To Today’s Youth: Stay Loud, Stay Strong!

Yesterday, I went on a 12 hour day trip with my 15 year old. Every so often I plunge myself into this world of his that is so fascinating to me and I come away with a greater sense of what it is like to be young today. I have to say, it’s a little complicated, it’s got it’s difficulties but is it also it’s pretty cool. It is quite different from my time as a teenager but some of the struggles are still the same.  The worst part of being a teenager is being misunderstood by adults who are just teenagers who finally got old enough to have their way and boy do they ever hang on to it for dear life!  My teenagers are going to be adults one day too who will have their way and my only hope is that they remember to listen and approach the younger generation with eyes and mind wide open and be okay with letting go of some of the ways they do things in order to evolve. I hope they approach the young better than we have in generations past because just maybe they would learn something from them, the way I do now.

During the drive with my son, I listened to some very poetic and emotional rap with enlightened ears and learned why my son identified with it. I was taught the difference between talking to a specific girl and dating a girl. I found out that in his high school, it is understood that different groups exist and are accepted. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out with everyone but it certainly means that if you are discovered to be a hater you are considered a loser and pretty much a cave person. I learned that he is ever so gradually making decisions about things in his life that are making little statements about who he is and who is is striving to be and I couldn’t be more proud.  One thing was clear to me in light of my conversations with my son yesterday, good kids are raised by good people but there are still too many negative people and situations that we have to get around, so much archaic nonsense we need to get rid of, that stand in the way of our youth making significant change.

Last weekend I watched American youth march for what they believed in. They marched for change. They were not asking their government for anything unreasonable. They want their government to implement stricter gun control, implement stricter laws surrounding weapons. They were asking their government to help them live. They were asking their government to help them survive at school, a place where they should be safe so that they can learn. The world watched a turn out on March 24th that was massive. The youth had a voice and stayed strong amidst many horrible comments from politicians funded by the NRA as well as the ignorant masses who were solely concerned about their right to own a gun. The positive support these young people received outweighed the crass negativity. The youth stayed loud and strong and they prevailed.

Over the course of history, it was the young who initiated significant change. The young possess and fire and a drive to live life the way they want to – the way life needs to be lived. They want safety, they want justice, they want humanity, they want peace and so did we when we were young. Young David Hogg, Parkland, Florida”s Stoneman Douglas High School  shooting survivor, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper before the event on March 24th, “It’s like when you try to tell an older person how to do something with their phone and you keep trying to explain to them what to do and eventually you just turn to them and say ‘just give it to me’ and you fix it. That’s what we are doing now. We are saying to the government just give it to us. You’re not doing anything to fix this so we are going to fix it”. For many of us, that burning flame inside us that drove us to make a difference was extinguished. Maybe we hit hard times, maybe we were tired of trying and being beaten down but when we looked behind us there was always someone young  who picked up that torch and began walking towards that goal of achieving all the things we all ever wanted as a people on earth. That is what is happening in America now. The young are tired of waiting on adults to fix the problems in their society so they are stepping up to the plate and do what needs to be done to stop 96 Americans from losing their lives to guns daily, because it is possible. Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland and many countries have proven that strict gun control law is the best way to prevent death by firearms. We have all seen the videos on social media and the stats. It is possible, yet America chooses not to amend gun laws because politicians need the funding, the funding comes from the NRA and politicians want to be in power to rule over the people who may not survive a gunshot wound on any given day in America.  Add to that, the ignorant masses who just want to have a gun for the power it gives them as they clutch it tightly in their hands.  No one looking from the outside really understands this twisted concept neither do the young people who are rallying against lax gun ownership laws. No one with half a brain understands why grown men and women are trying to character smear teenagers who just want to see their government make it harder for their peers to walk into a gun shop and buy an automatic rifle so they can return to school and slaughter students and teachers.

I love young people. Young people who possess the qualities of leadership make me proud to know them. They don’t just pop out of thin air either. They come from adults who teach and guide them as they navigate their way around right and wrong and around equality and injustice and good and evil. Good youth come from good people who raise them – parents, teachers, clergy and yes, occasionally good politicians.

