A little on the quirky side.

Unicorn Alexis

Alexis behind a Unicorn Mask. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Like any parent, I have a lot of hopes for my children. You bring these little persons into the world and try to teach and guide them so they can stand on their own. You wish nothing but the best for them, and wish with all your heart, that they will succeed in their life better than you. You’re fearful of the world, and what the world may do to them, but you know if you give them the right tools, they will be just fine.

Yet when you have a child with High Functioning Autism, the fear is magnified a hundred fold. The deck is stacked against her from the start.

We’ve only been on this rollercoaster of learning about our Autistic daughter for a little less than a year now. Dozens of meetings with doctors, counselors, school staff and reading. A lot of reading and research. At times for me, the challenges of giving my daughter the tools to have a happy healthy life are daunting. It can make you feel very small, very ignorant, and very angry.

Anger is my biggest problem. Most people don’t see my anger. I’m usually considered a jovial guy, even when subjects come up in the course of conversations that normally piss everyone off, I’m the guy who takes it all in stride.

Except when it comes to my kids. I’m very defensive.

Yes of course you should be defensive of your children. I’m not a helicopter parent, more of a military drone style. I’ll let it go on for a bit, then come in low with missiles ready to fire and blow you up verbally. It’s not a good trait, I don’t like being like this. But, it’s my kids. Still, until my wife pointed out that this drone style of attack wasn’t helping the situation, I had been lashing out.

She was right of course, I was wrong. I ran afoul of my own passion to defend my daughter, just to exacerbate the situation. I need to find a way to redirect, to work on getting those who can understand Alexis, to understand. Those who are incapable…well to just let it go.

Fairy Brides are Quirky.

For years I have been an avid Folklore buff. Mostly British folklore. In those stories that I have read and re-read, I have run across the Fairy Bride. A quirky set of tales that have not made it to Disney yet. Yet these tales help put things in perspective, and makes me wonder if Autism was a foundation for the tale.

Fairy Brides are a big part of British Folklore. A man meets a beautiful woman and marries her on the spot, so to speak. Yet his bride is quirky, she has trouble adjusting to the mortal worlds social norms. Fairy Brides tend to cry at Weddings, and laugh at Funerals. Much to the consternation of the mortal husband. They do socially inept things that often cause the husband to have to admonish his wife, to try to change her, mold her into being a ‘Good Wife’. Often the story ends with the Fairy Bride leaving the husband, his life now in ruins.

While the moral of the story is one about the fallacy of Love of Beauty alone, (for Fairy Brides are the loveliest of creatures) it also makes me think of Autism. A woman, from another plane of existence, has to adjust to a world that just doesn’t make sense to her. A world that demands she conform, behave as they expect her to, not as she is. Yet she never does, and in the end, goes back to a world that makes sense to her.

This is a problem I face with Alexis. Not so much her, and her autism, but to how others react to it.

Some people just believe that we are bad parents. That we need to correct her more. Others feel she is conning us, twisting things around so she can get her way. They get confused by her actions and react badly because they just don’t understand that she does not think like they do. That social norms they take for granted, are not to be found with her.

Now while some will learn, other will refuse to. No matter how I explain it. Even if I say those infamous words “Don’t take my word for it, read this…” , they still are locked into their opinion that this is some sort of great game to Alexis. That she is a puppet master and we are merely puppets.

Of course the part that really gets my proverbial goat is the “Fix it” or “Grow out of it” mentality I run across. Those who believe they can fix Alexis’ autism by doing this or that. Or that she’ll one day just grow out of it. She won’t. This is her, it is how she will be for the rest of her life.

And that is when I call for a drone strike, lashing out verbally against those who think this is all some sort of game.

And, I have to stop that.

Because my wife was right, lashing out isn’t helping me, her, or our daughter. You can educate people, help them understand that Alexis isn’t being a brat, it’s just that she thinks in a way that you can not fathom. I need to just learn that not everyone will get it, not everyone will accept her, and that my job as a father, and our job as parents, are to work with her to help her understand that not everyone will understand.

