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The First Day

  • Posted on September 3, 2014 at 10:00 AM

The boys are at school for their first full day of school today. This is the first full day of the new school year. It’s the start of new things:

  • Learning new things in new classes,
  • Attending class with new students and (for Willy, at least) new teachers,
  • Meeting (or not) new expectations, and
  • Aligning to new routines and new patterns.

Even though some of all this newness is actually the same as last year, it’s still new because there has been such a significant break between the end of last year and the beginning of this year. Furthermore, all three boys have made substantial growth in non-academic areas over the course of the summer, so they’re like new people heading into what may be an old environment.

After the rush of activity to buy new materials, new shoes, and new clothes for the start of this school year, I’m ready for the boys to go to school. I’m ready for the quiet and the relative inactivity. I’m ready to get back to my studies and get back to work. I’m ready to adjust that I may get back into the “normal” pattern of things. Whether it’s normal to human nature or not, the school year makes up the bulk of our yearly time, so it’s the “normal” we experience the most.

As ready as I am for the boys to be back in school, I still feel the loss of the moment and I still feel an overwhelming wave of anxiety for my children. I close my eyes and bring up all the words I have about all my children and fill the darkness of my pictureless minds with all their wonderful attributes. I silently pray, “Let this be a good day. Let the people of their new world see them for the wonderful people they are and appreciate them for all of who they are.” I hold each child in my mind for a moment. Then, I get back to work. I have a full day of work and studying to fit into this brief period away from my children. I have adjustments of my own to make to this new pattern of things. It’s a “first day” for me and for Mark, too.

A Matter of Instinct

  • Posted on August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As Willy makes his way through adolescence, I can’t help but notice that he’s definitely a guy. I’m not talking about physical attributes here. This has nothing to with his Adam’s apple, body hair, or body size. I’m talking about the behavioral instincts that are surfacing.

Don’t get me wrong. Willy’s always been competitive. In the past, however, Willy’s competitiveness has always come across as an aspect of how he feels about himself: He took the words “winner” and “loser” far too seriously and would do almost anything to be recognized as the “winner.” Over time, we were able to address the root problem and teach him better gamesmanship. Still, there was always a part of Willy that sought out external validation.

Recently, I’ve been witnessing something entirely different. Just short of beating his chest like a gorilla, Willy has been exhibiting very masculine behaviors. I’m talking about the I’m-going-to-keep-pushing-until-I-impress-the-girl kind of behaviors. The only problem is that I’m the only girl here and that Alex and Ben are (usually) not seen as the primary threats. So, yeah, things are getting uncomfortably Freudian.

Last week, after Will kept pushing over something really stupid while Mark was actually trying to teach him something, i.e. not trying to engage in one-upmanship, I just had enough. Without going into anything Freudian (though Mark just had to bring it up), I explained to Willy what he was doing, why he was doing, and why I was definitely not the right person to impress. Then, I explained to him as best as I could that, despite the very male instinct he was displaying, these behaviors rarely really worked.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have never changed my opinion about a guy one iota (at least, not in a positive direction) because he won some sort of machismo contest with another guy. Who can dunk a better basket? I don’t really care, but if I had to guess I’d say Michael Jordan. Who can arm wrestle best? I’d guess the Hulk. Not the Hogan guy, either. I’m going with the green one. Who can beat the video game faster? Um. I’d guess the guys who designed it.

“No, no,” they’d tell me, “between us!”

I never got the point of these episodes until I got to college. It’s not that college boys made this any clearer; it’s just that I studied more human behavior in college. I remember raising my hand—I don’t know if it was my first psych class or the class on human sexuality—and asked, “Does this ever really work?” The professor (who was a guy) smiled, shook his head, and said, “But that doesn’t keep us from trying.” He went on to explain that it was genetically coded precisely because there was (must have been?) a time in human history or human evolution when it really did work.

I understand that, from the points of view of anthropologists and evolutionists, this “must” be the case, but I have to wonder if it isn’t just as plausible that human psychology was just as messed up back then as it is now. Guys did it because they thought it worked, just like guys still do it because, on some level, they’re sure it will.

Now that it’s my own son it’s ceased to be the least bit amusing. And I do NOT want to hear about Freud! After all, the dude thought young women “fantasied” about their fathers molesting them, because he couldn’t acknowledge that the fathers of respectable families could really be sexually abusing their daughters. Um, yeah. That’s credibility for you!

