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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.

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.

To Participate Or Not to Participate

  • Posted on May 3, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Willy’s school is holding a triathlon with the following mission:

“[School Name] Middle School is committed to supporting the health, safety and welfare of our (sic) all of our students.  This 1st Annual Iron [Name of School Mascot] Triathlon is an event to challenge students physically to be their very best!”

Willy was psyched.  He really wanted to participate.  He’s already sold on the message that he needs to eat right and exercise, and to him this seemed like a great way to be physically fit.  I wasn’t so sure.

Now, admittedly, the school was already wise enough to create tiers of participation:

  • The Fun Heat
  • The Competitive Heat.

But, both include swimming, biking, and running.  That is, after all, what makes it a triathlon.

There are kids that are naturally adept at athletics and there are kids who are not.  Willy is one of the latter.  He gets that from both his father and I—a double-whammy.  Granted, he’s an improvement on both of us, because he’s far more motivated and works harder than either of us ever really did.  But the gains he sees for his efforts are less than the gains a child with natural athletic abilities would see.

For example, Willy enjoys swimming, but his skills are still very rudimentary.  Simply put, we’re still working on the not drowning thing.  He’s not ready to work on distance or endurance, let alone speed.

Biking is a different matter.  Honestly, I don’t know how skilled of a biker he is, because we have never provided our children with bicycles.  Considering the danger of wandering, providing our children with extra speed and mobility never seemed like a good idea.  He has, however, done some bike riding at school, but I’m not even sure he can balance on a two-wheeler.

Running is something Willy does.  So, there’s that.

I didn’t like it.  I was not at all comfortable with the swimming portion and I had no idea of whether he could ride a bike well enough.  I was tempted to say no and leave it at that, but I wavered because he was so enthusiastic.

I worried, too, though.  It was more than his immediate safety at stake.  Sure, he wanted to participate in the Fun Heat.  Sure, he wasn’t trying to be competitive, so when he didn’t win he wouldn’t be crushed.  But, in my mind, I kept thinking about whether participation would be setting him up for some serious, confidence-destroying teasing or worse.

I thought about it until long after the training was supposed to start, and so I figured it was a mute issue.  Then, I got a call.  The liaison for the school, the one who is the go-to person for Willy’s special education accommodations, called to let me know that Willy was still talking about it, still wanting to participate, and that the staff involved had concerns (though, they didn’t know that I shared them until she called).  Nobody wanted to come out and tell Willy he couldn’t participate, because that wasn’t the message that anyone wanted to send him.  But nobody wanted to set him up to fail, either.

To Be Continued…