Vote for My Blog

Vote for me @ Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Invisible Jobs

Dear Autism Moms,

In case no one has told you lately, I see you and all of the invisible jobs you do. The rest of the world, and maybe even to your immediate family, may not "see" all that you do. They are so used to you to doing all of "the things" they don’t even have to think about. I see you making their lives seamless. There are no ragged stitches, thread hanging down, disasters of “what happened here?” because you make all of the details happen. 

I see you trudging to the grocery store so that the refrigerator and cupboards are filled with everyone’s special, favorite foods, while you have forgotten what you even like anymore. Except, wine. You know for sure you that you still like wine.

In fact, as long as everyone else eats and you have wine, your family gets to live to see another day. (Okay, so maybe that’s just me.) 
*So not just me. 

I see you negotiating that Individual Education Plan, year after year, after year, without being paid a dime in attorney’s fees. (Although, you may end up spending attorney's fees at some point.) All while educators are telling you that you’re being overprotective, coddling and asking for too much. Hopefully, your husband is sitting next to you during these meetings as the "voice of reason" because they all think you're being emotional. Even if he's not with you, you get it done. 

You make sure that your child’s educational needs are met while fighting against a system that would prefer to keep them inside of a well-contained box. 

I see you calling and e-mailing and meeting with teachers and administrators, fighting to make sure your child is fully educated at the highest and most inclusive level possible. You see their potential to be the most functional, independent adult and you will kick anyone’s ass who gets in the way of that. 

I see you when you have to break it down for the doctor. Despite their degrees and training, you know your child better than they do. You know what’s working and what is not working.  I don't care what the label on the medication says. You are not intimidated by some bully doctor who tries to insist that they more than you do. You are the expert when it comes to your child. (Never knew you would have to know more than a doctor when you became a mom, did you?) 

I see you doing the research to find alternatives, therapies, vitamins, supplements, and diet changes that can possibly serve as a complement to traditional therapies. You work tirelessly to do anything that could make the road to a productive life for your child a little more clear. 

I see the anguish in the tough decisions you make to give them the pharmaceutical medication, even though mixed emotions doesn’t begin to describe how you feel about it. Oh! And the pain when a medication trial goes wrong! It kills you. But you have many lives and you are so much stronger than you ever believed you could be.  

You do everything within your power if there is a minuscule chance that it will improve the quality of your child’s life. You make tough medical choices for your child despite possible stigma and the judgment from extended family who have done zero research, and yet they have strong, unsolicited opinions. 

I see you behind closed doors, comforting your child who is making threats of self-harm because he or she is miserable, depressed and tired of feeling different. They are tired of feeling alone in a crowded school. You put on the brave face, assuring them that everything will get better, even though you have no idea whether or not it actually will be. 

I know your secrets --that pain you feel when days, weeks, sometimes months go by and you have not seen your child smile or laugh. The rest of the world has no idea that a child “not smiling or laughing” is even ‘a thing.'

You will give anything just for the possibility that their eyes will light up and they will feel that innocent joy, that all children deserve to experience. 

I know that at times, your job feels thankless. When your children blame you for everything that goes wrong. You are their safe person. Your unconditional love makes them feel free to take out their frustration with you. You hear all the yelling, the cursing, the blunt, unfiltered feelings and opinions they have about everything. 

I know you feel guilty when you want to cover your ears, roll your eyes, or yell, "Enough already!" Because you've heard the same question or statement nine hundred times in a day. Not to mention the one thousand times yesterday. Here's a hint: Don't! Don't feel guilty. You're doing the best you can do, and more than the average person could.

I see you trying your best to mold them into loving, caring, people. 
I see your frustration when despite your teaching and example, they refuse to listen. They are still uniquely their own person. You can not control their every thought. You certainly can’t control the words that come out of their mouths. 

Here's a little secret, between you and me. Don’t worry. They are fighting you every step of the way, but they do hear you.  Something is seeping into to their stubborn little brains and that will become a part of the fabric of who they are as adults. They just have to come to the point where they believe that everything you taught them, was originally their idea. 

Oh! And about the judgment passed that you are “not disciplining them enough." You are blamed for their behavior. (You even blame yourself at times.) Please realize that you may be the only person on earth who sees the pain behind the behavior. You know what they are trying to communicate through the behavior. You are their mother, and you would do anything to take some of that pain away. So screw the judgment! And don't let it become a recording in your head. 

There are days, when even though you know that their frustration, yelling, screaming and yes, maybe they have even hit you. (Gasp! I know. No one is supposed to know about that. It's okay, we're all sisters here. We don't have to pretend that this never happens.)

Remember, it's not about you. That doesn’t make it any less real. It still hurts. The painful words spoken in the heat of anger and frustration can be the worst daggers to your heart. 

