Putting on the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

And helping others get their Alice on.

Alexis Self Portrait2

Alexis. Self Portrait.

 

 

A little fact about myself. I only have 9 toenails. I lost one due to a childhood accident. Now when I tell the story of how I lost it, I’ve never been asked the question will it grow back. Little children do sometimes, but never from adults.

This is typical. Most adults don’t go around saying to a one-legged person, “So when do you expect your leg to grow back?” or “It will get better, just keep working harder, relying on that prosthetic leg is not helping you”. I could never imagine saying that to someone, could you? No, you wouldn’t.

Yet I get this a lot with my daughter who is a HFA, High Functioning Autistic. There seems to be this perception that if we just teach her this, or that, her autism will go away. As if it is just a cold, and given time, it will go away.

It won’t.

People seem to get lost that because she looks like a typical 10-year-old girl, which she is…just one with HFA…they expect her to interact and behave like any ‘A neurotypical’ 10-year-old girl. Which she doesn’t.

Alexis has quirks. Little things that people don’t notice at first, and when they do? Well they become Alice in Alexis’ Wonderland. Just like the story Alice in Wonderland, where a little girl goes into a world, that doesn’t make a bit of sense to her, most people try to correct Alexis, believing it is all just bad behaviour. Not understanding that the behaviour they expect? Is just as alien to Alexis as Alice was to the Mad Hatter. Remember, the Hatter thought Alice was Mad.

I find people perplex by her quirks. Even after I explain her quirks to them, explain that she is HFA, they still just don’t accept it, and suggest she ‘grow her leg back’ so to speak. I am given parenting advice, tips, links to articles. All sorts of stories of how they were raised, and what their parents did to correct their bad behaviour. Because that is how they see her, behaving badly. A product of bad parenting. An extremely ironic stance if you know the history of autism.

Alexis doesn’t say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. She finds those social niceties absurd. Often I run across the Adult who withholds giving her a toy, piece of candy, or some other object till she says ‘Please’. Which to her is traumatic, and frustrating beyond the comprehension of the adult, who is perplexed by her reaction. See, Alexis isn’t a child who needs to ‘learn their manners’, this is akin to me giving you a $1,000,000 check after I won the lottery and telling you I wrote Void on it. Your first response would be “Why would you do that?” and all I can say is Exactly! Welcome to Wonderland Alice, you have just stepped inside my daughters world.

This is the Mad Hatter’s Hat I have to wear sometimes. Stepping into Alexis’ world so I can tell all the Alice’s  of the world, why she acts the way she does. I have to play interventionist just so people can understand her, and not get frustrated by her reactions. Which they do often, but mostly, I have to intervene so she doesn’t get frustrated and slip into a traumatic state that will take hours, if not a whole day, for her to calm down.

Alexis does has quirks. She likes wearing certain clothing, namely, pajamas. She even wears them to school. Now you may find this cute, or inappropriate, or weird. Yet trying telling your daughter who is standing in her bedroom, wearing only her underwear, refusing to dress, because you forgot to put her jammies in the dryer last night. And do your best to keep calm as she melts down, crying, with only 10 minutes to get to school before the first bell rings. You see, it’s a tactile thing for her, certain fabrics bother her as fingernails on a chalkboard bother most of us.

Alexis isn’t a picky eater. Provided that the food she eats, say pork chops, tastes the same each time she has it. If I get a different cut, or use a different spice, she notices, and will refuse to eat it.

Then there are the constant routines, things that have to be a specific way or else it sets her off. Her pillow has to be just so, her blanket too. Stuffed animals arranged in a specific order. People coming over unexpectedly, or not coming over. Us staying a friends longer than what we told her originally, or someone staying at our place longer than she expected. Or say a substitute teacher at school, even simpler things like not having the cup for her drink. Those disruptions which seem so mundane to us, that I can say to my 7-year-old son, “It’s fine, Nick”, and it is fine for him, become an obstacle for Alexis, that she struggles to overcome.

