xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: March 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Everybody thinks it won't be their kid

I've been thinking a lot about bullying lately. Well, the truth is that I think about bullying all the time, but there have been recent internet events that have gotten me remembering back to my middle school days. See, I was bullied in middle school by the "popular kids," the Mean Girls. I won't go into detail but suffice it to say it left an impression on me that took years of therapy as an adult to work through. Lately, though, I've been reminded that people can be really, really horrible to each other, no matter how old they are. It's a shitty reminder, but perhaps necessary at times so that we don't become too complacent.

At any rate, my personal experience with bullying is the main reason why Child 1's enrollment in middle school has filled me with such intense anxiety. There's no question that he will stand out as different, I'm sending him off into this potential cesspool of evil and I'm terrified of what might happen to him there. Something like what happened to me. And I can't protect him, I just have to send him there and hope for the best.

"Hope for the best," meaning I'm hoping that other parents have made an attempt to teach their children not to fear difference, and even if they do feel fear, that they won't react to it by being mean to my kid. But how much control do we actually have, as parents, over what our kids do once we send them off to school? Kids behave differently in groups of their peers, they want to feel accepted, they don't want to be different. So will they just go along with what their friends are doing? Will they participate in the bullying so that it doesn't happen to them?

Last week I went to a PTA meeting where the topic was about the district's Welcoming Schools curriculum. It's an anti-bullying program that focuses on teaching kids about gender difference and family diversity. I think the program is fantastic, it's necessary and awesome and I'm proud of my district for adopting this curriculum; approximately 1 in 38, or more, school age kids have gay parents.* However, if recent CDC numbers are to be believed, 1 in 50 school age kids are autistic and yet... my kid doesn't get a curriculum. They address ability awareness in the Welcoming Schools curriculum, but it is not its main focus. Until there's something specific happening in the schools, we have no choice but to rely on parents like you and me to do the work.

At the meeting last week, the leader (who was awesome) explained the work that they do with kids, about how having these conversations is what leads to acceptance, and I was struck by something she said about bullies: "Everybody thinks it won't be their kid." We all do our best to teach our kids tolerance, and we think that we did a good enough job so that when push comes to shove, it won't be my kid doing the bullying. My kid knows better. My kid wouldn't do that.

But would it be your kid? Will it? Do we really know? As much as I know I've done my best to make sure Child 2 won't be "that kid," I don't really know what he does on the playground with his friends. I have to make sure to have pointed conversations with him about what it means to be a good person and a good friend. So, this post is for the parents of typically developing kids, who are doing their best to make sure it won't be their kid: Please have a conversation with your child about mine. Tell your kid that my kid likes to flap his hands, run back and forth, and talk to himself. Tell your kid that they might see this happening and feel uncomfortable because they don't know what's going on, and tell them that it's okay to feel uncomfortable, and they can ask questions, but it's not okay to make fun of him. It's not okay to call him names, or point and laugh, even if their friends are doing it. Tell your kid that my kid does these things because it makes him feel good, and while that might seem weird, it's totally okay.

And how about your behavior at home, because you know that kids learn by modeling what we do. Do you laugh at people who are different? Do you call people retarded? Do you gossip about other people who aren't able to defend themselves? Your kids are watching you, and while you think it might be perfectly benign: is it? Do you want your kid to do the things that you do? Because they will, and when they do, you don't get to say "but my kid would never do that."

Please talk to your kids; make sure they know. Because I'm about to send my child off to the wolves, and all I can do is hope that you guys have put in even a fraction of the time thinking about this as I have. You can't just assume it won't be "your kid," you have to make sure. Please. Make sure.

If you need any help or any useful resources that might help you have this conversation with your child, please let me know. I'm happy to help. jillsmo at gmail.com

* "Researchers commonly cite the estimation that one to three million American children are being raised by lesbian, gay male, bisexual, and transexual (LGBT) parents" from Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is. (Thanks to Erin from The Gay Dad Project for your help). There are approximately 76 million children living in the US, according to ChildStats.gov therefore 2 million in 76 million = 1 in 38.