Our hopes are to give our HFA daughter the tools she needs to lead a good life. To enjoy family and friends. To have the career she wants. To teach her that although like a Fairy Bride in the mortal world, she can learn to adjust to our theoretical “Neural Typical” world, and still be herself.

Because like a Fairy Bride, with all her quirkiness, she is the Most Beautiful of Creatures to us.

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Putting on the Mad Hatter’s Hat.

And helping others get their Alice on.

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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’.

 

 

 

 

 

*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.]

 

The Family Secret of The Cat Lady.

Or how I learned to live with my Mother’s obsession with Cats.

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One fifth of my Mother’s Clowder (group of cats) / Photo by KidZond

 

Everyone has one in their family. Oh, you may not know it, or you may just ignore it, but they are there. Cat lovers. No…obsessed cat lovers. Meaning, if the house is on fire? They will let you know after they get the cats out first. Well, unless of course, they need your help first to round them up. Which they probably will, so, you’re safe.

It’s not like cat lovers are bad people, they are actually very loving and caring people. This is typical of any animal lover. Those who care for the welfare of animals, creatures who are by nature or design, mostly defenseless, will likely be kind to other ‘non-animals’. You know, people.

This was my Mother. She had always said you can tell about a person by they way they treated animals. Especially cats. She had, in her youth, left a boyfriend because he did not like cats. My Father loved cats. Well no, he was actually a Dog person, but he got along with cats. Not like he had a choice in the matter.

My earliest memories have to do with animals. I had always been around cats. I know more about cats than any other animal on earth. Mom wanted me to become a veterinarian.

(I had to say no to that, I wanted to make a living, not be her personal veterinarian and live in my parent’s basement till I was in my 40’s)

You realize that you know cats so well, that when I was in high school, during lunch, I could mimic a cat vomiting so well that my friends turned green. I won the “Who Could Gross Out The Table” contest by the way.

My mothers obsession with cats really took off after I graduated high school. I lived at home till I was 23 years of age. Worked odd shifts at starter jobs, came home at odd hours. I can’t tell you how many times I came home, tired from a long day, only to see my mother in her nightgown and robe peering out into the darkness with a flashlight calling for a cat.

Our cat’s had a curfew. I had to help find the cat.

When I graduated high school back in 1982, we had four cats. When I moved out on my own, my mother had six cats. The Clowder or Glaring as a group of cats are called, only grew. By the time my first child came along in 1991, my mother had some 22 cats.

Now my mother wasn’t “nuts” or “crazy”. She didn’t talk to herself…oh wait, she did. But she didn’t exhibit any symptoms that would require a psychologist. She didn’t like psychologist anyways, thought they were just nuts.

She did however, maintain a home, paid her bills, cooked and cleaned, even took on a part-time job after retirement. For the most part, she was a normal as anyone. But cats were a different matter. She had to save them, and by them? I mean every cat that crossed her path.

I remember this cute little short-haired black cat that she fed. See, mom was worried about cats outside, so she left bowls of food outside for the cats. This black cat was nice, very pretty, and well, in need.

“Mom, are you sure that cat is a stray? She looks pretty well fed to me.” I said to her one day when I was over.

“Well did you see how she eats? She’s starved!” My mother would say in a sympathetic voice.

The next time I saw the cat she had a collar on. She belonged to a neighbor. Mom couldn’t figure out why she came over to her house if the cat had its own home. I mentioned that maybe it was because of food she left outside. Mom didn’t think that was it. I suggested bringing in the food at night, she thought that was a bad idea.

Then the gray cat appeared, it was ugly, hairless tail, big bug eyes, really hungry because it just camped out on the back porch and ate all the food. On the second night of this pathetic gray cat’s camp out, my father told her it was an opossum. Mom brought the food in after that.

Stray cats were my mothers passion. Those poor cats that people abandon and left them to fend for themselves. She worried and fussed over them, taking them in, getting them to the vet, making sure they fit in with the clowder. My father and I worried too. I asked my father if I should put out a sign outside his house. “Please stop dropping off your cats at our house”. My father said it would just give out the exact location of the crazy cat lady’s house. He had a point.