To the Alice’s of the world, she seems nothing more than a spoiled brat who isn’t getting her way. Because they only pop into our Wonderland for a short time, they don’t live there like we do. Many want to correct her, or berate her. And by doing so, upset her. They don’t know she doesn’t understand why they are ‘mad’ at her. Nor why doing something their way is ‘proper’ and her way is ‘rude’.

There is more of course, the personal hygiene, physiological issues that come along with autism. Well, at least my daughter. Even being HFA, there are issues. Because Autism is truly a Wicked Little Tailor that makes a suit for each person it affects. You learn to deal with those issues, while working hard to avoid public embarrassment for your child.

Alexis is very high functioning on the Autistic spectrum. By guiding her, help her deal with all the Alice’s of the world, she can find an inner translator for her Wonderland. A Hatter’s Hat, so to speak, that she can give out, to all those who just don’t quite get her quirks. Till that day comes, I don the Hatter’s Hat, get out my translation book, and tell the Alice’s of the world that No, she will not act the way you think she will. And No, this is not bad behavior, or being a brat. And NO, this will not ‘go away’.

 

 

 

 

 

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A little Fake News is good for the soul.

If of course, you believe in that stuff.

 

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Grandma certainly does have big eyes, and dog breath. / Gustave Dore – Wikicommons

 

I saw a post on Facebook fishing for followers. Can’t say I blame them, if you are in the blogging/media world you want followers. So you drop a snazzy headline, jazz up the article/video and wait for the fish to bite.

Of course, I bit. The headline was “How to spot Fake News”, with an emphasis on fake articles from the 2016 United States Presidential election. The Russian influence.

This article actually disappointed me. Not because it was about politics, and how the Russians used Facebook post to Fake News, but because that was all they talked about. As if the political aspects of Fake News are the most important aspects.

Yeah, well, of course it is important. You can argue the case that political Fake News is damning and hurts a nation. But what about all the other fake news? You know, the stuff people rarely even bat an eye at that it might be fake?

There is a name for that type of fake news, dozens of books, movies, t.v. shows, all that very popular stuff.

Folklore.

Or urban myths, tall tales, or jocular tales to entertain, and sometimes scare the bejesus out of you.

Some stories are meant to anger you, work on your emotions, and get you mad enough to do action.

Like this one below, meant to have you boycott Pizza Hut. A quick google search and you’ll find the story is a hoax meant to illicit anger and resentment. Nothing in the post is true, not even the owner of the post.

 

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This tale is meant to incite anger. / KidZond.

 

Years ago you would hear these stories by word of mouth, then came along email, and finally, social media.

The surprise of these stories is not their absurdity, nor how well they take a truth and twist it, but how eagerly people are ready to believe it. Many of us do, I have bought into some. It happens folks.

See this one below? Seems like a wonderful idea. And guess what? It actually works! But…yes, there is always a ‘but’ with these, this is not the 10-14 hour version. This is light it, and probably burn up really quick version. As the fire will go up the feeder logs before they can roll into the pit. In other words, you’re creating a bonfire in the form of a ‘V’.

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Now a real version of a self feeding fire pit does exist, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill to build. Knowledge and a bit of elbow grease to get it to work.

This? Is not it.

It is however, a self feeding fire pit. So while the picture doesn’t lie, it neglects to tell you the outcome. You are supposed to be able to ‘set it, and forget it’. Instead you will probably need the garden hose to put it out before you ever get a chance to truly enjoy it.

If of course, you believe in that stuff…

 

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Of course the worst Fake News out there are the medical claims. This fruit will cause (or cure!) cancer, diabetes, scurvy, kuru and possibly, if you are lucky, improve your sex life.

90% of us just make a sour face and scroll on. Then there are those posts, like the one above, that put you at risk if you follow their advice. Snazzy graphics and sketchy statistics lure you in.

Consider the current situation in the United States. There is a flu outbreak, it is all over the news. Two strains are being talked about, some 37 deaths reported so far. People are concerned and rightly so. The Flu is a dangerous thing.

Most of those who have not already gotten a shot, would be thinking, about now is a good time to get one. Then, while scrolling down on their Facebook feed, they run across something like the screen capture above.

That’s when it falls upon the individual to figure out what is what. Is this serious? Are those facts true? Wow, what in the heck have we been doing to ourselves all these years! Why would anyone EVER get a Flu shot?!