Alex’s Visit

  • Posted on August 15, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Sunday was a work day. It wasn’t supposed to be, but I stayed up late into Sunday morning getting things done. Then, I slept until Sunday afternoon. When I woke up, I went right to my prayer journaling, then my independent studies, then to work. Alex only saw me on bathroom breaks. I’d give him a kiss on the forehead, untangle myself from his pinching fingers, and be on my way. I didn’t like it much better than he did, but at least I understood it. Alex was just plain frustrated with me.

Then, my mom came over. Willy ran down to tell me she was here. I was in the middle of something and didn’t want to have to start all over, so I kept going. Then, a while later, Alex peeked his head into my doorway. He saw me, smiled, and came into my den.

I guess he thought, If Will can go down and see Mama, then I can, too! “Hi, Alex,” I said. He took that as an invitation. He closed the door behind him and looked carefully around my den. I watched him while I kept working, and let him have his look. I’m just glad I took the cobwebs down first, because he looked everywhere. He’d made his way around my five bookcases and was coming back to take a better look at my desk & table workstation when Mark opened the door.

“I came to get Alex,” he said. He seemed a little surprised to see that I was fine with Alex being in my den. I didn’t bother telling him that, since Alex doesn’t talk, he wasn’t trying to engage me in conversation to distract me from my work.

Alex didn’t need much. He just wanted to be where I was and look at what I was doing. That was enough for him. Then, when I came upstairs and said “Hi” to my mom, I made sure I gave Alex lots of attention. Unfortunately, the rest of the day’s problems weren’t so easy to solve. Sunday was a painful day that forced me to stay up late…again.

School-Year Anxiety

  • Posted on August 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

After the muddled end of my last school year, I admit I’m anxious about starting up school again. I still haven’t quite gotten a handle on my fibromyalgia. My business is growing, but it’s growing primarily in a way that involves me doing more work to make it grow, as well as the work I need to do to provide for my family. I’m not up to a full day’s worth of work, quantity wise, even though it takes me a full day (or longer) to do it. I’m not sure how I’ll strike a balance between work and school once it starts, since both are priorities. There is so much that is unknown and I feel so unprepared, that there’s definitely an anxiety factor involved.

Willy, on the other hand, seems willfully unaware that school will start in less than a month. He will acknowledge it if I bring the issue up directly. He’ll discuss what concessions he’s willing to make with regards to new clothes, new school supplies, new shoes, and a new backpack. He’s willing to talk, briefly, about how he felt last year went. He won’t talk directly about his hopes and fears about the coming year. It’s difficult to weigh his anxiety levels, because he asserts a blasé attitude that seemingly belies his willfulness on the matter.

Alex, of course, is impossible to gauge. Honestly, I think getting back to the routine of school will be good for him. We have had something of a routine this summer, which has helped; but it’s a routine that spreads across the week, not over a single day, and it’s subject to far more change than the routines of school. This is not to say that he isn’t experiencing anxiety over the start of school. It’s more to say that it’s difficult to judge that anxiety relative to the buzz of anxiety he seems to feel most of the time. There are times when he’s completely free and, by noting those times and repeating the surrounding circumstances, we’ve even been able to increase them. However, the onset of anxiety is never so easily pinned to one cause or another, because he can experience both instantaneous and delayed reactions, depending on his processing during the moment. He seems to be handling the idea of returning to school well, but it’s hard to tell.

Ben is another matter. He seems genuinely unaware of the imminence of school. If I bring it up, his behavior reflects a belief that what I’m saying is not interesting, and therefore not worth attending to. This doesn’t necessarily suggest a blasé attitude similar to Will’s, because Ben’s hyper-focus can be very difficult to break through, even if you attempt to do so with something immediate, tangible, and desired. Ben has very much been “in his own world” this summer. He’ll zone into something desired and prolong it as long as possible. The easiest way to break him out of it (not that we do this on purpose or anything) is to give Alex the opportunity to do something he likes to do that annoys Ben. Ben will stop whatever he’s doing, wherever he’s doing it (as long as they’re both in the same house) and try to make Alex stop. If Ben cares one way or the other about the start of school, then he’s not saying so. I suspect he’ll care once he has to go back to focusing on tasks and timetables that other people set for him.