I am so tired of the criticism of today’s youth because they happen to have grown up in the biggest and most impacting technological era of our time. I am tired of hearing older people criticize them for not socializing and for having their head down, eyes glued to the screens of their devices. My God, remember when youth were criticized for watching too much TV? Remember when Rock and Roll and Heavy Metal was looked upon as Devil Worship Music? To be young is to be criticized. That will never change because when people grow older and are unable to keep up with the way things evolve around them, they get jealous and grumpy and they say exactly what older people said about them when they were young. If you can’t find a place to be on the planet as it changes around you, don’t be cynical, just be quiet and kind because if you are, maybe that young person will help you turn on your phone.

 

Turn Off Your Damned Device and Get Some Sleep!

My husband and I were getting ready for work the other day and we were tuned in to a morning news/talk show. As usual there were various segments, a cooking segment, a travel segment, an interview with a Canadian author, an interview with a financial person, a political pundit was on and then there was a woman with a sleep pack who was insisting that this is a must have in today’s world because we are kept awake by the blue light from our electronic devices. We paused the TV and scooted back to the fluffier segments and we noticed a pattern. People love to be told what to do. We love to be led on by gimmicks and we have no problem literally buying into this mumbo jumbo and lining the pockets of these gurus looking to capitalize on their 15 minutes of fame.

In one morning, viewers were shown the fastest, most nutritious and most colourful and friendly March Break foods that “busy moms” can prepare for their children. We were shown various coloured mason jars (available at the dollar store or is you wanted something fancier you could look for them at Michaels’s or Bed Bath and Beyond (oh,yes) where we could put our latte money and splurge at the end of the week as a reward to ourselves for not blowing our money on frivolous things. (Yeah I know, eh?) We were shown the most mentally stimulating toys for kids (all electronic, mind you with that evil sleep stealing blue light) and my all time favourite that day, the essential sleep pack.

Before I get into my analysis of the ridiculous, let me give kudos to anyone able to rip us off by tricking us into thinking and believing their products are so vital to our well-being. If the trendy, frivolous gullible can fatten your bank account, then so be it. People, please, why do we think that we need to buy a sleep pack that has 8 parts to it? There were specially tinted shades for the blue light, a lavender oil that you can put into the mist generator so that the steam will give off a soothing scent sure to lull you to sleep.There was a mask/blindfold thing to put over your eyes and headphones that plugged into the sleep sounds audio machine along with a two tubed rubber thing to stick up your nostrils to allow easy air flow to prevent snoring, and oh yes, it came with a cooling gel pillow. So for just $380.00 plus shipping, handling and taxes, you could buy your way to sleep. How about this for free? Turn off your device 45 minutes before you are ready for bed, shut your curtains and go to sleep. Remember reading a book with paper pages and going to sleep? I know some people have real sleep issues but for those of you who really don’t (and you know who you are) just be disciplined enough to not have caffeine before bed time, shut down your device and your day and get some rest.

 

 

And Moms, how is it that every new generation of mothers is so much busier than the one before? How is it with the invention of washing machines and dryers and stoves and microwaves and air fryers, food processors, blenders, juicers, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, slow cookers and one cookers, mothers have become busier than mothers who had to make food from scratch, wash by hand, wring clothes by hand and hang them to dry on a clothes line? How is it that with the vacuums and fancy Swiffer’s and robot vacuums we are busier than mothers throughout the generations that did not have devices like these to help them about the home? For Moms who work, how is it different from when mothers from past generations worked?  What are new Moms doing that eat up so much more time than generations past? I mean, how long is play group?

 

 

 

Why is it that we need a pack, a book or a guide to figure out how to make special, fun and colourful food for our kids? And why do we have to put so much effort into the presentation of their food to make it colourful and pretty so that they will eat it? Why not teach your kids to cook and prepare their own snacks safely and cleanly over March Break? It won’t take very long to teach them and they will develop a great skill and a sense of independence.