50 Million.  

That is the number of people who died from the Spanish Flu. That happened a 100 years ago, the outbreak started in 1918.

Some 500 million people, or about a third of the world’s population at that time, became infected with the Spanish Flu. It was devastating.

Consider this. The CDC estimates some 291,000 to 646,000 die of seasonal Flu outbreaks world-wide in modern times, some 100 years after the Spanish Flu outbreak. Also consider that the vaccine for the flu is readily available in most developed nations.

Kind of shoots the hell out of the idea that vaccination is a bad thing doesn’t it? Yeah, sure, we’re talking a 100 years time, a particular nasty outbreak in 1918, no guarantee that another nasty outbreak will not occur in the future. Yet…

Do you really think not getting a vaccine is the best route? That vaccines do not matter? What about Polio? Small Pox? Measles?

This type of fake news preys upon those with a predisposed bias. Those who are wary of shots, doctors, medicines and well, the government.

Now, before you write off this Fake News, take a look at the bottom of the above photo. This is my screen capture. At the time I did this 1.1 million had viewed it. 32,000 had shared it. How many believed it?

Little Red Riding Hood was tricked by the Wolf, she was saved by the handy axe-wielding Woodsman. Snopes will help, but having a skeptical mind and good research skills will help you in this social media age.

Folklores of old usually had a ‘Moral of the Story’ part. As in, don’t walk in the woods alone. Never talk to strangers, be mindful of your surroundings. These were stories that taught children that the world is full of deceit. Best to be mindful.

I told my eldest two folktales throughout their childhood. I tell my youngest two these tales also. I feel these tales have lessons we have seemed to have forgotten in this day and age. As we plod along on social media, absorbing story after story, and our children are right behind us. Now is a good time to harken back to those old tales, to read them, and to listen to the moral of the story.

Good lessons in this day and age of Fake News.

 

Further reading and sources used in this blog.

[All opinions expressed in this blog are the authors alone. Unless the Reptilian Overlords have taken over my mind.]
https://www.snopes.com/search/
https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/outdoor-projects/how-to/a19409/this-self-feeding-campfire-will-burn-all-night/
https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm
http://www.history.com/topics/1918-flu-pandemic

 

*Puppy dog tails not included.

Nick in Rainbows

Rainbows, even artificial ones, are always fun. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I just want to set the record straight. I have three daughters. I get daughters, I get girls. I have 26 years experience with daughters.

Each is an individual, each are special and wonderful in their own way. I could not imagine my life without my daughters.

Understand I can shop for girls clothing like there is a blue light special from heaven. I can pick a girls toy out for their birthday and bring a tear to their eye. I can give that hug to take away the mean thing the girl on the playground said. Or agree with them that ‘boys are just stupid’.

Being a father of Daughters is a very important job. Huge, I mean Titanic in proportions to any job you will ever do.

Why? easy. You are the first man they will fall in love with. You are the person, that male figure, they will put the bar to that all men henceforth will have to achieve. And good luck to those guys if you do your job correctly.

Girls I get. Daughters, with all their complexities, I get.

 

Snips and Snails… 

 

Then the boy came along. Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. He’s the coolest dude I know. He’s smart, active, kind, generous, loving and a host of other nice things. I am very thankful to have him in my life.

But, and yes this is ironic, I knew nothing about boys. Yes of course I was one…very long ago. So when my son Nicholas came along, I had a steep learning curve.

The first thing I learned was that he was very different from my daughters. Years back, when my oldest was a baby, I got the bright idea of ‘tossing her in the air’. No, I did not bounce her off the ceiling, just so we are straight here. Just a little hop, didn’t even clear my finger tips. She bawled like a baby. Probably because she was one. Which of course, made me feel horrible and I promised to never do that again to a child.

So yeah, tossing babies was out. Should have known that anyways. But hey, first kid. Of course I didn’t do that to my next child, Kayla. Yet when Alexis came along I had forgotten what an idiotic thing that was. Um, she bawled too. Another reminder to myself, don’t toss babies.