When they become teenagers, it may even begin to feel like an abusive relationship. You are constantly fighting a battle between your head and your heart.

You’re exhausted from lack of sleep. The wee hours of the night find you worrying about every detail of their lives. Sleep deprivation becomes the norm for you. You can hardly think straight. Making simple day to day decisions has become a major chore. 

I see you. I know how hard this journey is on your marriage. If your marriage survives, I congratulate you! You have beaten the odds. This road is rough. You only have so much energy and your high-maintenance children can drain you. Sometimes it may feel like a tug-of-war between your relationship with your husband and meeting the needs of your child. We know who wins that war most of the time. 

Even though you are married to a wonderful man, there may still be moments when you feel completely alone on this journey. No one can see your life from your unique point of view, not even your partner. There isn’t enough time in the day to communicate the worries of details about your child’s life that run through your head on a daily basis.

I am willing to bet (and I'm sure I'll get slammed for this) most husbands/fathers have no idea of how much you do and how much mental energy it takes to do it. (Maybe you can have them read them this letter, to give them an idea.) 

If your spouse is no longer in the house, well hot damn! Congratulations! You are the bomb! You are climbing a very steep mountain, and you're doing it alone. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to single-parenting an autistic child. I pray that you have a support system to give you a break.

I will say this, single-parent autism mamas...

You are strong! You are resilient. I salute you! I thank you so hard! You deserve your place in heaven that is already laid out for you. Try not to get there, sooner but later. Please, take care of yourself with intention and purpose. You may consider this letter a prescription of sorts, to show your friends and family so they will give you a day off where you can do whatever you want, even if that is just SLEEP!

As a mother, you and your child were once connected by an "Umbilical Cord". For most of us, that unique connection never goes away. We literally feel every ounce of pain that they go through.

As the mother of a child with autism, you are a part of a unique club. 
I see you. 
I thank you. 
I am you. 

Love, 
Karen 

p.s. 
Autism Dads -I don’t mean to leave you out. Of course, you serve an important and equally unique role in your child's life. I can not write from your unique perspective. Perhaps I can get Aspergers Dad (my husband) to do that here someday. 

I warn you, however, whatever he says about me --lies. All lies.  

p.s.s. Moms, 
This letter and the list of all that you do could go on to infinity. But of course, you already know that. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dear Little Boy Blue,



Dear Little boy Blue,

I know you’re not little anymore.

How is it that you became a senior in high school anyway?

I mean really. Where did the time go?

You will turn eighteen in less than a month. I have real mixed emotions about this.  I know that you do to, even if you're not totally conscious of it.

You have no idea how much I miss your baby days. Not only were you sweet, and perfect, but that was also the part of motherhood that I was really good at.

I know you hate it when I talk about when you were a baby, but remembering that time is one of the greatest memories of my life. I've earned the right to talk about whatever I want. I carried you inside me for eight and a half months, until the doctor literally cut you out of my body.

I know. Gross! Right? I love grossing you out! Sorry. Not. Sorry. (I also know you HATE my sarcasm.) 

When you were a baby you were so sweet! You didn’t cry or complain much. If you did, all I had to do was take you out into the sunshine and let you roll around on a blanket. Sometimes, I would hold you in my arms and rock you gently as the sun warmed our skin, and lightened our worries. My worries then, were nothing like they are now.  I still had no idea what I was getting myself into with this whole motherhood gig.

As you began to toddle and climb, it was like an angel followed you around and protected you from the precarious situations you would put yourself in. You would climb on top of anything to get what you wanted.  Yep. You were independent even then. 

Somehow, you were always safe from harm. Despite how nervous you made me.

You still make me nervous. I worry about you all the time.

I have no doubt that you will conquer the world and any mountain you decide to climb.

It’s your emotions that I worry about most. You think and feel things so very deeply. So intensely, sometimes, that you can become overwhelmed with not only your problems, but you often carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.

You’re one of the most giving people I know. Yes. You get that from me. You are the friend to the friendless. You want to help everyone and save the world. And let’s face it, this world needs a lot of saving these days. 

You’re feeling the effects of this latest election.

You are taking on the problems of your friends.

I know you're worried about your high school career ending, and your adult life beginning.

You are swimming in a pretty deep ocean and I’m sure that it feels like you have an anchor tangled around your feet.

I want you to know that I see you.
I see your struggle.
I know that you are freaking out about so many changes coming down the pipeline of adulthood.

You have never been a fan of change.  It scares you.  Hell, it scares me!

Remember when you were leaving elementary school for middle school? That was scary, huh?

But boy, you came through that first year like a champ! You even started taking on advanced math by the end of 6th grade.

Those worries about dressing out for P.E. worked out fine. In fact, you became pretty close to one of your P.E. teachers. You even became an aid in his class in 8th grade, if I remember right.