Images courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sometimes it just does that

Do you guys remember my toe problem? I thought I had kicked a chair or something when I was drunk and broke my toe? You remember, it looked like this: (or probably you don't remember because who really gives a shit?)

Right? Anyway, it wasn't getting any better, so I got an x-ray and it wasn't actually broken. So, I figured I'd just try to stay off it and it would get better on its own? But then I noticed it was starting to look even worse; like this:

at that point I figured I should go and see a Foot Doctor and see what the hell was actually going on in there.

So, last week I went off to the Foot Guy and he very quickly diagnosed me with having a pinched nerve in the ball of my foot; the technical term is Metatarsalgia. You don't need to know the specifics, it's a pretty boring foot problem. Anyway, he's telling me about it, and I ask what causes it, right? He tells me that there are a number of factors that contribute to this particular foot problem, but the basic cause is "sometimes it just does that."

Sometimes feet just do that, I guess. They get painful and then your toes end up all deformed and freaky looking. That just happens sometimes, he says. The cure for metatarsalgia? Well, that depends on how much you actually want to use your foot. Just plain old regular walking around? Might not even be worth it, because you need to spend $$$$$ on expensive orthotics in order to fix it. See, I tend to use my feet for more than just regular walking; I like to do that fancy walkin. The kind sidewalks aren't made for, so I need to actually spend the $$$$$$ to fix this fucking thing.

It reminded me of Louis CK's bit about getting older. You really need to watch this video, especially if you're over 40, because you will laugh. your. ass. off.

EDIT (fancy walking):

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Somebody needs to help me write this book

Child 2 is getting to that age where he's starting to ask questions about his brother. Up until now, we've been living with "that's just what he likes to do" and similar answers, but regardless of the lack of judgment we put on his brother's behaviors, he's still noticing that he has a brother who isn't exactly the same as the other kids he knows.

Which is fine, of course. Kids are going to notice things like this and it's our responsibility as their grownups to make sure they get the information they need in order to be a good friend/sibling/partner in crime. So it was with this in mind that I went out and bought a book for him, called "Everybody is Different. A book for young people who have brothers or sisters with autism."

I haven't really had a chance to go through it yet, but it seems like a very sweet book, with sections titled "the three characteristics of autism," "odd behaviours" (it's British) and "so how are you feeling?" As I browsed through the chapter titles, thinking about how I was going to be reading this with Child 2 at some point in the near future, I thought: Why isn't there a book I can read to Child 1? Surely Child 1 has, also, noticed his brother's seemingly odd behaviours? How come he doesn't get a book I can read to him, to explain HIS brother?

So I've decided to flesh out an outline of this new book that needs to be written. Maybe somebody with actual writing skills can help me make this thing a reality.

Part 1: What is "being neurotypical"?

a. Why are some people neurotypical?
b. General behaviours
c. Is there a cure for being neurotypical?

Part 2: Odd Behaviours

a. Why doesn't my brother or sister ever stop talking?
b. Why does my brother or sister want to play with other kids?
c. Why doesn't my brother or sister like BART trains?
d. Why does my brother or sister keep asking me questions when I don't want to answer them?
e. How can my brother or sister be in the same room with parmesan cheese and not want to throw up?
f. Why doesn't my brother or sister understand how awesome elevators are?

Part 3: So how are you feeling?

a. What you can do
b. Will my brother or sister always be like this?
c. Does your brother or sister ever embarrass you?

What do you guys think? Can you think of anything I left out?

Here, I got us started with a cover:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New study shows autism linked to moms who breathe during pregnancy

Is this woman's breathing causing her child's autism?
Submitted by jillsmo, Bullshit Staff Writer, May 24, 2012

Mothers who breathe while pregnant are more likely to have a child diagnosed with autism, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control.

Autism, a complex neurological disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior, is increasing at a rate so alarming, fear has been struck in the hearts of humans across the globe. In this latest study, researchers have discovered that up to 100% of children who are later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder had mothers who breathed during pregnancy.