Then, by accident, as I adjusted my grip while holding him up in the air (I think I was taking him out of his car seat) and I tossed Nick. He giggled. Another little toss, giggle, a little higher, full on laugh. He loved it. Can you guess which of my four children jumps on their bed the most? Yeah, the boy.

Then there was the time Alexis was super excited and well, she peed on the floor. I was changing Nick’s diaper. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Even if your 3-year-old is peeing on the floor, never leave your son exposed and look away for a bloody second. He peed on me. So, clean up on aisle living room, little girl, little boy, and myself.

He likes to jump, loves to run. He learns something and goes with it. Like climbing, flipping, getting into things. Those child locks on cupboard doors? Three daughters never got into them, tried but never could. Nick busted them off opening the cupboard door because “The door was stuck”.

It is the physical aspect of having a boy no one tells you about. I’m not just talking about rough play, but the things like when you wife tells you to teach your son how to ‘aim’, because a wet toilet seat at 3 a.m. is annoying. A pissed mother is even more annoying.

Of course in this day and age, a lot comes with raising a boy. Like the plethora of Facebook posts that remind me not to raise a rapist. I guess I should find these offensive, but no, not really. The main reason is not only am I not teach him to be a rapist. I am also teaching him not to steal, not to bully, not to be mean to animals.

In fact what I am teaching my son is respect. Be respectful of other people’s things. Be respectful of other people’s feelings. Be respectful to those less fortunate than you. And of course, be respectful of other people’s personal space and bodies.

(of course in full disclosure, he still jumps on me like I am a toy. But that is just a father-son thingy.)

Nicks PWD Award

Nick holding his First Place Award for his Pack’s Pinewood Derby Race. / Photo by KidZond.

 

…And all things nice.

 

In the end, raising boys is very similar to raising girls. Yes, they are very different. From the get go, boys and girls are opposites. Probably why they find each other so attractive years down the line. But raising them? There are a lot of commonalities. They are children, and all children have a general behavior. All children need direction and guidance.

Your son goes off of how you are as a father. Like your daughter, whom you are the first man she loves, you are the first man your son respects. How you handle situations will define how he will, as he grows up. If you get angry at every little thing. Well that sponge of a brain of his will think that is the way to handle situations. If you leer or make snide comments about women? How do you think he is going to feel toward women? If you think nothing of stealing, don’t be surprised if you son turns out to be a thief. Your actions, set the tone.

The picture above of my son winning his pinewood derby race is a great lesson. I didn’t think he would win. Neither did he. Yet prior to the race I talked to him about winning and losing. In both, be gracious. Make sure you congratulate the winners, and tell those who lost, “great race”.

I’m happy to say he was very gracious. He was sad a Den mate did not win, and wouldn’t move on to the next race. He never gloated, never boasted, was respectful and kind. Like a good son, and definitely like a good Cub Scout.

I’ve only had Nick in my life for 7 years. But I am getting a glimpse of the man he may become. I have to hedge my bet and say “So far, so good”. Yet to say with absolute certainty he will be a good man is tempting fate. He, like every person that has grown up, will face trials and temptations. Bad influences abound. Friends with ‘cool ideas’, or something he saw in a video on YouTube and thinks he should emulate.

And this is where I come in. As a father, you not only protect your children from others, you have to work on protecting children from themselves. Give them the tools to make the right decisions, let them work the problem, help them find the solution that doesn’t compromise their morals or ethics. Teach them to be a good person. Teach them to Be Respectful, and that includes being respectful of themselves.

 

 

[The views expressed in this blog are solely of the author. Opinions expressed in this blog do not represent the BSA organization, nor is the author directly affiliated with the BSA organization.]

 

And then there is this.

B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay"
MAIRANAS ISLAND — Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Enola Gay” landing after the atomic bombing mission on Hiroshima, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photo)
By Js Kendrick

I’m in Okoboji Iowa today for a wedding. Very nice place, a little gem nestled away in the northwestern part of Iowa. 

The wedding will be the second I’ve been to this year. A busy year for me and my family. Two weddings, two family reunions, and three funerals. 