Even eating in the cafeteria turned out okay, because that's when you finally decided to expand the list of foods you would eat.

Remember transitioning to that first year of high school? That was even worse than middle school!

You were bigger and angry, instead of just anxious. Your meltdowns spiked at an all-time high, That freaked me out, because I feel most things that you feel. It's like we're still attached by that unbilical cord.

You tried R.O.T.C. that year. You thought it would be a good fit for you. I hoped that it would be. But,  every Wednesday (which was Dress-Out day) was the worst day of the week. Your frustration would end up bleeding into the rest of your day until finally, we applied some pressure by having you drop the class after the first semester. That was a brave decision you made.

You survived that transition and by your sophomore year, you gained your footing. Remember?

You started making more friends. You became more self-aware than ever. You started your own club for other students like you, who were having a hard time finding their way, socially. We saw growth in your self-esteem.  It made you feel good to help others and to find your tribe.

You see, that’s the thing about you. You always come through. You always survive. As a matter of fact, you thrive.

In so many ways, you are light years ahead of your peers. I know that ultimately, you will be okay. But right now, watching you tread water is so hard for me. I want to help you, but I’m walking the fine line of trying to let you go and you really not wanting my help.

I know you don’t want to be dependent on me. You never have.

It’s like I’m standing behind tempered glass, watching you flail and flounder. I’m close enough to hear you scream, but unable to reach out and help you. It’s agony for a mother like me.

Transitions are tough. I’m going through one too. I mean, holy shit! I have two young adults now! 

I’m at this very strange point in motherhood where a big part of my job is over. The waking you up for school, making breakfast, packing lunches, supervising homework, breaking up fights.

You have been doing all of those things for yourself for a while now. (Well, the breaking up of fights between you and your brother, not so much.)  At least now, he doesn't live here and when you do argue, there is no bloodshed.

(Yes. I’m being dramatic. You know me. What can I say?)

I have moved past the consulting stage of motherhood where I resided for most of your adolescence. You remember, the days when you would ask for my help, and you actually, really wanted it!

Now, you come to me to talk. You ask, “What am I supposed to do? How do I fix this?”

When I give you an answer,  you spit it up, like you did when you were a baby after a feeding.  It’s like,  Anything I say, can and will be used against me in a court of law.  

So here we are. I’m stuck between this rock and a hard place and you're going through a rough spot. I’m trying to step back, allowing you to make your own decisions, but keeping my mouth shut has never been my strong suit.

You’ve seen Nana when she shouts out her two-cents from another room . She doesn't even have to be a part of the conversation! You ask me a question and she answers. Yeah. I get it from her and she gets it from my grandmother.

Like you, I’m self-aware and I’m working on my ability to shut the hell up, but it’s not easy.

I feel like I should put duct tape over my mouth, so I can’t offer advice that you don’t really want.

I have always been a fix-it kind of mom and you know that about me.

So now it’s like, “Help mom! Fix it!” and then, “NO! Don’t fix it like that! That is absolutely the wrong way to fix it! Why did I ask you in the first place!?”

You see Blue, I learned the hard way with your brother.  I can’t be the fixer during your transition to adulthood. It’s a fine tight-rope to walk and my balance ain’t so good.

So, I put supports in place for you to use, but even they can’t do the work for you. You’re the only person who walks in your shoes. You have to do the work.

We have never had to be the parents who had to take things away and ground you because you were not taking care of things at school.  You always handeled your business.

Now, when I see you burying your head in your phone because it makes you feel better temporarily, I want to scream, “Put the phone down!”

I want to take it away because I know that it’s inhibiting your progress.  It's slowing you down. It's part of the reason you can't get your homework done, or get to school on time. But, I can’t do that. You’re almost 18.  I can’t start micro-managing your life now. You have to be in control. I can’t ground a damn-near adult for infractions of self-sabotage.

So, I watch you cozy up to the end of the cliff. I’m standing here, praying that you don’t fall. knowing that you’re bigger than I am. I can’t catch you, even if I want to.

I wish I didn’t have to watch. Why can't I just cover my eyes? Or leave and come back this time next year? I actually think sometimes, if I wasn’t an audience for you, you would do better.

Your brother is doing so much better now that he has some distance from me. So there is a whole other set of guilt and blaming myself for your problems.

I know, in my head, I am not the source, but it sure feels like it sometimes.

You’ve even said to me, “It’s not about you Mom!”

Well, when you’re yelling at me because you’re frustrated, it sure does feel like it is about me.

I know for sure, we will find our way through this transition.

I will rally up the troops to support you in areas where I can’t,  and you won’t let me.

We will get through this.
It won’t be easy.
But we survive.
We face our challenges, and we move through them.

And in the end, I know you will thrive.