Of course, Mark is the stay-at-home parent who is not going to school, so the start of school means something different to him. I remember what that was like and, if he’s anything like me, he’s looking forward to the relief. After all, he’s borne the brunt of a difficult summer. He’s definitely ready for a break! And he definitely deserves it!

Time to Shop

  • Posted on August 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As those of you with school-age children will know, it’s time to do the before-school shopping, where you get all the school supplies the school says your child will need for the year, as well as a closet-full of new school clothes (if you can afford that sort of thing). In a household with children with autism, this ritual is modified. While the modifications depend entirely on the child, here are a few things that might occur:

  • Your child does NOT want new clothes—no matter how cool they happen to be. Even new socks and/or underwear can ramp up the before-school anxiety.
  • Your child does NOT want a new backpack—even if the old one is falling apart and held together with duct tape.
  • If your child MUST have a new backpack, then it MUST be the same style, size, and color as the backpack that is being replaced.
  • If your child MUST have new clothes, then the outfits should emphasize comfort and should not be stress-inducing or exciting; whether the clothes are “cool” or not may not matter to your child.
  • Your child may require a set of “school” supplies for home, as well as for school, because paper, pens, pencils and crayons are always welcome. Your child might “break into” his or her school supplies if a set of the most desirable items is not purchase for immediate, at-home use. This can also reduce anxiety about going back to school.
  • Your child does NOT want a new pair of shoes—even if his or her shoes are too small or have holes in the toes and in the soles.
  • If your child MUST have new clothes/shoes, then they should be as adaptable as possible, meaning that it is ill advised to get a new summer set and then, later, a new fall set. If possible, get a new set that will be adaptable until the next growth spurt, adding new items as the seasons change.
  • Your child may have absolutely no interest in going shopping with you; the added stress of shopping on top of the near-constant back-to-school stress may be too much for your child to bear. If your child says, “No” in any way, shape or form, honor that choice if at all possible.
  • If your child MUST go shopping with you, please respect your child enough not to drag him or her to multiple stores in pursuit of the best deals—the cost savings is not worth the stress this will cause your child. If possible, avoid peak shopping times.

For many children with autism, going back to school is stressful enough. For many children with autism, going shopping is stressful enough. Combining the two is a disaster waiting to happen. Please honor and respect your child’s needs during this stressful, anxiety-ridden time.

What’s Out There?

  • Posted on July 30, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Parents worry a lot about what it will be like when our children go out there, out into the world. For some, worries revolve around the violence and crime that permeates our world. For no reason, for no reason at all, a car could slam into a child and take that child from this world. Does it really matter if the road was slippery due to rain or snow? Does it really matter if the driver was tired or drunk? Does it really matter if the driver was in a get-away-car or going for a joy ride? What matters is that the child is gone and there’s no reason for it.

For some, worries revolve around society and the judgments society makes about individuals. For no reason, for no reason at all, a child can be harassed or bullied or killed. Does it really matter if the child is gay or straight? Does it matter if the child is typically developing or developmentally delayed? Does it matter if the child is autistic or crippled or seemingly normal? Does it matter if the child is black or white? What matters is that the child is hurt, scarred, or gone and there’s no reason for it.

For some, worries revolve around the child. For no reason, for no reason at all, a child can be sick or dying. Does it really matter if it’s leukemia or AIDS? Does it really matter if it’s epilepsy or traumatic brain injury? Does it matter if the disease is rare or common? Does it matter if it’s acquired or if the child was simply born that way? Does it matter if the life expectancy is a month or a year? What matters is that a child is hurting, growing weaker, slipping away, and then gone and there’s no reason for it.

I look out into the world and sometimes what I see terrifies me. I don’t want to go out there. I don’t want my children to go out there. And I honestly just don’t get it. There’s enough pain and suffering in this world that we can do absolutely nothing about! Why in the world would anyone want to bring more pain and suffering onto others by committing crimes, acts of violence, or acts of negligence?

I realize, logically, that these people aren’t thinking about other people. The man who drinks himself stupid and then gets behind the wheel isn’t thinking about the people he might hit along the way. He’s drowning some sorrow in booze and then thinking, if you can call it that, about getting home. The man who holds up the convenience store isn’t thinking about the people he’s robbing or the people he might hurt or kill in the process. He’s thinking about what he wants and the quickest way to get it. The kid who bullies another isn’t thinking about that other kid. He’s thinking about his own pain, his own inadequacies, his own need to feel better, superior, cooler, or whatever.