My brother-in-law lost both his parents this year. In the space of two months. Incredibly heartbreaking for him and his side of the family. Three months before my sister-in-law joined our family, her mother passed. Her mother would have missed her daughter’s wedding if not for my sister-in-law’s foresight to have a private ceremony beforehand. 

But today, we are at a wedding. A celebration of two young people who are about to commit to each other for the rest of their lives. Today, while it may be a little chilly, a tad overcast, and some rain, will all be forgotten or looked upon with silly nostalgia years from now. Today, will be a great day. October 21st, 2017. They will not forget this day.

And then there is this. I have not forgotten this day for the last 20 years. Today, 20 years ago, my father died. This is a grand day for some, as it should be. Yet it is a bitter day for me and my siblings.

Often I am asked, does it get better? Doesn’t…as the adage goes… time heal all wounds? No, it does not. Time puts things in perspective. It takes you from a fresh cut, to a scar that you always remember where it came from, and when you got it. A constant reminder of the pain you once endured.

As I had written in an earlier blog ‘Everything’s, my older brother Jay and I discussed everything one Saturday night. One of those topics was our Father. In what was probably not the nicest critique of our Father we were at least honest, and forthcoming in our thoughts. I do believe we would have told these observations to our Fathers face. Yet it was nice not to hear the “what do you know?” part. And in truth, he probably would have had a good point.

I knew my father, so did my brothers and sister. Yet in that classic statement, do we really know anyone? No, not really. Try as we might each of us are, in reality, our own little universe. Like scientist who constantly push the boundries we look at someone from the outside, only catching glimpses of who they really are. To say that parts of my father’s life are still an enigma to me is an understatement. 

If I could go back in time, I would ask him a million questions, things I would hope he would answer. Why, for the love of God, could he not hold a job? Three years, I think it was three years was the longest job he had ever held when I was growing up. He stayed in the same field, was good at his work, very knowledgeable. Yet still, the politics of business vexed him. It made growing up hard. 

He had a love of country like no other. The picture I chose for this blog was not some random picture. My father was on the island of Tinian, he saw the Enola Gay in person. That time of his life was very formative. It would shape a young man who grew up during the depression, who had very few skills and turn him into a mechanical engineer. He would be able to provide for his wife and four children. Rising in his career to become a Vice President of a company. Yet I believe that time also taught him a disdain for authority.

He believed firmly in classes of people. Not on racial lines but on social-economic lines. He felt people never rose above their classes, even though he himself rose above his. A point that he dismissed when I noted it to him. 

My father a man that valued his intelligence, yet looked down upon those who were ignorant on certain subjects. Had less tolerance for those who stubbornly believed they were correct even though the facts differed. I believe my brother Jay and I inherited that quality. 

After 20 years I still question things about my father. Questions I will most likely never get answers to. Yet, with this scar that is so clearly visible today, I do have perspective. He wasn’t a perfect person, maybe not a perfect father. Yet to me he was. To me, he was the best damn father a boy could ask for. And while I try to be like him in some respects, better than him in others, I wonder most, especially after that talk with my brother Jay, what will my children say of me? 

Being a father is not about perfection, but doing the best with what you have. The try is worth it’s weight in gold.

 

 

Monsters Under The Bed.

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One way to defeat the Monsters under the Bed is to sleep on the couch with some good friends and a book. / Photos by KidZond.

By Js Kendrick

 

When I wrote my tagline for my blog I  had a very specific incident in mind. Chasing monsters from under the bed since 1991 has meaning to me. For one, I became a father for the first time in 1991. When that happened, monsters came with the duties of being a parent.

The first monsters were mine, those that every new parent has, am I good enough? Do I know what in the heck I am doing. What if I break her? What if she stops…

Yeah, there are a lot of fears when you become a parent. You quickly learn that you have very little control over most of your fears. Dealing with those fears becomes your priority. You learn to manage those you have some semblance of control over, and to let those you don’t have any control over, to wander the recesses of the back of your mind. Hoping they stay there.

As children get older, they develop their own fears. Some are practical fears. Like those of strangers, going to the doctor, the first day of school. Then of course there are the unfounded fears. Like the time Werewolves and Vampires began lurking around my eldest two daughters bedroom.