Loki in the GrassR1

Loki relaxing in the grass. / Photo by KidZond

 

One thing about growing up with cats, it made it hard to bring friends over. Not quite to the point of social outcast, but close. The fear? My friends would say something bad about cats. Then I would have to hear about it. If a person didn’t like cats, or animals in general, those were not the sort of people I should be associating with now, should I? Of course there was the whole thing of not wanting people to know either. When you are asked if you mother has cats, yes, 22 at last count, is going to require answers.

“Is your mother crazy?” 

“Maybe, define ‘crazy'”

“Well that’s a lot of cats! How much do they cost to feed?” 

“About a Micronations yearly budget.”

“How does it smell in her house?”

“I can’t smell, my mother had my nostrils plugged when I was 10.”

Yes it did smell, yes it did cost money to feed the Horde or Clowder (Glaring? That word is just creepy). Yes it was annoying and sometimes embarrassing. Yes, I did think my mom was nuts…back then in my youth.

But you know what? It didn’t matter. Not just because she was my mother. Not just because I knew her life, orphaned at 4 years of age, and then bounced around from family member to family member till she married my father. No, it didn’t matter because of what my mother’s cat fixation taught me.

Everyone needs love.

Everyone needs a home and a place to sit and relax without fear.

Everyone needs a good meal.

Everyone needs to be petted. 

I learned that showing kindness is its own reward. To have compassion for those in need, even a stray cat, will empower you to help your two-legged friends down the line.

It may have been a simple lesson to learn, yet it was a powerful lesson.

Ironically, I’m more of a dog person. We do have two cats at my house, also a dog, and two smaller two-legged animals that talk back. Yet I have never forgotten the lessons my crazy cat mother had taught me. Compassion.

Dott relaxed

Our cat Dott, relaxed, because nothing is more relaxed than a cat. / Photo by KidZond

It may have been an embarrassment in my youth. It may have been a consternation to my father and the whole family, yet my mothers love for animals, specifically cats, did show her character. She was a caring, loving mother. A good woman. Salt of the earth. As long as you treated cats nicely. If not, well, may God have mercy on your poor soul. Because she wouldn’t.

And not one of us in my family would save you either.

The Tooth Fairy Replies.

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Not the Tooth Fairy / Photo by KidZond.

 

Dear Kayla,

As you know, your little sister lost another tooth. She is a very inquisitive child and wrote me a letter. I saw that you also wrote me a letter, even though you have had your adult teeth for some 12 years now. But even though you are 24 years of age, soon to be a mother yourself, I figured it would be okay to break protocol and respond to your letter.

Do you remember me?

Yes I do. I remember every child I have collected baby teeth from over my many magical years of service to humanity. Losing baby teeth is part of a childs journey into adulthood. With each tooth a little piece of their childhood is relegated to the past and they begin taking steps to becoming an adult.

Parents celebrate this passage by calling upon my services. I am a marker of time, a reminder that these precious moments are fleeting, and those pictures of gap tooth smiles, will too soon be replaced with pictures of other firsts. Pictures with a full set of adult teeth shining back.

I heard you’re giving out $2 now, what is that about? I got 50 cents and no letter!

Times change, prices change, children change. Your father received a quarter. You received 50 cents, your sister $2. Not every child gets $2, some get nothing. Life, is anything but fair.

In the grand scheme of things monetary gifts for a baby tooth comes under the category of It is the Thought that Counts. To carry on the tradition keeps me in the hearts of children, it gives them the power of imagination. That, is an awesome power. Without that power, humanity would never move forward. As silly as a Tooth Fairy may seem to you now that you are an adult, I, along with my other magical comrades, have a lasting impact on you. Even after I have faded from your personal beliefs.

You don’t write or call anymore.

No, but I will visit you one day. I will come to you in around 8 to 9 years hence when you must do your part of my job. It is a bargain we made, that I will exist in the hearts and minds of your children, and you will do the physical labor of my job. You may not find it fair, you may question if it is worth it for me to visit. Yet it is. I will bring a joy to bright little eyes, opening up a world of possibilities and of…Magic.