I love you,

Mom

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dear Obamas

Dear Obamas,

I couldn't sleep last night. I was thinking about you. I wondered how you're sleeping in The White House on your final night. You're probably ecstatic about your emancipation on this day.

As I tossed and turned in my bed, I wondered...

Have the girls tried out their new beds yet?
Where will you go on vacation?
How long will you be gone?
A month? 
A few weeks?

You deserve some rest and relaxation without the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Will Sacha get to go with you, or is she still in school?

She's a teenager now. She must love her friends and her school.  Your girls have become beautiful young women. They make me feel like their proud Auntie. I'm every girl's adopted Auntie since I only have boys.
`
Are you and Michelle as in love as it seems?  Your relationship looks like the real thing --authentic love, based on knowing and having mutual respect and admiration for one another. The love is palpable, like something you can pick up and spread around you like pixie dust.  I feel it when I see the way that you look at each other.

I realize it can't be all storybook and romance. Marriage is work. My husband and I have been doing it for nearly twenty-two years. It has been beautiful and inspiring for us to watch your partnership. May it continue to flourish for years to come. I have a feeling it will.

I can only imagine the mixed emotions you're all feeling today.  We are all feeling them too.

We are worried about the future, but even through that, we look to you and find solace in your reassurance that we will be alright.

This is a setback for a setup of progress. I pray that it is. I must admit, that I am really scared more than ever in my lifetime. I know, that this country has been through adversarial times before, and we have always survived as Americans.  I reassure my boys of this while trying to believe that this time, it actually will be okay.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your hard work, despite the challenges and opposition you faced at every turn. You were always a dignified example for us all, especially for our children.

Because of your example and all that is happening in the world, one of my sons who happens to have autism and a brilliant mind for science and math is now actually considering a career in politics or political activism. He may not run for office, but he definitely wants to do something that will have an impact on changing our society for the better.  There is obviously so much more work to do.

A funny little story...

He was in the third grade when you were running for office the first time. I remember one day I had to scold him while we were at our local swimming pool. "Stop talking about politics and go swim!" I wanted him to be worn out so he would sleep well that night.

We will continue to look to you and pray for your family. With sadness in my heart on this day. We will love you forever. You will always be my President and First Family.

Love,
Karen Wesley Weaver,
Writer, Mother, World Changer 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thankful for the Memories


I could tell you stories about this girl.
She was living in L.A.
It was her world.
too naive to be afraid or cautious.
just out there living,
thought her life was flawless.
Building, making a living, by a string.
Never knowing how much the money pay day would bring.

These stories I could tell might make you blush.
Have your mouth hanging open,
your head would rush.
Like you had a cocktail.
Did she really do that?
Did she wear that?
No shame.
No sorrow.
No worries about tomorrow.

Between twenty and twenty-five
found a deep,
loving relationship.
made her feel more alive
than ever.
So much time together
they spent.
She hoped would end in engagement.
It didn't.
It was over.
He went his way.
She went hers,
with a broken heart,
wondering if she would ever find love again.
Would she ever stop dreaming of him?
Wondering why it had to come to an end.
It had been so right, for so long.
Until it wasn't.
What went wrong?
Exactly, she would never know.
Bad timing.
Not meant to be.
How could that be true
so in love was she.

Twenty-five to twenty-eight.
the party on pause.
She got her head on straight.
Found love again,
of the marriage persuasion.

Before she would settle down,
with the love she had prayed for...
There were adventures.
There were travels.
So many doors
to walk through.
There were lovers, some forbidden,
made them all the more fun.
Friends, jazz festivals, concerts...
always on the run.
Weekends in Palm Springs,
shopping sprees, girlfriends.
A career.
Her own business
making ends
meet.
It was cool, wild, free,
unerving at times.
A place of her own
-where she wrote her own rhyme.
Lonely days
-especially Sundays.

What there was not...
were any real worries.
Somehow, the rent would be paid.
Car notes would end, without aid
from anyone or anybody
Enough money for that weekend in San Francisco.
That trip to Mexico,
nights at the disco,
margarita drinkin,
glasses full with libation
would be carried out of bars,
into open air cars,
back to the hacienda.
There would be oceans, bikinis and waves broken.
Montezuma would have his revenge.
Oh, but the laughter, and the ocean.
It was worth it.
All of it was...

The party became a wedding.
The girl became a wife,
a mother, a woman no longer waiting
for true love.
Carefree days
became carefull days,
of nurturing,
and the sweet smells of the most perfect baby
she ever would see
The tiny human
How could she ever love him
more?

Days would come when she would ponder
and wonder
what happened to her?
Where did that girl go?
Who is this new person
she has become?
Is the girl still there,
somewhere deep inside her?

