Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mind your own (parenting) business

Posted By on Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 11:35 AM

A very, very good friend of mine, who I will not name here, has a son who is "on the spectrum." If you know what that phrase means, then you probably know someone with autism.

I've watched as the six-year-old boy and his family have struggled to understand and cope with the realities of autism for years, and I can tell you no part of the disease is easy. The family has tried everything, even recently jetting to a far-away city to see a specialist for a couple of hours. No expense is too great, no treatment too out of the ordinary. Whatever it takes to help their son, and thereby their entire family, they're willing to give it a try.

I look at my friend sometimes and tell her how impressed I am by her diligence and her capacity for love. Researching the disease and its myriad "cures" is a job in and of itself. I know the boy's lucky. He's a handful on good days.Under the wrong supervision, someone else would probably beat him to death.

What kills me, though, are all of the people who discount his condition and offer parenting advice to his parents as if fixing him would be as easy as a spanking and a nice, long timeout. People, who maybe spend five minutes a year with him, proclaim, "Oh, he's just being a boy." Some, even so called good friends, call the mother "crazy" behind her back and suggest all of the child's problems are her fault, that she should just whip the kid more.

If they would spend any time at all with the child, or the family, they'd know that a whipping makes him laugh. They'd know that he's as brilliant, funny and precocious as he is out of control some days. His mother and I, in the few minutes we get on occasion to unwind together over tea, talk seriously about how he'll either grow up and be really evil or really good — and right now it's a toss up, but she's trying her best to direct him toward goodness. Sometimes we laugh about the prospect, but mostly we acknowledge how exhausting it is to keep up the fight.

So, knowing all of this about this one Charlotte-area family, I was not surprised to read this headline from today's News & Observer: "Parents of children with autism: We struggle alone."

No shit. But not only are parents of autistic kids isolated, they're also ridiculed far too often by people who have no clue what they're going through — people who distribute parenting advice in such a manner as to suggest everything in their own home is peachy keen (which I sincerely doubt; no one is perfect).

I'm rarely there when this type of behavior goes down. I don't have kids, neither do I want any. I don't stand in line at the end of the school day, gossiping about my neighbor's parenting skills. No, at best I listen to a dear friend of mine who has tried everything she can think of to help her son. A friend who, at times, breaks down in tears because of the occasionally mean-spirited "advice" from people who think she's out of her mind. There's nothing I can say to comfort her. I tell her not to pay attention, but I know it's hard not to.

From the outside looking in, it feels and looks like those comments radiate from a group of grown-folks who haven't realized their playground bullying days are over, and, in reality, I guess they're not. The part of me that's fiercely protective wishes I could rent a bullhorn, stand in front of my friend's house and tell everyone and their ill-placed advice to fuck off and mind their own business. I guess I kinda just did that. (Thank you Internets.)

I guarantee we all have plenty of our own problems to solve before we go dispensing advice, so, next time, before you decide to critique someone else's anything, look in the mirror. Further, instead of criticizing other people, try listening instead. Try a little empathy. Try lending a hand. Show a little compassion. And, drop the facade — everyone knows you're no saint. You wanna fix a kid? Fix your own.

In related news: An autistic boy's father was beaten at an Olive Garden restaurant in Florida because his autistic son wasn't quiet enough for another restaurant patron (CBS) Amazingly, this is what the beaten man, Richard Bennett, had to say about his attacker, "I would hope that he would reflect on his actions and realize that the situation went way out of control. He certainly wouldn't want a member of his family treated that way."

This little boy reminds me of my friend's child:

Here's Quinn, the kid in the video above, at age five:

No shit. But not only are parents of autistic kids isolated, they're also ridiculed far too often by people who have no clue what they're going through — people who distribute parenting advice in such a manner as to suggest everything in their own home is peachy keen (which I sincerely doubt; no one is perfect).

I'm rarely there when this type of behavior goes down. I don't have kids, neither do I want any. I don't stand in line at the end of the school day, gossiping about my neighbor's parenting skills. No, at best I listen to a dear friend of mine who has tried everything she can think of to help her son. A friend who, at times, breaks down in tears because of the occasionally mean-spirited "advice" from people who think she's out of her mind. There's nothing I can say to comfort her. I tell her not to pay attention, but I know it's hard not to.

From the outside looking in, it feels and looks like those comments radiate from a group of grown-folks who haven't realized their playground bullying days are over, and, in reality, I guess they're not. The part of me that's fiercely protective wishes I could rent a bullhorn, stand in front of my friend's house and tell everyone and their ill-placed advice to fuck off and mind their own business. I guess I kinda just did that. (Thank you Internets.)

I guarantee we all have plenty of our own problems to solve before we go dispensing advice, so, next time, before you decide to critique someone else's anything, look in the mirror. Further, instead of criticizing other people, try listening instead. Try a little empathy. Try lending a hand. Show a little compassion. And, drop the facade — everyone knows you're no saint. You wanna fix a kid? Fix your own.

In related news: An autistic boy's father was beaten at an Olive Garden restaurant in Florida because his autistic son wasn't quiet enough for another restaurant patron (CBS) Amazingly, this is what the beaten man, Richard Bennett, had to say about his attacker, "I would hope that he would reflect on his actions and realize that the situation went way out of control. He certainly wouldn't want a member of his family treated that way."

This little boy reminds me of my friend's child:

Here's Quinn, the kid in the video above, at age five:

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