For in life, it is the dreamers that set the pace for humanity. They are the ones that ask the greatest question…What if? They will be the ones that discover medicines that will alleviate humanities ills, they will push the boundaries and reach for the stars, they will seek out solutions when others doubt solutions will ever be found. Dreamers are the ones who seek equality for the human condition. They are the ones that remember me the most. They believe that anything is possible.

While yes, in time, I will be relegated to the fond memories of childhood. Lose my magical abilities and be forgotten in the adult mind. It is the lasting impression, and that little smile on your adult children’s lips when they find the teeth that you requested I give back to you, in a small box, that you have kept as a keepsake. For in that moment, magic will once again be real, and they will know that I will be there for their children.

 

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.

It Would Take a Million People…

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Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). / Photo by Wikipedia Commons.

By Js Kendrick.

 

Sometimes the news can be disconcerting for children. I usually have the news on my T.V. for background noise. Something in the morning to catch up on the day’s events at a glance, or late at night to keep me company while I write. On occasion, funny stories about pets, or local events, catch my children’s eye. They will point to the T.V. and tell me to look! or to rewind it back to see the story again. My children rarely pay attention to the news, and often ask if they can change the channel.

The news has been a bit serious lately in The United States of America. One story that came to the national spotlight was the story of Charlottesville, Virginia. A tragic story that opened up old wounds many of us had hoped had healed, yet found out painfully, they haven’t yet.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, many took to peaceful protest, some did not. It was the not that caught my youngest children’s attention. A group of protesters pulled down a statue in Durham, North Carolina. I was asked the simple question “why?” by my son, who is 6 years old.

Try having a go at explaining a Civil War, Slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement to a 6-year-old. If you read my last post, I had a helluva a time just explaining the eclipse. This was far more complicated and full of pitfalls. I am doing my best to raise my children to think of Humanity as One Race, which we truly are. That the minor differences in our species are just like frosting on a cake. Lick the icing, and we are still all cake inside. So after a quick explanation, I punted the question down the road.

I think I made a mistake on that.

I had no intention to write on this subject. Everyone else was, the news was full of stories on the subject of race relations, civil war monuments, etc.  My blogging was intended for fun family stories, little anecdotes to let you know that, yeah, everyone screws up as a parent, especially me, and together we can laugh at it. It wasn’t intended for discussing hot topics of the current news cycle, nor political / social controversies. Others could do that far better than me. So I didn’t write about it after my talk with my youngest children.

But you know? Life throws you a curve ball once in a while. Enter the Unwitting Racist.

It was at work, talking to a driver, that I started to form an opinion on a subject I originally wished to ignore.

We were commiserating on the conditions of our respective semi trucks, both in need of repair. Then he told me that his companies mechanic…well lets just say he repaired the drivers truck not using proper methods. Jury-rigged is the polite and proper term, an old nautical term actually. Yet he didn’t use that term. He used a term I had not heard in years. A term loaded with racist overtones. I think my expression lead to his backpedaling.

After explaining to me that he has two granddaughters who are ‘half-black’ and that to use that word to describe something or an object, as he used it, was fine. He went on to say he would never use it toward a person. I believed he was sincere on that point. Yet I let him know I disagreed with the use of the word.

We talked some more, falling off the subject that caused the tension and onto drivers in general. He talked about encountering drivers from our area in distance locations. That happens in trucking, it’s a little reminder how small the world really is. Yet the person in his chance encounter was a hispanic woman that he first met in a local store. She had her kids with her. They were very well-behaved he said, unlike other hispanic children that are usually wild in stores…because, well “You know what I’m talking about right?” was the quote. I let him know, with a raised eyebrow, that my kids are not hispanic and act up in the store too. Our conversation ended.

Although I thought about it that night, I didn’t want to blog about it. Figured, like me, he was up there in years. My generation, the Baby Boomers, have many carry over attitudes and phrases we inherited from our parents and grandparents. We were children during the Civil Rights movement. We witnessed it first hand. We had to adjust our opinions that were taught to us. The next generations will, thankfully, drop these leftovers into the trash as time marches on. No need to blog about that.