The memories alone would give her smiles for years to come.
Glad that she had them
to reflect on
The distance of those days of fun and freedom
would sustain her.
She smiled at that young naughty girl,
and then she exhaled.
Thankful for the memories.




Monday, December 5, 2016

I was just thinking...


Inside my head 
 there is light 
ideas 
to-do lists that never end
darkness
danger
loneliness
 thinking
observing
examining
   simple things 
become complex 
the complex, unfinished 
celebratiion of mastery
open your eyes
you will see it
it's there 
I promise 

 Who am I? 
 writer 
mother 
wife
daughter
sister 
friend
  human 

How did I get here? 
Where am I going? 
 I live here? 
Really?
What do I want?

Where are you old friend? 
What happened to us?
Thank you new friend
illumination in a dim world
grateful, true friend
 lifetime friend 

Progress
is there 
Wake up! 
Pay attention!  
He's playing music
 planning
 reaching  
thinking thoughts 
he didn't think before
washing linens
developing relationships
making a life
simple things
are huge 
if you watch
you will see
It will rock your world
if you let it

Hold up
autism
 regression
anxiety
I hate you 
let it be
the universe is doing it's thing 
without my help
wait a minute
there it is... 
accomplishment in minutia
grace in action
 success 
and then some
behind peers here 
light years ahead, there 
 mind -overflowing
 heart generously given
away
he is me 
the best
 the worst 
a mirror
 a reflection 
I wish not to see

And then there is marriage 
all encompassing 
all in
fidelity 
promises kept
we are one 
and yet, two
growing together
falling apart
giving our all
keeping inadequate pieces
he wants me 
he needs me 
so does he
 so does she
there has to be me 
before there can be we 
without me
 there is no us 

I love you 
I am in love with me too




Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Only Way to Walk

I confess  ~I am glad that I was 180 miles away from Blue this weekend. The distance betwen us allowed me not to fully take on his anxiety the way that I normally do. He was overwhelmed with his research paper and other homework assignments. Of course as always, I felt guilty for leaving, but once I did, I was happy with my decision.

I went to an adult party Friday night at my friend's house in Houston. Well, it wasn't exactly all adults. There were children and teenagers present, but not mine.  It's difficult for me to socialize at a party if my children are present. Who am I kidding? I'm so out of practice, it's hard for me to socialize period, these days. I've reached the point in life, where I don't like small talk. It feels like a waste of my already limited energy. If we're not going to connect --if I'm not learning anything real about you, your life, your world view, or sharing something real about mine, I would rather sit in a corner and play with the animals and small children. Children and pets are always authentic.

But of course, I digress...

During the party, I started getting a texts and missed calls from Blue. He was freaking out about his research paper that was due on Monday. He had gathered so much information and couldn't sort through it all, to narrow it down to a reasonable size, in order to complete the paper. He had already used extended time over the Thankgiving break to get it finished.

After several panicky texts. I called to talk to him. It ended up being a waste of energy. He wasn't listening to anything that I said. He was just venting and spriraling himself up into oblivion. When he finally stopped to take a breath, I redirected him to some of the resources of help that he does usually listen to (his mentor Kylie, his Language Arts teacher and his therapist)  and then I hung up.

The next day, I talked to him one more time where again, he would hardly let me get a word in.
Okay, I get it. Lesson learned. It takes me a while sometimes.

Talking to him is a pointless energy drain when he's like this. After this conversation, I decided that we would only have text communication for the rest of the weekend. This way, I could temper my reactions and empathize with his feelings, instead of being compelled to offer advice that he wouldn't take anyway. I would give short, concise responses that would not translate my heightened state of emotion. Hopefully, therefore, not increasing his emotion.

He continued to rant via text about not having enough time to do everything and feeling pulled in too many directions. He came up with objections to all suggestions given to him by his support system.

Instead of getting upset and emotional, I texted responses saying things like...

"When you're ready, I'm sure you will take one step at a time. It's the only way to walk."

"I know you will get through this."

"A lot of people have issues with procrastination. I know I do. Sometimes, I have to force myself to start working. I just do my best.."

"I can't afford to be a perfectionist when I need to get things done. I have to relax my high standards, because I just want to finish."

His reaction...

"Nothing is going to work!!! I can't do anything! I'm too slow at everything!"

My response...

"You sound upset. I'll be glad when this nightmare is over for you."

"I know that there will be a resolution in the end, and I'm willing to bet it won't be death."

 "As Dory says, "Just keep swimming!"

His reaction...

"What if I can't complete it? What about this other assignment? What about the other project?"

"Feeling like I will never finish, makes me want to shut down and do nothing."

My response...

"It must suck to feel that way. Well, all you can do is your best."

Then, I started sending messages about chunks of time that I would not be available at all --where my phone would be on do not disturb.  This would give him chunks of time to choose to do the work or not.