I think about other people. I think about my family, my friends, my neighbors, and the strangers that are around me. I look before I backup. I drive carefully and soberly. I don’t drive when I’m impaired. I’m cautious, careful, hardworking, and loving. In a moment, my world could be changed by someone who isn’t like me. In a moment, my child or my husband or I could be gone from this world. And so I worry. I try not to think about it, but I worry nonetheless.

Sometimes I wonder why parents like me, parents of children with autism, try so hard to get their children out there, out into the world. Sometimes I think we’d all be safer if we just stayed home whenever possible. Go to work, go to the store, go out to eat upon occasion, but stay home and stay safe as much as possible. But even that kind of safety is an illusion. What’s out there can come in here without warning.

Self-Stimulation

  • Posted on July 28, 2014 at 10:20 AM

From the outside looking in, perseveration can look upsetting. Imagine Alex, a fourteen year old boy, waking himself up at 5 in the morning so he can get the first crack at the computer. For two or three hours—however long it takes for someone else to wake up and take a turn—he’ll sit, stand, bounce, and jump in front of the computer to the sound of the VeggieTales theme song. The clip lasts from one to three minutes, depending on the version he finds on YouTube, and he watches it over and over and over again. Occasionally, he’ll move to different versions of it. Sometimes he’ll even move on to different songs, like “The Hairbrush Song.” Rarely, he’ll watch a whole episode.

Alex “stims” on VeggieTales. “Stim” refers to self-stimulation, which is an outside-looking-in coinage of autistic behavior. Basically, the implication is that the person is providing him or herself with stimulation, and that this is somehow unusual.

Think about that for a moment. When I was growing up, all the parents—not just mine—were always encouraging us kids to “amuse ourselves.” You’d hear parents of typically developing children encourage the same thing now, except that it’s so much easier to do when we provide our kids with technological devices like Wiis and smartphones, so “amuse yourself” barely takes any encouragement at all. Instead, we hear parents complain that their children are too connected.

Therefore, one must conclude that self-stimulation isn’t the problem. This leads to the obvious assumption that the unusual nature of autistic self-stimulation is the perceived problem and that, because it’s unusual, it is somehow damaging or destructive.

So, let’s go back to Alex. If you interrupt him before he gets it all out of his system, he gets upset. When upset, he may bite his wrist. He may pinch others. He may pull at others, especially the person who displaces him in front of the computer. The problem here isn’t that his self-stimulation is atypical, nor even that he’s compulsive about it. The problem is his inability to cope constructively with being upset.

The thing that gets me is that it’s supposed to be self-stimulation. We all do it. It’s a normal behavior. But since autistic people aren’t “normal” people, the way they choose to stimulate themselves isn’t “normal,” either. And the point is…? They’re not trying to stimulate “normal” people, they’re trying to stimulate themselves, so why not just let them get on with it?

Let’s do some contrast. Mark is a compulsive Facebook user. He’s in groups. He even started his own group. He plays games. He chats with friends and strangers alike. He’s more social on Facebook than he is in “real” life. And, from the people I’ve seen out in the “real” world, these are perfectly normal behaviors. But they’re not behaviors I do, nor am I particularly empathetic to Mark’s compulsivity with Facebook. I just don’t get the attraction.

On the other hand, I like to watch television shows and movies on my computer. I’ll start and stop them in between doing my work. I’ll compulsively run through an entire television series in a matter of weeks, depending on how long the show lasted. Considering that Netflix and Hulu thrive on this trend, I know I’m not alone. It’s a perfectly normal compulsion. But they’re not Mark’s behaviors, nor is he particularly empathetic to my compulsivity with Netflix. He just doesn’t get the attraction.

We don’t get the attraction for Alex, either. But it doesn’t matter. It’s a “live and let live” thing. It’s self-stimulation!

The Importance of Being a Trustworthy Parent

  • Posted on July 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Assuming our children are verbal, we expect them to answer when we talk to them. We expect them to listen, to answer our questions, and to tell us the truth. We learn, over time, that our kids will lie upon occasion. We try to teach them the importance of honesty, of authority, of coming to us when they’re in trouble. Rarely, it seems, do parents stop to wonder whether they’re worthy of what they demand of their kids.