Then I was at school yesterday, eating lunch with my daughter Alexis, something both me and my wife do during the school year. At the table was a little girl, bright, funny, very polite, said something that put it all together for me. Here she was, but 9 years of age, a nexter generation talking to a group of nexters generation. The discussion was about family sizes, then she blurts out:

“She has a large family, because she Mexican, and Mexicans have a lot of children”.

I couldn’t help myself, and let out a chuckle. I told her that large families aren’t the result of ethnicity. There are lots of reasons people have large families. Although she nodded understanding my point, and since I wasn’t speaking in a admonishing way, she had no idea what she had just said. Not one bit. She had no clue she had just made a generalization about a group, some of her friends, those same friends sitting next to her. Who nodded in agreement with her observation about mexican families.

I was compelled to blog.

Right now, everyone in the United States has concerns about Neo-Nazi’s, the KKK, the Alt-Right and a slew of other groups that despise others for the silliest of reasons. Simply because they look different from the person they see in the mirror every day. We fret, we argue, we jump up and down over every little thing concerning race. We tear down statues we deem offensive. Because many of us believe is would be for the best to remove these reminders of a painful time in our country’s past. Objects that they see as glorify that time in our history. Others worry about history being forgotten. I personally believe that both points are valid.

Yet we ignore the elephant in the room.

Racism is rarely blatant. And if it is, we shoot it down (verbally) pretty quick. Those racists groups who marched in Charlottesville were a bunch of nutcases. Sorry folks, but those people were carrying Tiki Torches, and wanted to be taken seriously. No one took them seriously at first. Yet it ended tragically. And it proves that it only takes one nutcase to turn the world on end. We do need to take it seriously.

But they are obvious. We can spot them a mile away. They refuse to be polite to anyone who differs from them, from what they deem as ‘normal’ or ‘correct’ in their warped view of the world.

Yet they are not the problem. The problem is the unwitting racist. Those, like that semi truck driver, who believed nothing he said was incorrect. That it was okay to use a term that is morally repugnant to everyone else. Or the little nexter girl who makes a generalization on ethnic groups without even having a clue she did so.

This is the racism we need to worry about most. Not those groups who protested the removal of a statue. These modern-day jokers are looking for attention any way they can get it. People who think wearing white sheets and giving themselves names like ‘Grand Wizard’ make them cool. They are the symptom to the disease.

We like to think of ourselves as more evolved socially than our ancestors. To a degree we are. Yet not as far as we think. You’ve been on social media right? Seen some of those comments from opposing views? I’ve been waiting for Facebook to add a pointing finger emoji with the word ‘Witch!’ on it. I think it would get a lot of use.

People don’t go around being racist. Most people, even myself, don’t think they are racist. Nor do they think they harbor any thoughts or beliefs that are racist. We don’t actually, yet then again we do. It’s the little things, those minor points that we take for granted that are the most damaging. They add up and find their way into our culture, our schools, our work, and yes, even our homes. That need for generalization, for conformity, the need to assume because Johnny behaves this way. All Johnny’s must behave the same way.

We do this not just with race, but with shape, with dress, with speech, with gender, with sexuality, and even political views. Our need, as humans, to categorize everything into neat little packages and say ‘Well this is how it is’, has done more damage to societies than any political figure could ever do.

 

It would take a million people…

 

After explaining, badly, why people tore down the statue of the Confederate Solider in Durham North Carolina. My son looked at me, then glanced at the T.V.

“I hope they don’t tear down the Statue of Liberty, I like the Statue of Liberty, she’s beautiful” He said. I smiled at his concern.

“I don’t think anyone is going to tear the Statue of Liberty down Nick.” I said to him, still smiling. I liked the fact he was worried about a symbol of American Unity. That no matter where you came from, we are One people. The great melting pot.

“Yeah, that would take about a million people I think.” He said to me. “Maybe more, maybe everyone in the whole country!” He said.

 

I lost my smile at that point.