My point is simple. With such an advanced state of existence, with so many devices that help us do so much, why do we need to be told how to do the simplest things? Why is everything an issue, a hurdle or a problem? Make a variety of food for your kids and don’t freak out if they don’t like something. We all have things we like and dislike. In my house, all I ever asked was that my family taste something before deciding they didn’t like it. My boys eat pretty much everything.They have things they don’t like and that’s fine but I cook one meal for the family to share because I am not making something different for each of us. If you take the drama and the power away from food, kids will eat and if you set the example of eating good nutritious food, that’s what they’ll choose.  By the way, you new Moms out there, we are all busy. People are busy and dare I say there are people out there in the world who don’t have young kids who are busier than you. Parenthood doesn’t make you busier than anyone else. I raised a very energy consuming, time and emotionally consuming kid with autism and there were and still are many people busier than me. Get a grip, get organized and whatever you can’t do one day, do in another. We make our lives harder than it needs to be in a time when so many devices make it so easy. And for God’s sake if you are tired, shut off your device and get some damned sleep.

Human-Kind

My son was not well at school yesterday.  When his teacher called to tell me he was feverish and sleeping in the quiet room, my heart sank.  It sank for him because yesterday was a day of the long awaited fulfillment of plans.  He was waiting for almost a year to go to a concert in Kingston with his support worker and friend, Lindsey, and the rest of the family was heading to Toronto to see a dress rehearsal at the National Ballet for my birthday. But that’s family life. Things are planned and plans change and we chalk it up to bad timing or bad luck or what have you. The James family day of artistic appreciation was taking a big hit.

My husband, eager not to disappoint (Tom is big on birthdays and hates to disappoint us) asked me to call around and see if (a) we could get Adam to a doctor to maybe have him quickly checked out (Adam is autistic so on the rare occasion when he is ill and it seems significant enough we like to get him checked out as he sometimes does not explain his symptoms properly) and (b) see if someone could stay with him while he rests in bed or (c) see if someone would go in his place and he would stay with Adam.  Willing to pull the plug on all of it (I am not big on making a fuss over my birthday and I am okay with disapointment), I compromised and called around to see what I could do.  The doctor said it sounded just like a cold was coming on or a flu and if he was the same the following morning to bring him in. Everyone else I called was going to this concert so I decided to fold and called his teacher to tell her Tom would pick up Adam from school and bring him home.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Adam, now 18, insisted on coming home on his bus.  He absolutely did NOT want his father to pick him up from school. He was willing to take an Advil and come home on the bus AND he was going to the concert. I could hear him vehemently stating his case, so to avoid a lengthy argument, we let him come home on the bus. By the time he got home, he had a big speech all planned that involved telling us in every which way he was going to the concert.  He was not burning up, he had a bath and as per the doctor’s suggestion, I gave him a Tylenol to go along with the Advil he’d had a bit earlier. He was perked up. He dressed as per Logan’s style suggestions in a light t-shirt, with a bluish hoodie, a black boxy jacket and his grey joggers that Logan gave him for Christmas. He ate a sandwich as a snack and showed me he’d eaten all his lunch at school and he was listening to the band he was going to see through his headphones.  He was going and THAT WAS THAT.  When a child who has never really been able to decide much for himself looks you in the eye (a thing rarely done by autistic persons) and puts his foot down regarding his own life, you have to respect it.  I had to respect his judgement.  He is 18 and is finally able to do what we have been waiting on for so long which is for him to express himself in a clear and well thought out fashion.  Against all of my maternal instincts, I agreed with his father, brother and teacher and with Adam and he went to the concert and we went to our show. After all, I remember taking the Comtrex back in the day when being at the party was of utmost importance to me. It was not easy to get to go out when I was younger and living at home with John and Angela. It is the same for Adam. It isn’t easy for him to go do a lot of stuff on his own and I can only imagine how frustrating it is for him to be stuck with Tom and Daniella when he knows people his age have so much more freedom. Mind you,Adam has a lot more freedom than most people with autism his age but there is always room for more because he has had a big taste of it , so who am I to stand in his way when I opened this door to his possible freedom for him? I have to respect his needs and decisions even if they are hard for me to do so. Should he have stayed home last night?  Most likely, yes, but I am not him and he REALLY wanted to do this and he got to do it even though it was miserable. He had full control of his life for a night which is after all, the point of growing up, isn’t it?

