Category Archives: Parenting

Baton Rouge is My Town. Our Town.

Baton Rouge is My Town

I live in Baton Rouge. I am a transplant, but I consider it my home. I had to get off of social media last night because I didn’t have adequate words to describe my thoughts about what is happening in my town. Our town. Even if you don’t live here.

Last Thursday, before any of this happened, I had a conversation with my oldest about white privilege, specifically white male privilege. It’s a conversation I have frequently with our sons, because I refuse to raise assholes.

I got off of social media last night and had a conversation with both boys about what is going on. I told them about my friends that I love and respect worry that their boys won’t come home one day and that this is a real fear. My heart aches for them. My heart aches for Alton Sterling’s children and that they will never be able to open a computer without the fear of seeing the videos of their father being killed. My heart aches for Alton Sterling’s aunt who has raised him and has watched her greatest fear play out in real time. My heart aches for our city.

I am also appalled at the racist underbelly of OUR TOWN that has come out in droves in the comment sections of our local news. APPALLED. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

The way it works for me when I write is usually something percolates in my brain and then I sleep on it. Then the words come together. I went to bed last night with a storm of thoughts of all of my friends who had to have conversations with their sons about how to act around police, and even as I type this the next morning, it brings tears to my eyes. I know a very tiny fraction of this fear, because I worry about how my sons might react since they are autistic when put in a situation without me present to keep them from acting out. This is a TINY gnawing fear, minuscule in comparison to the GIANT looming fear my friends went to bed with last night. It brings tears to my eyes to know that they fear that one day they, too, will watch their son’s death play out on the national stage.

Last year, I wrote this piece around the time of the Baltimore riots. It’s not enough for what is happening in our town, but it adequately sums up my thoughts on acknowledging race relations in our town. I moved to Louisiana with my family in the 80’s. I swore growing up I would leave the state and then I fell in love with the state. I love the people, the food, the outdoors and everything that makes it Louisiana. I do not love the racist underbelly. I actively choose not to associate with people like that, but I know they exist and it is my biggest disappointment in our state. My biggest pride is watching our state come together in a time of crisis, as it has done so many times before. I am hopeful I will watch that happen again and people’s hearts will be changed. This is a parenting issue and needs to happen for the sake of our children and the next generation.

I will speak up for injustice and raise the next generation to do differently. It’s my responsibility, and yours, too.

Read the post I wrote last year about race here: Let’s Talk About Race

Polite At All Costs

Politeatallcosts

Southern women are taught to be polite at all costs. Southern mommas are expected to raise polite offspring.

One blistering day, I was driving with my two and a half year old son in the backseat, and I was feeling quite smug that I was going to be early for an appointment. So smug that I thought to myself, ‘You know, I have just enough time to run into the dollar store and pick up a few items.’

I pulled into the concrete strip mall and hustled my son into the store. I was still on schedule, until I got into the checkout line.

I waited. And then waited some more. And even though I was wearing a dress like a good Southern girl does, the sweat from the muggy day started to cause my thighs to stick together. My mostly silent child up until this point started to whimper.

I tried to ignore the noises. I tried to ignore my sticky thighs and the impatient sighs from the patrons behind me.

The line would not move. My smugness turned into panic as I realized that I not only might no longer be early, nor on time, but late.

As it finally became my turn to put my items onto the belt, my son started to cross his legs and cry.

‘Ma’am, can we use your bathroom? We’re potty training and he doesn’t have on a diaper.’

Disdainfully, she looked at me. ‘No. All of outside is a bathroom for boys.’

I stood there, both dumbfounded and livid, as I slowly reached up and clutched my pearls. I felt my fingernails cutting into the palm of my hand as my fingers wrapped around my necklace.

‘Of course. You’re right.’

Crimson shame spread across my cheeks as the long line behind us began to whisper.

I shuffled my son out of the store and looked around frantically. There was nowhere for him to go to the bathroom. I directed him to the nearest corner.

Instead, he walked straight over to the window of the store, pulled his smocked shorts down, and began to urinate on the window, in full view of the register and line we just walked away from. Everyone, including the cashier, stopped in their tracks as this child made the window his personal bathroom. I just stood there and did nothing, with my own jaw hanging open in surprise.

He pulled his shorts up and started leading me to the car as if nothing happened and I followed, speechless.

I waited a year to shop there again. When I finally had the nerve to go back, there was now a posted sign: ‘Bathrooms for pregnant women and potty-training children ONLY.’

Judy Blume is Our Milestone

JudyBlume

I was told recently that my family was one of ‘the lucky ones’, a term thrown around to parents of children with autism who are higher on the spectrum than others.

I’m always conflicted on how I feel about that term. Yeah, I guess we are ‘lucky’ because both boys are much higher on the spectrum than most, but how are we lucky when both children are on the spectrum? They both have high IQ’s, much higher than their peers, but significantly struggle socially—something that while the IQ will get them the places they want to go in life in terms of a career, they need the social skills in order to play well with others once they get there.

Years ago, for Radcliffe, I had to fill out parental assessment forms for the school to do his IEP. That moment my stomach sank when I self scored the test will be forever seared into my memory. In case you don’t ever have to do it, let me just tell you—it sucks. You are holding in your hands a four page document that scores every single inadequacy your child has, the one that you are so proud of, beaming with pride over, all of his issues summed up into a number, tallied by your own words.

We are coming up on his 9th birthday, which means it is time to redo his IEP. The district psychologist called me today to discuss it, and I went on and on and on forever about how proud I am of all of his progress and how much better he is doing. At the end of the conversation, she told me she had sent home a packet of the parental scoring forms that needed to be done again.

Oh.

So, I filled them out. I thought for sure with all of the milestones and progress we had made that the numbers would be so much better, so significantly less that I could pat myself on the back for a job well done after a nine year struggle.

And then I tallied the numbers up. And the numbers are almost the same.

There are so many cuss words I could write about this, so much I could scream about it, so much I could throw myself on the floor and throw a tantrum about, so much I can worry about because I JUST WANT HIM TO BE OKAY AND LIVE THE LIFE HE WANTS TO LIVE WHEN HE GROWS UP FOR GOD’S SAKE.  It is so deflating.

Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like all of those milestones, all of that damn tedious crap you do in order to make them better, doesn’t amount to anything.

But it does.

After I finished scoring the tests, I walked upstairs to tuck the boys in, and read to Radcliffe. This child, who seems like the strangest child I’ve every encountered on many days, is my creative counterpart. Most days, he doesn’t like to read on his own, but we have taken up to me reading him a chapter every night out of a Judy Blume book. He snuggles up to me, underneath his train Pottery Barn blanket that ‘normal’ boys have, and asks me questions and we bond over our love of a story well told.

And then I wonder…what if he wasn’t on the spectrum…what would he be like? What would his brother be like? What would our lives be like? Would they be playing outside with all of the other little boys in our neighborhood? Would they love playing sports like them, throwing the ball in the yard?

The truth is that I don’t want that. Even with the setbacks and heartbreak, I have been given the sons I was meant to have, the ones to stretch me and teach me as much as I teach them and I want them exactly as they are. They are incredible, and while the milestones may be small and minuscule, they are still milestones, and everyone—-even those of us not on the spectrum—is reaching for their next milestone.

So for tonight, my milestone is reading to my freckle-face sweet natured boy who loves Judy Blume as much as I do, and making sure he falls asleep feeling loved. Everything else can wait.