I was in Houston with my husband visitng my girlfriend. I needed this time. I don't have much adult socialization (other than online) when I'm at home.

I texted statements like, "I'm going to take a nap now. I won't be available for a while."

Or, "I'm going to brunch. I will not be able to respond for the next three hours."

And then finally, "I am going to dinner and a concert. I won't be able to respond for the rest of the night."

Finally, Sunday night while I was at the concert (Barbra Freaking Streisand, by the way! And Yes. She was phenomenal! It was the concert of a lifetime, that I will never forget. Thank you bestie for getting tickets for us! I love you more than cookies!) I received this message from Blue...

He said, "I know you won't read this tonight, but I took the rest of the day and finshed my final paper. Ms. A. (our neighbor) will be picking me up early in the morning so I can finish my test review then."

Ah yes! He has risen to the expectation!

At the intermission, I responded, "I am so proud of you!!!"

He didn't finish everything he had on his plate, but he did finish his paper. One of the reasons it was so difficult for him, is that he such felt deep emotion for his subject, which was Racism in America.  He wanted to put everything in that he had learned in the paper, but he was out of time and it was only supposed to be a 5 page paper.

Here is one of my favorite lines that he wrote.

"...in order to eradicate racism once and for all, we primarily have to face the discomforting battle of defeating implicit bias, along with peacefully advocating for racial integration, reform the criminal justice system, and most importantly, remember to fight oppression with love instead of hate."

Has he been listening to his mama, after all? 

I think we both made progress this weekend.
His was putting together a brilliant piece of writing, despite his challenges.
Mine, was letting go just a little bit more.
The distance between us allowed us both to grow.
I knew he could do it.
One step at a time.
It's the only way to walk.

Monday, November 21, 2016

In the Darkness of Morning

The first phone call came in at 6:30 a.m. "Mom how did this happen? What are we going to do?" On that Wednesday morning, we woke up to the realization that we had a new President. My boys were scared. I can't remember ever feeling literaly scared for our lives because of who became our President.

Editorial Note: You don't have to agree with the feelings that I have shared in this piece. 
 I am an African American woman, a mother,  of 3 boys, 2 with  hidden disabilities. I am 
writing from the point of view of my life experiences.
 Yours may be different. I honor and accept that.
 I do ask that you be respectful, or chose not to read. 
I'm good with that. 

Sometimes, I don't know where the words come from when I'm trying to keep the boys calm, especially, when I'm not.  I heard my voice say, "We're going to go to work and to school. I tell you what we're not going to do. We're not going to argue with others about their feelings. We're not going to respond to racist or bigoted comments with negativity. We're going to keep living our lives as we always have."

Kendal (Red) loves to argue with people, even when he has no basis or knowledge for his argument.  He won't actually read anything about the election or the candidates. He just listens to who ever is talking, the loudest. (Kind of like a lot of Americans did in this election.) Apparently a lot of  people listened to the loud mouth liar's stories of gloom, about how horrible everything is in America. How he is going to be our savior. How? I'm not sure, because he did a lot of double talking without saying anything of substance.  He changed his story as often as he changed his clothes.

Kendal voted for the first time.  I'm not ashamed to say I dragged him to the polling place and told him that every vote counts. "But this is a Republican state," he said. "We still have to vote. We have to make our voices heard. Some of our ancestors died so that we would have this right."

I couldn't help him in the voting booth, but I know that he went with his heart, and against racism. He knows that only one of the candidates had plans to do anything to help people with disabilities.

That Wednesday morning, I hoped that he wouldn't go to work with an angry mentality, looking for an argument where ever he could find one. It could get ugly, real fast.

By 7 a.m. Blue was standing in my doorway, in the darkness, his head hanging down, wearing nothing but a t-shirt and boxers.

"Mom. How am I supposed to go to school and face these people today? I can't do this.  I can not listen to all of those ignorant kids, who will say idiotic things, and gloat about the fact that he won. Most of them have no idea how we will be effected!"

Without the right to vote because they are only seventeen, a number of his friends are politically passionate. They've been debating for months as this ugly election cycle unfolded. Blue's mind is completely open to all points of view. In this Red state of Texas, you can bet he heard the views on the from those who support the Republican Party. As an independent thinker, he does not simply follow the political ideation of his parents. He's more academic about it. He reads. He does research. He even goes back into Presidential, American and World history to evaluate what has happened in the past, so that he can assess what may happen now. He is no fan of Hillary Clinton or a fan of any particular party. Still, because of the racist rhetoric that had been spewed during the election season, he was disappointed and even frightened by the person who was elected.

To be honest, he would have been frightened in another way if Hillary had been elected. He questioned her position on Syria. He made me start doing research on the current situation, so that I could have a half-way intelligent conversation about it with him.