When Lindsey checked in with me, everything was good. She sent a photo of them smiling. They had eaten and had arrived at the venue. There was nothing to worry about as he was fever free and was smiling and happy. Around 7:30 we were involved in something going on before the performance when Logan noticed the Snapchat on his phone going off. He chose to ignore it at first but the Snaps kept coming. It was his friend from hockey and school whose mother also happens to work with us. Checking out the messages, he smiled and said that his friend just said he saw Adam heading into the concert.  A bit later on, the same friend Snapped again to tell Logan that he wanted him to know that Adam was throwing up in the tunnel of the arena and that he wanted to let him know in case his helper did not tell Tom or me. Of course, Lindsey had her hands full at the time and did text me a short time after and said that all was okay and though she offered, Adam was insisting he stay as long as he could and that she would pull the plug after a few songs.

Here is where the human kindness comes in. We (mostly I) worry what will happen to adult Adam when we are not around to look out for him. Not yet capable of being 100% independent, Adam is probably at around an 80% capability of independence right now and will to my best guess top out at about an 85%.  He may surge to 95% and prove me wrong, which will be fantastic but from what I know now, he will be able to live semi-independently, in that he may need support when it comes to getting to places on time, being mindful of his schedule and with his purchasing ability to a degree. I do not have this worry over Logan. But what this story proves to me, is that I have less to worry about than I thought because some of the people in this little town which I moved to kicking and screaming (I am more comfortable in cities), may not be perfect for me but is is for Adam. I have had neighbours and friends call me to tell me that they had just seen Adam walking over at place X and they wondered if that was okay and if I knew he was out of the house. At the time, Adam was on his way to work or practice and they had not known that he was at that point of independence and it was very reassuring that people (adults) do know him and want to make sure he is safe. What was the icing on the cake for me last night was that it was a soon to be 17 year old youngster who saw Logan’s brother and not only was happy to tell him that he had seen Adam, but was concerned enough to contact Logan again when he saw that Adam was not well. In an age of Millennials who barely speak words, (which is ironic because one of the biggest goals with Adam was to get him to communicate with words)  Tristin, at 17, showed the human kindness and concern I hoped Adam’s peers would show towards him and us. So many people turn a blind eye. So many people keep to themselves. So many people do not make time to connect with good friends, old friends or make new friends, it is nice to see that a teenager – someone who is a part of the most criticized group on the planet – was able to show such basic human kindness and therefore maturity which has been lost on many Millenials. Tristin used the same device teens are criticized for using excessively, to Snap his friend and let him know about his brother because he knew it was the right thing to do. The human kind thing to do.

Lindsey was as usual her wonderful human kind self.  Some of the support persons we had when Adam was younger would have bailed and brought him home and insisted we come home or would not have agreed to take him and give it a try. I already was loaded with guilt and “if only’s” and she did her best to put me at ease. She is also very keen on treating Adam age appropriately and respecting him as a young adult who can make wise decisions and choices. Adam tried to stay for a few songs but he ended up sleeping with his head rested on her shoulder before she woke him and skipped out of the venue and brought him to her home where she put him to bed. She told me how sorry he was that he got sick in the tunnel and that everyone was looking at them (which is an extremely rare thing for an autistic person. Since when does Adam care what people do or think?) Lindsey told him he did nothing wrong and it just happened and he was not to worry about it or worry about the people who were watching because it was none of their business, to which Adam replied “Yeah, $%^% them!” in between hurls. (Well he is 18, he has ears, has internet access, loves you tube and goes to high school – hence the answer, lol)

How fortunate and blessed we are to have put together such an amazing team for Adam in what are the most important years of his life as he launches into adulthood. We had been exposed at times to fantastic people who personally supported Adam as a child and many who were fabulous in the rough teen years, and now on this springboard upon which we stand as we prepare to let the world have our boys and let them fly into this unknown (to them) phase of life called adulthood, I couldn’t ask for a better team.  We have a great young male role model in Sebastian. In Courtney, we have a perfect just -a-year-older peer who teaches Adam how to be and in Lindsey we have a friend who is practically family. She has been with Adam and Logan from the time they were 9 and 7 when she was their teacher, then their tutor and now just a great support worker for Adam and I trust her so much that she is included in much of the decision making when it comes to Adam’s future.