From the beginning, I was reluctant to teach my kids to believe in Santa Claus. I still remember learning the truth of that. I didn’t learn the truth about Saint Nicholas. I learned that Santa Claus was a lie that adults told to little children. I learned that the letters, the news broadcasts, and the presents were all lies. I’d already figured out that the guy at the mall couldn’t be the real Santa Claus. But to find out there was no such thing…

As I child, I believed in fantasy. I thought, maybe someday, maybe if I’m lucky, I’d get swept away into Narnia. Or maybe I’d discover my own magic world—there are lots of them—and I’d get to go there. Maybe I’d get to go any time I wanted to. Life was rough and I clung to this fantasy longer than most kids. I read A Wrinkle in Time and the books that came after it, and I thought that maybe if I had my own magical, transformative experience I’d turn out alright, too.

When bad things happened to me when I was a child, I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell them, because I didn’t trust them. Would they blame me for what happened? I got blamed for things that weren’t my fault all the time. Would they believe me? They didn’t always. Would they be honest with me about the consequences? Would I ever really know what would happen next? I didn’t know what to do, but I didn’t know what they would do either. How would they react? What would happen to me? I didn’t trust them. So, I didn’t tell them, even when I needed them.

I wasn’t completely alone. I didn’t keep everything to myself. But I didn’t tell any adults either. I told other children and we coped with each other’s problems, helping each other as best we could. I remember what that was like. I remember what had happened to me and how I dealt with it. The truth is that the events of my childhood almost destroyed me. Not only did I get myself in situations where I could have been killed and in situations where other people wanted to kill to protect me, but I nearly killed myself. I seriously considered it. And the only reason I didn’t is because I knew two people in my life would miss me too much if I did. Neither of them were my parents.

I remembered these events and I decided to tell my children the truth. I told them that Santa Claus was for pretend and that it was alright to pretend. I made it perfectly clear that it was perfectly okay with me if they wanted to believe in Santa Claus, but that they didn’t have to. I taught them the difference between what’s real (like a brother) and what’s pretend (like a story or a toy). I told them that they could play pretend, but that it was just pretend. My children—autistic though they were, disillusioned though I was—learned to play pretend just fine. They didn’t lose any of the magic of their childhood. But they knew the truth. And they knew I would tell them the truth if they asked me.

Being trustworthy isn’t easy. We’re socialized to shade the truth. We’re indoctrinated with the “goodness” of white lies. We’re taught to fudge the details, to shape arguments to our advantage, to shape opinions to be like our own. We’re taught that charisma and glamor are qualities to have and to believe in, to follow. And then we have to break down these socialized tendencies and tell the truth, even when it’s hard, even when it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant or even “unnecessary.”

It’s not that my children don’t lie to me. Each of my children who know how to talk has learned how to lie, whether they lie well or poorly. And they do lie. But, when it really matters, when it’s really important, they know they can tell the truth, no matter how hard it is, and they know they’ll get my help and that they’ll have input on what kind of help they get. In other words, my children know they can trust me—even the teenagers—because they know I’m worthy of their trust.

The Importance of Respecting the Personhood of Your Children

  • Posted on July 23, 2014 at 10:00 AM

You make love and you make a baby. For nine months, that baby grows in his or her mother’s womb. The baby is born. The mother holds the baby. The father holds the baby. They laugh, they cry, they rejoice together. Their love has made another life. This is their baby.

This is a common enough scene and a common enough sentiment. I know I’m fiercely territorial when it comes to my children. You try to hurt them and you discover that this mama bear’s got claws and teeth. I’ll shred you to bits if I have to in order to protect my children.

There’s a difference between these two sentiments. It’s subtle, but important. It’s one not enough parents seem to make.

A territorial parent will:

  • Protect their children,
  • Nurture their children,
  • Provide for their children, and
  • Make a home for their children.

Some of us go to extreme lengths to achieve these goals. We seek to guide our children and imbue them with the morals and values we believe in. We shape and mold our children, like clay, into the adults we’d like them to become.

A possessive parent will:

  • Protect their interests in their children,
  • Develop their interests within their children,
  • Provide their children with the things they wanted as children, and
  • Make a life for their children.