I’m not to sure how werewolves and vampires got into our house. Could have been from a friend, or one of their older cousins. Yet they arrived and I was asked repeatedly about them. Telling my children, one 6 the other 4, that werewolves and vampires do not exist and that people created those legends for entertainment… those facts did not work. So thus began the Summer of the Monsters. What a great movie title that would make.

One night, around 11 p.m., the light came on in their room. I heard the noise of soft crying and got up to see what was the matter. Both girls were hugging their knees, blankets pulled up tight in their respective twin beds, staring at the bedroom window in fear.

I suddenly became afraid myself. Did someone try to get in? Was there some intruder lurking outside waiting for a opportunity to enter their window? My fear seized me. One of my fears hidden in the recess of my mind had found a door and ran up front to give me a scare. Then rationality came back. The intruder would either have to have a nice step-ladder or be 8 feet tall. Yet I peeked out the window. The backdoor porch light, which was always on, showed me that no one was around. I took a deep breath and looked at my frighten daughters faces.

“What’s going on?” I asked. They pointed to the window. My fear jumped up and down waving a red flag.

“What if a werewolf comes through the window?” I was asked. My fear dropped his flag and with his head hung low, walked back to the recess of my mind.

“It’s not their season, they’re down south this time of year.” I said. I had tried the ‘they don’t exist’ shtick for a good month or so, tried to use logic, explain myths, everything I could think of. Now moved on to ‘kid logic’ that I hoped would work. So far it had.

“Vampires?” was the next inquiry. I gave the same answer. Then tucked them back into bed and turned the light off. Making sure the nightlight was working. They settled down and I, to help my own fear, went out back for a walk around to make sure there wasn’t any vampires lurking about. The moon wasn’t full so I figured I was safe with werewolves. I also didn’t find any signs that anyone passed through our yard either.

Then I was awaken again, the light on again, now sobbing. I was a tad irate. Okay, actually I was mad to be awaken again by monsters. So I walked in and saw them now sitting on their beds sobbing.

“What now?” I said in a terse tone.

What followed was a sobbing mess of a tale about vampires and werewolves in their bedroom, hiding in the closet. Possibly playing with their toys, not sure. I was torn between laughing and yelling at them. I opted for some bizarre story to end this.

“There aren’t any vampires and werewolves in your bedroom, it’s your imagination.” I hesitated on ‘they don’t exist’ because that had failed miserably before, so I improvised.

“Listen, the werewolves are dead. They all got rabies and died, the vampires were so upset they staked themselves. So there are not in your room or outside the window, they are all dead, happened many years ago.” I said looking at them.

They stopped crying immediately and looked at me. Two sets of bright blue tear filled eyes, staring at their father. They had calmed down immediately, their seriously little faces now staring at me. They had totally believed my story.

Crap.

“Really? They’re dead? All of them?” I was asked. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.

“Yeah, I’m sorry, should have told you before. Happened a few years back. So you have nothing to fear.” I said doing my best to hold this tale together.

“Oh, um, can you leave the light on?” I was asked.

“Okay, but you need to go to sleep, no playing, okay?” I said. And the miracle happened. The monsters under the bed, those in the closet, or outside the window, were gone. Dad and vanquished them with a fantastic fable. Yet it eased their minds.

Was this the best way to handle it? I am sure there are therapists and psychologist that would tell you no, never lie to your children. Just make them understand that such creatures do not exist. So probably not. Yet the vampires remained staked, the werewolves without rabies shots, paid the ultimate price. And two little girls went to sleep and never worried about those monsters again. Psychology be damned.

They of course would find other monsters. But then again, don’t we all?

 

 

 

 

Remember the Magic words, Please and Thank You…unless you’re Autistic.

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Alexis and BenBen / Photo by KidZond.

By Js Kendrick

 

I had a little eye opener yesterday at my daughter’s therapy session. We were discussing her habit of not saying ‘Please’ or ‘Thank You’. I found it rather odd that she seems to refuse to say these common niceties. The reason behind her refusal has always eluded me.