There is so much to still worry over. The world will never be ideal no matter how easy it is for us to make it ideal for everyone by just acting out of love and human kindness. It is reality and we must accept it because we aren’t doing enough to change it. My worry however, is far less than it used to be because in this little town in which I have not found my groove, there is a groove for our Adam. As much as I love the city and Adam enjoys being in the city, a groove would have been much harder to carve out for him there. In fact, it would have been close to impossible and it would have been frightening to think of all that he would be vulnerable to in such a large, busy environment. I know my younger child will fly far from the nest. He has a lot of me in him and he will not settle in one place for a very long time and I understand why. But I am satisfied that my older child will thrive in an environment that is home to kind humans of all ages who are decent and good. The stories about Autism are not always uplifting. Autism is difficult. Autism is puzzling. Autism is isolating to the person and their family. Autism can feel like a life sentence that no one signed up for. Today, my story is one of hope for not just people with autism, but for all people. In spite of my weariness. In spite of my worries. In spite of my frustration. In spite of all the road blocks in this journey with Adam. In spite of my life, I have hope in humankind and this 51st birthday will be one to remember as the birthday when I felt in my heart the kids are going to be just fine.

 

 

Raising Boys in a #metoo Moment in Time

*This commentary is my personal opinion on my blog that I have chosen to express after conversations with my son and some of his peers. I believe in men and women being respectful to one another and I know this is possible between the sexes. I was prompted to write this because I am worried that many innocent men (including my boys) are open to having their lives ruined by wrongful and perhaps malicious accusations. You are also entitled to your opinion but obscene remarks will not be tolerated and will be reported.

 

Speak to a teenager about the things that go on in their world and you are propelled to places and things you never knew could exist. In the Caribbean when a teenager was a fast mover people would say.”Yes she self she so hot up. she and he go get theyself in trouble, oui!” or “Who he? He too mannish for his age! Cyah tell him nothing!” But it’s not just the world that pertains to teenagers that stuns me, it is all of it.

Oh, my goodness the times in which we live in are head shaking times.There is much to be proud of and fascinated by as there is to be disturbed about and I worry for my children. I worry because their father and I put so much into raising them to be good, kind, respectful, young men and though I know they are moving along the right path ( they are not perfect by any means), there is nothing that will protect them from things that my grandparents would have ever imagined happening in the world. From drugs to child pornography, to sexual, verbal and physical abuse, drinking and driving, being high and driving, to the possibility of being shot or stabbed at school, bullying, suicide, bullying due to sexual orientation, having no help and no hope, self harm, low self esteem, cutting, eating too much, eating too little, eating detergent pods, cyber crimes, terrorism… the worrisome list is far too long yet there was just enough room to squeeze in one more concern to me, which is my boys’ exposure to women in this world who will have no problem lying and hiding behind #metoo in order to hurt, shame and ruin them. Should this happen to them, even if they are proven to be innocent of false accusations, their good reputations will be tarnished and the damage could very well be irreparable and they would have to literally live life in the shadows.

We get a lot of compliments on our sons and how respectful and well-mannered they are. My boys are the ones who hold the door open for everyone. They will re-introduce opening a car door for a lady before getting into the car themselves.  They know how to dress appropriately and they stand when a woman arrives at or leaves a table and they take their grandmother by the arm to make sure she is sure-footed as she walks. In spite of all this, they are still wide open to malicious accusations of women who boldly and happily taint the whole premise of a movement that is significant to women as well as men worldwide – a movement that gave victimized women a voice and finally put inappropriate, twisted men in the eye of the law and behind bars for their despicable deeds. But these days there seems to be a witch hunt on ALL men and as a mother raising boys in the midst of a #metoo movement, I am frightened that anything they may say or do can be held against them and their good character.

I talk my head off. I talk every day, guiding, advising, teaching right from wrong. I have never talked more because I have teen sons and i have a limited amount of time to instill in them as much dignity, etiquette, accountability, respect, pride, self-worth and self-respect as I can. Their father and I parent them at lease 95% of the day and as exhausting as it is and as much as we would love to stop talking, it is our responsibility to them, to our family, our community, country and the world to raise them right. So for all you mothers of daughters who aren’t really paying close attention to what they are doing because you have to work, or you have problems or whatever your reason is for being unaware of their behavior and their whereabouts, I want to suggest you raise your daughters similarly to the way my mother raised me – you know the old school way all our mothers raised us before the smart phones.