These parents may go to extreme lengths to make their children into the people they’d like them to be, and that’s often people like themselves. They seek to order their children’s lives and imprint them with the morals and values they believe in. They shape and chisel away at their children, like stone, to shape them into the adults they’d like them to become.

Children are not property. They aren’t possessions. They are human beings. They are individual, little people who grow into individual, big people. They have thoughts, feelings, and dreams that are all their own. Someday they will have the power to leave you. When that day comes the only reasons they have to stay in your life is because: 1) they love you, 2) they respect you, or 3) they’re too afraid to do without you.

Personally, I’d rather be loved, though I hope to be respected as well. I have no desire to be feared—by anyone, least of all my own children.

I’m a territorial parent. I’m active in my children’s lives and I feel a welcome obligation to be present, both for their sakes and for society’s sake. But I am not a possessive parent. As much as I say they’re my children, I do not consider them property. I do not own my children. They are my own, but I do not own them. The difference is subtle, yet important.

I look around and I see possessive parents, parents who are trying desperately hard to make their children into mini versions of themselves or to shape them into who they wanted to be but couldn’t be. You see this in upper class parents who demand their children live up to the family name. You see this in aspirational parents who demand their children be all they can be. You see this in impoverished parents who tell their kids to be realistic if they say they want to be doctors or presidents. You see this in gang families that expect their kids to get into the biz. You see this in sexually-abused single mothers who allow their young daughters to be sexually abused, too. You see this in families who take desperate measures to convince their self-announced gay child to be “straight.” And you see this in families where typically-developing parents take desperate measures to force their atypically-developing child to be “normal.”

History is on their side. It’s only relatively recently that children were recognized as people having rights and those rights aren’t fully developed yet. We still talk about “Tiger Moms” and wonder if it’s a good thing. There’s debate and discussion. It’s not clear to many how these behaviors show that the parent is dictating to the child who the child should be—not what, as in a doctor or a lawyer, but who.

Our children are people. They will grow into adults. What are you doing to make sure that the children around you have a chance to grow into people you want to be around and who will want to be around you?

A Look Forward

  • Posted on July 18, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As the boys grow older, there are some things that are hard to ignore. Their bodies are maturing and we need to help them understand that. They’re heading for major life transitions and we need to develop a plan for what their lives will look like after school. There are choices to make, services to acquire, and things to set in motion.

These things are difficult in the sense that they consume time and energy. They need to be planned and those plans need to be led, not by Mark or me, but by our children who will be living those plans—for better or worse. These things are easy in the sense that there are choices, paths, and opportunities. We can do something about these things.

Sometimes thoughts sneak up on me that I did not expect. Earlier this week, as I was talking with our friend about her young children, it occurred to me that we might someday have a similar discussion about our children’s children. If scientists are to be believed, the human race—like every other species on earth—has a natural impetus to reproduce. The mating process encourages survival of the fittest. If all that is true, then there seems to be a lot of unanswered questions, like how “fitness” is decided and why social structures perpetuate qualities that do not seem to be in the best interest of the species.

Personally, I believe man-made science seeks to explain what God already understands, because God created a system that truly works. I know, despite our best efforts, we’ll never completely understand how the universe works, because we have finite minds and a system like the universe works on levels far beyond what we can grasp. As an example, what are the full implications of light that can act as both a particle and a wave? Why must light be both a particle and a wave to serve its purpose?

Whether or not my children have children of their own isn’t going to be determined by science or who is fittest, but by the choices they make and what God wills for them. That’s what I believe. Yet I think there’s something to that natural impetus. I’m too young for grandchildren, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want my children to be able to have children of their own. I think that should be between them and whoever they might conceive the child with. It’s not up to me, nor should it be. It’s not up to the government, nor should it be. It’s not up to society or any self-entitled group or person.

Unfortunately, human society has produced numerous people and groups that believe they should have the power to make those kinds of decisions. This results in dramatic, world-changing affairs like the Holocaust and the other genocides that have been committed in the name of various forms of purity—as if any kind of purity could be acquired by drenching the earth in human blood. This also results in less dramatic, but equally evil affairs like forced sterilization and denial of reproductive rights.

I can influence many things about my children’s future. I can fight with every ounce of my being that eugenics does not prevail. Yet I know that this silent, hidden enemy is alive and well and plays a very current, if less dramatic role, in contemporary society. I don’t want to look into the future and see this possibility, but denial doesn’t mean it isn’t there.