Breathing is an involuntary movement of the lungs which allows oxygen to circulate through the bloodstream, and has also been linked with other deadly diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and emphysema. The high statistical rate has alarmed researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland: "if every single child with autism was born to a mother who alternatively inhaled and exhaled air in the act of respiration, it stands to reason that there is a connection between the two," says Dr. Jennifer McCarthy, Professor of Hyperbole and Disinformation at Johns Hopkins University, who led the study.

"Nobody actually knows what causes autism," Dr. McCarthy continues, "and no single study can explain its causes, but the data we uncovered through this research should be taken very seriously. We're not suggesting that pregnant women be advised to stop breathing during pregnancy, but this study should create enough solid evidence and kneejerk reaction so that mothers everywhere can finally be convinced that their child's autism is their fault. Oh, and more research is clearly indicated, I guess. We'll get to that later."

Images courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Game of Life

Last night Child 2 and I played The Game of Life. You remember this game from your childhood, the one with the cars and the little pink and blue pegs for girls and boys that you cram into your car as you drive around the board having babies and whatnot.

Just in case you don't remember, or haven't played it recently, you drive around this board game, called "Life," and on the way you make choices that determine how much money you make, with the ultimate goal being to "retire" and be worth more money than your opponents. What a perfect game to play with your children, right? Where the goal in life is to make money, occasionally you get to sue each other to get more money, children are expensive and there's no mention whatsoever of happiness or quality of life or early death. It's just plain and simple capitalism.  Just like real life. Awesome.

The game starts out with you in your car, and first you are to choose to either go to college or start a career. They advise you that while the college path requires you to immediately take a $50K loan from the bank, ultimately you will make more money with a college education. So, being the mom, I tell Child 2 that he'd better go to college, even if means a lifetime of student loans. Not because he might learn a lot, have a wonderful experience, see new things or meet new people:, but because eventually he will end up in a higher paying career.

Just like real life.

So, we start out, and I decide to skip college and take the career path, because I don't want to have to extend my debt ceiling. And anyway, I believe in the American Dream; all I have to do is work hard and I will be able to achieve all of my life's goals. Just like real life. Child 2 takes the college path, and off we go!

Right off the bat he gets a job as a veterinarian making $80,000 a year and I get a job as a hairstylist making $30,000. Well, that's okay, because he DID go to college, and he DOES have student loans. We'll see where this takes us.....

We get to the part where you have to get married, and I decide to marry a woman, even though it's not (yet) legal in my state. Funny how they don't actually give you that option, of marrying the same sex as you, but whatever.... technicalities. I'm sure they'll get to that.... Child 2 chooses to marry a woman, and the game continues on.

We buy homes. I get a condominium and he ends up in a trailer park for some reason. I still haven't taken any loans because my wife and I are somehow managing to scrape by on my $30,000 a year salary. I guess she doesn't get to work but that's okay because women belong in the home. Just like real life.

Then I lose my job and take a new one as an "entertainer." You don't need a college education to be an "entertainer," and while the picture on the card shows a woman singing at a microphone, the increased annual salary clearly indicates that "entertainer" is actually just a euphemism for pole dancer. But what else am I going to do? I lost my job as a hairstylist and I have no college education, my only option is to show off my body for money and profit. There's no mention of how much I make in tips. The IRS doesn't need to know about those, though.

Then I get to the part where I'm able to go back to school if I want. Remembering that you will make more money with a college education, my wife and I have an important discussion about the situation and I decide to take a bank loan and go back to school. I guess I'm still working as an "entertainer," because I'm still making my salary, and eventually I graduate (with honors. I'm assuming. Because HELLO.) and am able to go out and get a new job!! YAY!! More money! A bigger house!! Maybe some kids? Just like real life.

But then I go to pick a college career card and what do I get? A teacher! A fucking TEACHER!! Making $40,000 a year AND I now have $50,000 in student loans to pay off! WHAT THE FUCK?? I didn't spend all this time and money to go back to school to end up as a fucking TEACHER! Making less money than when I was on the goddamn pole!

At least I don't have to pay union dues. Not that they mention, anyway. But I'm still happy, because shaping the minds of the next generation is enough for my personal satisfaction. Right? It's not like the whole point in life is to make money and die rich? Right?