It may be considered old-fashioned but not everything that is old is useless. I was raised to be strong, to have confidence in myself, to face my fears and learn from my mistakes. I was surrounded by love and I knew I was worth everything. My mother was instrumental in making be believe that I could do anything if I put my mind to it and while she never disallowed me to do something because I was a girl, she insisted I act like a lady.  Acting like a lady meant having respect for myself so that others would respect me and if they didn’t I was to say and do something about it because again, I was worth everything and I was loved. I was raised to know there was nothing I ever needed to hide from my parents and that led to me being comfortable enough and open enough to tell my mother (with whom I was quite close when I was a teenager) anything and very often it was her advice, her wise words that helped me get over many of the hurdles that accompany the roller coaster that was, is and always will be, teenage life.

My mother taught both me and my sister that we could be beautiful without feeling like we had to expose our bodies or try to come off as sexy all the time. Fortunately, I was never overly developed so pulling off sexy was really difficult for me and I actually felt sexiest (and still do) when I dressed for me – when I dressed to suit my mood and was comfortable with the way I looked and felt. I was never comfortable having the world see all of me all the time. My mother taught her daughters that less is more and that it was nice for people to see you without makeup and perfect hair from time to time because when the occasion did arise when we needed to dress up, our look would be different and refreshing. “Always surprise people,” she would say. “Never let them see you always dressed to the hilt. Let them see the different sides to you – the different moods and different styles. Never work hard to look perfect every day because if you are just yourself, your true inner beauty will shine through. She also told us to never to do anything to a boy that we would not want done to us. Never lead a person on if you are not interested in them beyond friendship and learn to take rejection. She would say, “Not everyone will be attracted to you and no one has to be your boyfriend because you want him to,” And one of the most important thing my mother gave to me and my sister is the ability to be alone. Being alone does not mean lonely, unwanted or unloved. It simply means that it is possible to be comfortable enough in one’s own skin to be single. Never rush into a relationship just to be in a relationship. Better to have no person in your life than the wrong person.

I have no idea what is being said to some of our young women today, but it isn’t right to slap a young man on his bottom and comment on said bottom, knowing that he can’t (or better not) say or do anything back to you. I know it has been said that a woman should be able to wear what she wants and no one has the right to look at her, or touch her or interpret her outfit as an invitation for sex, but if you squirm your way into too tight shorts that look more like panties than shorts, isn’t is true that you were aware of how it would look or feel. By choosing an outfit such as this aren’t you absolutely intending to reveal yourself so that others may look at you? Let me give you the answer – yes…yes you are. I was not a perfect teenager and of course I did things here and there for people to notice me but for the most part, I did not sell my butt cheeks on a daily basis. Now, I know you might be thinking, “well, you are a Trini and you have played Carnival just like everyone else, so how you could be a hypocrite so?” I have a response for that too. I played Minshall mas twice, (so you know I was clothed) and the other three times I played bikini mas with Harts and with a band that was called Poison. Trinidad’s and Brazil’s Carnival have been skin shows for many years now. My young cousins (20 somethings) play mas and they pay plenty money for their pretty but yes, brief costumes. Even so, they trend to the more clothed end of the bikini spectrum and they don’t behave like “Jamettes”*.  Mind you, no woman (or man) wearing anything revealing or tight has a right to be inappropriately touched or harassed. Absolutely not.  There is a time and place for carnival (Carnival costumes aren’t going to get any bigger anytime soon), there is nothing wrong with wearing your bathing suit on the beach or at a pool. It is perfectly normal to do something or wear something that makes you feel sexy and all women should embrace their bodies proudly. What I am talking about is my son and his friends seeing girls underwear everyday under too short kilts and because they change in the hallway and not in the ladies room. I am talking about groups of 8 to 10 girls hovering about boys at certain parties not moving until they all kiss all of them. I am talking about girls as young as grade 5 and 6 wearing the equivalent of volleyball shorts to school in the summer and painted on leggings in the winter while boys get in trouble for wearing muscle shirts. If they are not allowed to wear muscle shirts to school (and I wholeheartedly agree) then why do the schools turn a blind eye to the girls’ attire. I suppose if the teachers say anything they could be accused of looking at the girls or judging them and who wants to open any of the many can’s of worms surrounding our children based on political correctness. Good God, how frightening it must be to be a teacher, especially a male teacher these days.