I was raised saying Please and Thank You, my Mother had always demanded courtesy from us, and it would even go so far as to not pass a dish at the dinner table because I didn’t say ‘please’. This was how I was raised, and of course, this is how I raise my children. Even my eldest daughter has carried on this courtesy with her children. I wouldn’t say our family is obsessive about it, but good manners usually opens doors in life. People appreciate being treated politely.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise at my consternation when my youngest daughter would refuse to say those words. She has had this habit for as long as I can remember. When she was younger, I didn’t put much thought into it. Four year olds tend to forget, so you remind them. However it was around seven that I noticed she refused to say Thank You. Please would only come out on rare occasions. I worked with her, withholding items till she said the magic words, but she only did it begrudgingly.

It was last year, when she was eight, that the problem became more than learning, more than some sort of joke to her. She wouldn’t say it for the life of her. Alexis seemed more upset that I wanted her to say Please and Thank You, than I was she didn’t.

“Alexis, if you want me to get you a glass of milk, say the magic word.” I would say. Then one day she looked at me and said the magic word.

“Abracadabra.” She said. I laughed, probably shouldn’t have, but it was funny. That became her ‘Please’. She started to use the magic word every time.

I still worked on Please, even discussed with her that while Abracadabra is the ‘magic’ word it wasn’t what I meant by magic word. But to Alexis, Abracadabra is the factual magic word. 

The term “Magic Words” came from my mother. When my sister Karen was going to Kindergarten there was a sign above the classroom door.

“Remember the Magic Words: Please and Thank You!” 

My mother, always into manners, remembered that phrase and quoted it often. My mother was no Miss Manners, but she did believe in being polite. Until she was mad, then it was best to run. politeness took a backseat for a bit.

I’m not sure how my mother would have handled Alexis’ refusal to say Please and Thank You. Probably would have driven my mother mad I’m sure. I know Alexis drives her sister Jenelle mad by refusing to say those magic words. My grandson BenBen says Please and Thank You, as with other niceties, even as he is being a holy terror. Yet as he holds a bag of potato chips, that he had just dumped on her floor, he will say “I’m sorry”. Jenelle and BenBen are still working on those connections with being polite and acting polite.

Yet while in therapy, when Alexis refused to say Thank You when offered a page from a coloring book, I mentioned this peculiar habit to the therapist.

“Well it’s not literal. If you stop and think about it, why do we say Please and Thank You? It’s an emotional response, a social niceties, but it has no practical value.”

The therapist then went on to ask me if she says Please for specific items. Alexis will say Please for wanting specific things. Yet those are more built into our language. She knows to say Please if she wants us to buy her a toy, or to go to restaurant. However Thank You is harder. Because why do we have to say “Thank You”? What value is that phrase?

In reality, Please and Thank You have little value. Unless you look at it in the terms of socialization. We say these phrases, along with a host of others, to be nice to each other. Many of those phrases aren’t even practical. When you ask someone ‘How’s your day going?’ Rarely do you wish to know how their actual day is going. It’s just a common phrase we use as a greeting. You may exchange a few words, but a detail accounting of their day’s events isn’t expected as an answer.

If you have ever dealt with persons to whom English is a second language, even worse, American Slang as second (practically third) language. You have just had a taste of what it is like to talk to someone with autism.

Alexis isn’t being rude, it’s not like she doesn’t “Know Any Better”, it is simply that she finds such phrases and niceties absurd. Why? Why do we say Please? What is the value of Thank You?

For me, it may be a consternation. Raised with a mother who valued manners, who valued the Magic Words, and now with a daughter that finds such words absurd.

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Apples from a friend.

 

Take these apples in the picture above. As I was writing this blog, Alexis came in to show me them. The young neighbor girl brought over apples from their backyard tree. These two are for my son and grandson. As Alexis handed them to me, being very specific as to tell me which apple was for whom, I said…

“Did you tell her Thank You? Because that would be nice.” Alexis smiled at me like I was a half-wit. I could see her thinking ‘Why should I say Thank You? She gave them to me, I give her things too, we’re friends, that’s what we do.’ She just looked at me and walked off. I went outside to tell her friend ‘Thank You’ to which she replied ‘You’re Welcome’. Alexis looked on disinterested in this little exchange.