Wait, yes it is! Luckily, though, at another point along the way I lose my job as a teacher and become... a DOCTOR! That's right, I've just been fired as a teacher, after having been fired as a hairstylist and then working the pole, which means I'm a doctor now, bitches!! Making $100,000 a year and I get to go golfing whenever I want! Just like real life.

Child 2, meanwhile, has become a lawyer, moved out of the trailer park and into some mansion, and has sued me twice, making me pay him a total of $200,000. I must have botched his wife's boob job or something. I'm sure I deserved it, I mean, I DO have a drinking problem. I guess you don't get malpractice insurance in this game.

We head toward the end and I decide not to have children.  Just like in real life, children are fucking expensive and now that I'm raking it in as a doctor I don't want to have to give any of my money away to any of those little leeches. Child 2 chooses to have kids and ends up with 2 boys (karma). Ultimately he has to pay $100,000 in college tuition for both of them.

HA HA!!!  Just like real life!!!!

The game ends with us both "retiring" at about the same time, and after we've cashed everything in, I end up with $10,000 more than him, which means I win. I think you can see from the choices I made along the way: work the pole for a bit and save some money, never leave your $100,000 condo once you've paid it off, and, most importantly, DO NOT HAVE KIDS, this is the life path one should choose in order to "win" in the end.

I hope he learned a valuable lesson from this experience.  Just like real life.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Midnight adventures in barfing

One night last week, the kids had gone to bed and I was fucking around on my computer; getting my "me time" (so it was between the hours of 10:45pm and 11:30pm. 45 minutes of "me time" EVERY FUCKING DAY!! YES!!!") when I heard crying coming from Child 2's room. It was soft, it lasted a few seconds, and then it stopped.

I did nothing. In retrospect, I'm a fucking idiot, but you know how much of a bitch that "retrospect" can be. But this kid is a barfer, he randomly barfs at random times, usually in the middle of the night, and it always starts with him making these soft crying sounds. Then it escalates into a big, smelly mess, and it was right then that I should have gotten a bucket and put it next to his bed. But, like I said: Fucking idiot.

A few minutes later it started again. Soft crying, lasted a few seconds, then stopped. Then it started again, a little bit louder, a little bit longer, and stopped again.

I still did nothing. (Fuck off, Retrospect). Then it happened again: louder, longer, etc. Finally I decided to get up and go in there to see what was up. I sat down on Child 2's bed and he immediately sat up and gave me a hug.

"Did you have a bad dream?" I asked him. "No," he cried. "I'm just afraid of the balloons."

Ahhhh, I see. I laid him back down, covered him up and went back to my room. How cute, I thought. He's having a bad dream about balloons! Aren't kids just so cute??? I wish my bad dreams were about fucking balloons.

I went to bed, while he continued to intermittently make soft crying sounds. "Balloons," I thought as I drifted off. SO CUTE!!

Maybe 5 minutes after I fell asleep, suddenly there's a very loud "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" coming from his room. I bolt up, but I had been asleep for just minutes, so my brain didn't really bolt up with me. I was very confused, stuck halfway between sleeping and waking, and I got up out of bed and just stood in the middle of my floor, unsure about what to do, while he yelled stuff.

Then there's another "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" followed by the unmistakable sound of my child barfing. But I was still really confused. What happened to the balloons? And so I just stood there, listening to him yelling and retching, and hearing those horrible splashing sounds. *shudder*

"I should probably be doing something," I thought, and I heard Hubs coming up the stairs. "Oh, good," I thought. "I bet he can figure out what I'm supposed to be doing right now. And then hopefully he'll tell me."

It was right then that Child 2 screamed, at the top of his little lungs: "WOULD SOMEBODY JUST GET ME A FUCKING TOWEL???" and suddenly I snapped out of it! Yes! A towel! I should get him a towel!!! That's what I should be doing right now!! So I ran to the bathroom, grabbed a towel, and brought it to him.

That was all it took, I guess. Just an angelic 7 year old shouting obscenities at the top of his lungs to snap me out of my disorientation. Oh, and in related news, this weekend Hubs went to Costco and bought a carpet spot cleaner. Only $80! Such a deal!!!