My emotions were all over the map that morning. I went from denial, to disbelief, to dissappointment, anger, fear and profound sadness.

I was the person who told Blue a year ago, "Don't worry. It will never happen. There's no way in hell, the majority of Americans will vote for that guy!"

Well, the majority did not vote for him, and yet, he was elected.
Ha! Never say never. 
America has a President Elect who used hatred, racism, and sexism as a part of his platform.
America has elected a President who publicly made fun of a man with disabilities. What a horrific example to set for the children of today.
We have a elected President who spoke of sexual assault against women, and then casually dismissed it as "locker room talk," as if it was no big deal.
We have a President Elect who appears to be all about people who look just like him, white, male and wealthy.
We have a President Elect who talks about not allowing people into our country who are Muslim, and having the ones who are here be on some kind of registry. Sound like any other fascist leader in world history? 
He talks about deporting thousands of Mexicans, breaking up their families and building a wall to keep others from coming in.
As far as I'm concerned, America bought a lemon from a used car salesman. He played on working class people who feel disinfranchised with our government for various reasons.
He double talked about helping the working class, while is life has demonstrated that what he cares about, is making and keeping as much money as he can for himself and others who look like him.
He talks about more tax cuts for the wealthy, when he doesn't pay any taxes.
I pay taxes! A lot of freakin' taxes!

The big question I am asking myself is, what will this mean for our family?
I have three black sons.
What will be the climate of this America be, since we have elected a leader to the highest office in our country, who used racism to incite violence at his rallies during his run for office?

On that Wednesday morning, my boys were scared and frankly, I was too.  I didn't have the luxury of wallowing in all of my feelings. My boys have autism and high anxiety. When their anxiety is high, I have to appear to be calm. I have to figure out a way to explain the unexplainable, even when I am as confused and upset as they are.

As people of color, we have always had no choice but to face the music. Racism and descrimination is not new to us. The boys have been sheltered from a lot of it. They have never lived in the hood. They have always lived in a house, in the surburbs, in a racially diverse community.
They have never attended schools where the population is so poor that they don't get the same learning opportunites and access to technology, that everyone else does --a school where their special education resources are minimal. We have worked hard to give them the best possible opportunities, despite our challenges.

Sure, they've received strange looks when walking through a store.
Sure, they have been the ony black kid in their class.
They been called the N word, more than once. We all have.
They have never NOT been hired, or not promoted when they were more qualified than a white counterpart. I have. Their Father has. 

Still, they are cognizant enough to see that black men are being killed and incarcerated by police at a disproportinate rate.
They are fearful about learning to drive because they may be pulled over for driving while black. Their father has, and he has the nerve to drive a fancy car. They've seen it happen to me. They've seen me pulled over, detained and given a warning for something I did not do, while in a predominantly white neighborhood, while also driving a fancy car. 
Because of their autism, their facial expressions may indicate nervousness or even anger if they were pulled over, which could be interpreted the wrong way and their life could be ended in the blink of an eye.
They know this much about racism.

In the fog, I said to Blue, "Our country and our people have been through times worse than this. We lived through slavery. We lived through the depression, through the Civil Rights Movement. We lived through Presidents who took us to wars we should not have been in.
We survive.
We get through.
We get up.
We go to work.
We go to school and do our best.
We build our own life.
We take care of each other, and try to make whatever small changes in the world around us that we can make."

Blue's response, "People died going through all of those things."
He is right.
Some did die, but overall, our nation survived.
I sensed his dispair, his vulnerabitlity.
His anxiety wants him to live in a world that he can control.
It just became more uncontrollable.

Photo Credit to Someone other than me.  Found it on FB. 
I tried to bring these astronomical feelings and worries down to a size that he can handle. "The one thing we can do on this day, is show someone love and compassion. Show people that some of the hate-filled perceptions they have about us, are dead wrong. Go to school.  Kill them with kindness and your intelect, as your dad always says. You can control that."

That's all I could come up with in the moment. I don't know if I totally believed what I said, myself, but those were the words that came out in the darkness of morning, after not having slept most of the night. I had awakened at four a.m., unable to go back to sleep until I found out the results of the eletion. Once I found out, sleep eluded me.

Blue was still too upset to start getting ready to school. He ranted for a while. I listened, and then asked him, "What choice do we have? Do we just lay down and say the world is over? That's not an option. We have to keep going."

He didn't want to go to school. Part of me didn't want to send him. If he was half as tired, sad and pissed as I was, I didn't know how he would make it through the day.
He's younger. He had slept. He has already missed too much school this year.
I sent him.

It wasn't an hour later, after I dropped him off that he texted me.

