know that a professional model blender is more fitting for me.

This is the opportunity one takes to "change your life". Now, I am not in the habit of making "new year's resolutions", but I am in the habit of listening to my doctor when she tells me a few things. Turns out I had to see her last week because of some chest pain, and was told I have anxiety.

Nice. Like I need something ELSE to worry about.

It's not a coincidence that these pains started in earnest when I got the official diagnosis that Ben has Autism. I suppose there was a part of me that was hoping the "evaluation team" would come back with a report saying my child was just having a strange reaction to Pirate Booty, and to cut back a little. Or at least that my 3-year-old pirate should cut down on the pillaging and looting.

So, now is it not only time to start a new phase of therapy and work with Ben, it's also time for me to make some adjustments. Not only in my actions, but in my thinking. Easier said than done, I suppose.

It is easy for Autism moms (and dads) to stop caring for themselves because their focus is so targeted on their kid(s). Which therapy do I engage, how do I pay for it, how much floortime have I given today, when to change the diet, how can I get him a few more playdates, how to quell the meltdown, how to NOT sock other people when they look at you funny, how to sneak a flask into Mommy & Me Class--it's completely understandable how Anxiety can take over.

So now I guess it's time for me to relax. It's funny, though, I thought I WAS relaxing. Lately I've been taking the time to really examine my thinking about Ben's Autism and how I look at it. And that's not lip service folks. I've made a concerted effort to work in more yoga & meditation, and to ask Mr. Mommy for help when I feel overworked. I've been focusing on letting the negative go, and embracing positive thinking. I'm making a serious attempt to release myself from attachment and live in the now--right now. ( My old professor Harry Wells would be proud: he spent a great deal of time during my education trying to teach me the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. I was quite attached to my local brewery, you see.) I guess now that I am actually working on healthy thinking, my body has finally relaxed enough to let me know its been working on overtime for too long. It decided to catch up. And not just on drinking.

So...out with the coffee, in the with herbal tea. (snarl) Goodbye, chocolate. Hello, yoga. Goodbye, heroin. Hello, methadone...OK, not really, but I'm convinced that quitting coffee is harder!

So today, as I think about the last year whilst methodically chewing another chalky antacid, I will focus on what I need to do to take care of me--besides a daily cocktail and harping on the inequities of life. These next ten days between today and Yom Kippur, I need to focus my actions to be "inscribed in the book of life". It is the belief that G-d opens the book of life on Rosh Hashanah--a sort of muster for those in attendance, and closes it on Yom Kippur. This book contains your destiny, and it is a Jew's goal through the days of awe to recognize and confess your sins before G-d with true remorse so that you'll be put on the muster for another year. While I am not a literalist--I do like this concept of reevaluating and getting your shit together for another year. And while I may not believe that G-d is in charge of my destiny, I do know that I have to do more to make sure I am healthy and strong to keep up with all the men in my life: Mr. Mommy, Benji, and of course the terror of Fredonia Drive, Manny the seven-pound security task force Chihuahua . I need to be inscribed in THEIR Book of Life. It's a signature I'm willing to renew every year.

L'shanah Tovah, ya'll. May your year be sweet. You know, like Manischewitz--the FIRST time you try it.