The Magic Words, as with many of our social niceties, open doors in life. They let people know you care, that you have empathy for them. From, “I’m sorry for your loss” to “Congratulations!” we use these phrases to let other know we care. Alexis cares, but finds our language to be a ‘bit much’.

So, I continue to look for the Rabbit Hole, hoping to find it. If for nothing more than to have her say those Magic Words.

How to lose sarcasm in 7 days or less.

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The sarcastic Cheshire Cat. Illustration by John Tenniel / Illustration from Wikipedia Commons.

 

By Js Kendrick.

 

A week ago today I was asked to do something I thought was impossible. Stop being sarcastic. Now, very few people can ask this of me and actually get me to even think of doing that. My daughter Alexis’ therapist is one of those people.

Alexis, my 9-year-old daughter, is a high functioning Autistic. Most people wouldn’t even notice what I have been learning to notice. They would pass it off as bad behavior or that maybe she was tired, hungry or just having a bad day. Yet people do catch that Alexis is sarcastic.

Yeah, that ones on me.

To say I speak to others sarcastically is putting it mildly. Usually it is in good fun, to keep thing from getting tense, or just because that is my nature. My conversations drip with sarcasm. If you call me a ‘Sarcastic Bastard’ I will just profusely thank you for the compliment. Sometimes I get so bad I have to say, “No, actually I’m being serious”. Just so people know I am. Even then I might have to convince them.

Yet Alexis, who has a father who jokes, says the wildest things, and teases (nicely) all the time, well, she doesn’t see the difference. She thinks speaking sarcastically is normal. You know? because that’s how daddy talks.

 

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Alexis and I ‘smiling’. She started to ‘look mad’ for smiling about a month ago. 

 

So, I’ve had to stop being sarcastic. Okay, around her. Let’s be real, if you are a sarcastic person, stopping is nearly impossible.

However I know when to stop. I don’t tell a Police Officers who pull me over for a broken tail light that,  “I am surprised you guys finally found me”. Or tell my boss when he asks me to come in early that “Sorry, I’m still on the North side of Mt. Everest, can I come in at my normal time?”. I do know when and where sarcasm is acceptable. Alexis can’t filter that.

Here is an example of how her mind works. The other day we watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’. It’s a good little movie set in the Harry Potter Universe, by author J.K. Rowling. If you know anything of the Harry Potter Universe you know they have all sorts of creatures. Which of course is part of the movie’s plot line. When I asked my kids if they wanted to watch it again, having to call it the “movie with all the magical creatures in it”, she said to me:

“Yeah! But they’re not real creatures are they? Because they don’t exist. It’s just made up right?” She asked. Her brother Nick, who is 6, said to her they were just ‘made on a computer’.

Now you might think, as I had in the past, she was just confirming that there are no such monsters like that in the Real World. But that isn’t what she was doing. It wasn’t out of fear, but out of the need to reaffirm that there is a difference. Differences trouble Alexis. It’s the simply social cues that we take for grant that she struggles with.

As her brother Nick knew right off the bat, those creatures do not exist. Alexis knew, but wanted a confirmation that they were fake. She does this often. Confirming if something is funny, or scary, or dangerous, or true. Truth is important to her, along with facts. She often tells me why I am incorrect, because the facts don’t support my statement.

Thus the problem with sarcasm. Sarcasm is literally speaking the opposite of what is the truth.

“Wow, you just hit your thumb with a hammer, did that hurt?” I may be asked. To which I would respond sarcastically. “Oh no, I do this once a week just for fun”. Obviously a contradictory statement to the facts.

Usually when I hit my thumb with a hammer it involves very Bad Words and sarcasm. As in “Well that blanking felt lovely”.

So discerning the difference is hard on Alexis. So she has learned to be sarcastic. As you might have guessed, this isn’t a quality you want in your 9-year-old. Especially with school right around the corner.

My project for myself this past week has been dropping my sarcasm as much as possible around her. Try to be more Black and White in my speech so she picks up that and not the reverse snarky speech of sarcasm.

It has been a helluva a week for me.

No, serious.