Him -"I can't be here surrounded by these people. F*@% them!"
Me -"Love them. Meet ignorance with love. That's how we win,"
Him -"That's useless. They're arrogant! I can't change any of them!"
Me -"Never give up. You're generalizing all of them.  We don't want people to do that to us. Probably more than half of your classmates feel the same way you do."
Him -"But now one of the most arrogant racists in the world, is now the face of America! People all over the world are going to hate us!"
Me -"There is still more love than hate in the world. Today, you are surrounded by the same people you were surrounded by yesterday. You can do this."
Him -"Maybe if they hadn't LIED to us and said America is about freedom!"

I decided to share with Blue the words from a friend of mine, another autism mom, an Advocate and a champion for others. We have become friends through my online autism network. She volunteered many hours for Hillary -for equality during this election. She also served on President Obama's transition team when he was elected. She has young children with autism. She is a warrior for them and many others in the city in which she lives.  She is a total rock star!

My friend Anna wrote on Facebook and I quote, in part,

"I know many of you are devasted and afraid of what yesterdays election results mean for women, African Americans, Latinos, AAPIs, LGBTWIA, and people with disabilities. My son doesn't understand why Hillary Clinton is not President and a bully like Donald Trump, is. It's hard. I'm sending my love. We will get through this together...when you have nothing to lose, when you have always been the underdog, you get used to fighting back. I'm not giving up on our dreams and our vision for an inclusive and just society --not today, not ever... Stay positive!"

After I sent her words to him via text,  I didn't hear from him for the rest of the day.
Coming home from school ...giving up, giving in, was not an option.

Worried, I called the school to see if there would be anyone on campus to talk things through with those who may be upset about the results the election. I guess I forgot where we live for a second.  We live in Texas. We live in a school district that asked parents if they wanted to "opt out" when President Obama wanted to address the nation's children in school, about the importance of education. I will never forget the racial undertones in that note they sent home. If you don't want your chidren listening to this black, Harvard Educated, Democratic President, sign on the dotted line. 

Most of the people who live in this community are not upset. They didn't lose anything.  62% of the county that we live in, voted for this outcome.  Most don't have anything to fear. They don't have to worry that racism is more acceptable now. Most don't have to think that people who have disabilities or differences, were mocked by the man who was elected, thereby making it more aceptable for others to do the same.

My sons live surrounded by people who are oblivious to their challenges. Most people are voted thinking  of their own situation and what will help them. How others who don't have their privilege are affected, is probably not even be a blip on their radar.

I realize that the 60 million people who voted for this candidate are not all racist. There are many good people who voted for this outcome. They had their reasons. Some voted for change. Some voted for an outsider, a strong leader who they believe will shake things up in Washington. Some voted for jobs that we are losing to other countries. Some voted against a political system that they feel has ignored them.

What they did not vote against, is racism.  Racism was not a deal breaker.  That is a hard pill to swallow. I'm choking on it.

I could be angry with the so called good people who voted for him, despite his personal failures, depite the freedoms that are at stake.  But what does that anger do for us?  When I'm angry, I can't see clearly. I've decided to try my best not to be angry, but to be motivated. More motivated than ever to fight for those who are being marginalized because of their differences.

The question we should all be asking is, "What can we do that will actually help our country, given our current circumstances?"

We continue to live our lives.
We continue to do our best in our jobs, and in school.
We become the change we want to see in the world.
We can't run.
We won't hide.
We get involved.
We fight -just as I have fought for my children's rights to a fair and appropriate public education.
The fight isn't new. It's just more blatant, and impossible to ignore. We can't sit back, and just wait and see what this guy is going to do, and hope for the best.  I hoped for the best outcome of this election. That didn't work out so well for us.

As I try to find something positive in this situation, I have come to realize that there are more people who are in this fight for equality. As I browse through my Facebook newsfeed, I see more support for the fight, than I ever have before, from people of all races, politcial backgrounds, sexual orientation and religions. I'm one of the lucky ones I guess.  My friends are racially and culturally diverse, but very few voted in a way that could compromise the freedoms of others.

It is my prayer that this new dialog will lead to us banding together in action. I pray that more of us will actively stand up and fight for the rights of everyone in this country. That we will not sit back and say, this is happening to those people. It doesn't affect me.  When one group of people starts losing their rights in this society, it's only a matter of time before there is another group, and then another. This effects all of us.

When we see the President Elect filling up his transition team with more faces of White Supremacy, we have to ask ourselves, what the hell have we done?
We can not remain silent.
We must be vigilent.
We have to actively stay on our leaders in the Senate and in Congress, to make sure they do not allow our country to be further divided.
WE MUST work together.
We can't sit back and just watch it all happen.

It is my prayer that we work together and keep the dialog open about what's really going on. Maybe then this election will be the catalyst for the real positive change, that we've all been looking for.

For the sake of my chidren, I remain hopeful.