I have cousins and friends with daughters who are lovely and I am not just talking about their face or their bodies. They are lovely because they are polite, they know that looking sexy is not for church, or school or the grocery store and they have boyfriends and friends who are boys who they respect and who respect them in return. They have no problem chatting with adults and they are mannerly and polite and they have a sense of humour and a sense of responsibility. I find these young ladies rare and refreshing and I hope when the time comes, my boys choose partners who have these qualities. My point is, it’s a two-way street. Let’s teach our boys to be gentlemen. Let’s encourage them to be multi-dimensional with many interests. Let’s teach our girls the same. Let’s teach our girls not to abuse #metoo. Teach them to not belittle what it stands for. #metoo is a very important message and if it is abused or tainted in any way, it will fade and what we (men and women) have worked so hard to bring to the light will be swept away into the darkness.

My friend’s 13-year-old son already knows a guy in his school who got into an argument with a girl who circulated revealing photos of herself and because he told her she was behaving like porn star, he got suspended and nothing was done about her or her risqué photos. That suspension will be on his school record forever all because a girl and her friends in spite of her behavior cried out harassment and #me too. My sons tell me they are not ready to date (I can’t say that I blame them). My one boy with autism, likes being around friends but so far has shown no interest in having a girlfriend. It is clear he likes girls and he has had a girl he was close friends with but we have drilled the privacy and hands to himself speeches into his head and so far so good. My other son is wary of dating because he is concerned that if he gets involved with the wrong girl, she can say or do anything to call out harassment and he could be in huge trouble. He’s chosen to be hyper focused on school because he is hyper focused on his sport and good grades are pre-requisites for continuing to play on his team. They also are both keen about making money to buy the stuff they want so they are also focused on their part-time jobs. I do hope if they choose to date, they end up with intelligent, funny, self-respecting and respectful girls who have big dreams and drive because my boys deserve good people because they are good people and anyone who ends up with them will be getting the kind of person the world desperately needs.

I promise as a mother of boys to do my best to raise them to treat your daughters with kindness and respect and will hold them to being decent and gentlemanly around your daughters so please if you haven’t already done so, mothers of girls, please discourage them from using the movements that strive to protect us as cheap weapons against good boys.

 

There Is No Such Thing as a Bad Year

My trees have been stripped of their ornaments, my wreaths and decorations have been placed in their storage boxes and put away for another year. Today is December 28th and for us, Christmas is over and I dislike chores from one year lingering into a new one. Besides, our tree is always up on American Thanksgiving and it’s twinkling lights and the glow of holly berry scented candles, give our home a warm and inviting feeling of comfort and peace that only the Christmas season can deliver. As the boys have grown, Christmas has become a lot less prominent and when Santa was done delivering presents to our home, it’s been harder for me to get wrapped up in the Christmas spirit. But in spite of some Christmases being “autism difficult” and some tainted by the loss of a loved one, Christmas still has a special place in my heart. I have learned that less is more and giving is better than receiving and that not giving anything but a kind, meaningful wish of “Merry Christmas” to someone is even better.  Stepping away from the commercialism of Christmas gets easier as one’s children get older as no one really has a list anymore. No one needs anything. Spending time together seems to be the one thing we all really want as time is something we rarely have and once we’ve done that with extended family and friends, just being at home, eating, watching movies, playing games or just sleeping in a quiet home caps off the perfect Christmas.

Whenever I put the lid on the last box of decorations, I get a little afraid. It’s the same fear I feel on New Year’s Eve – fear of the unknown. I don’t know if my hands will touch these boxes of decorations again and if they do, I don’t know who will or won’t be with us a year later.  I’ve experienced that before in life and I know we will all experience it again but, like every year, I have hope for another good chapter of my life.  When one is young, goals, plans and events are the stuff of life that makes it worth living. When one grows up, those things still do hold some meaning but at the same time, holds less value. A good year for me now is making it all the way to the end of it with everyone that I know and love, still healthy and present in my life.  It’s funny and stupid but once mid January rolls around, I breathe a little easier.  I mean, there is no guarantee things will not change, but by mid January, I suppose I feel like I’ve settled into the swing of things for the new year.

I never appreciate when people are eager to say good riddance to a year. Sure bad things happen and sometimes things don’t go as we expect or would like them to, but if we are upright and breathing and we are able to open our eyes on January 1st, the year couldn’t have been so bad. I hear people gripe about the year and how bad or unlucky it was and as much as can appreciate hard times and bad luck and missed opportunities, I fail to understand why people do not realize that what goes on in a year is very much our own doing.  Our years turn out the way they do sometimes because of the choices we make and sometimes things just don’t line up the way we think they should. But at the end of every scenario, there is an outcome and we adapt and we live with whatever that outcome is. We keep going, meandering about the obstacles in our way, wondering if indeed things happen for a reason and if one door slams shut in our face, would another door with a more attractive prize will indeed open up to us.

I have redefined myself over the years. I am selfless but I know when my selfishness is justified. I have met many new friends and rediscovered dear old ones. I have many acquaintances and have released many whom I once called friend.  Life is about sorting, and re-adjusting and modifying people, places and things. Life is about adapting to the situations in which you find yourself. It is about making many mistakes and becoming so much wiser for having made them. Life is about learning and re-inventing who you are and allowing yourself to move with the beautiful spirit we were all blessed with. Life is about loving yourself so you can love others and it is about always seeking the answers …always seeking the truth. Life is about standing firm in what you believe and never apologizing for who you are but also aware enough to apologize when you are wrong.

I think I am not going to be afraid of the unknown anymore but rather look forward to another chance; a sort of re-birth. Maybe the new year will bring world peace. Maybe the new year will bring a surefire cure for cancer or maybe it will bring an end to hunger and poverty because our species would have finally realized that generosity is far more powerful than greed and love is more impacting than hatred. Maybe kindness will override terror once and for all and we could begin to exist on our planet each species living in harmony alongside each other. A simple yet complicated wish all at once, I’m afraid, but it is my wish nonetheless. I hope the new year unfolds new and exciting chapters in my boys’ lives. That they will continue to dream big and give life their best shot. I hope the new year brings even more maturity and positive change to my autistic son’s life. That there will be an end to some of the things that hold him back and a birth of new skills and ideas that will help shape him into the adult he is to become. 2017 exposed both our boys to loss this year. They have (if only briefly due to their youth) spent time thinking about the fragility of life, it’s unpredictability and the importance of making every day count.  Over the next few years, they will face more loss and the reality of death will make a groove in their minds. I hope when that happens it pushes them to embrace this wonderfully fascinating albeit short journey that is life even more. I want them to never miss an opportunity to try something different that could impact their lives in positive way. How I envy their youth …their time…their fearlessness and their ability to dream. When it comes to my extended family members, there are specific things I wish for each of them but I will keep those safe in my heart.

Well, 2017,thank you for the good things we got, the things we didn’t. Thanks equally for the achievements and for the disappointments. Thanks for the laughs we had and the tears we might have shed and for the lessons we learned. Thank you for what you have allowed me to observe and the decisions you have allowed me to make. What we lived through with you will shape the year that is to come and many years thereafter.

Life is short even if we get to live a long time.Life is sweet even when it seems unkind or harsh. Let us be grateful for what we have, what we shared, whom we’ve loved and whom we have released and let us look within ourselves to create hope and to recreate the things we have destroyed and to learn never to destroy again. Life is tough and life is pain yet it is this thing that we want to hang onto in spite of our struggles – well for most of us anyway – and why not? What else is there that is so raw and difficult on the one hand yet so beautiful and uplifting on the other? What else is there that we can do so badly one day and do so well the next?  There is nothing like life. It is all we know and it is a gift we must treasure and we must learn to live it well. Welcome 2018 – whatever you may bring. Happy New Year everyone! Live your life!

The Little Doll and the Giant Grasshopper.

Once upon a time, in a small town, that fancied calling itself a city, there was a beautiful friendship.  It didn’t start off smoothly.  In fact, it was the most unlikely of friendships because he was a giant grasshopper and she a tiny doll, controlling her portion of the world in a magical throne. Sitting on her special throne, she breathed in the cleanest of air through a minuscule tube, discreetly placed beneath her tiny nose. At 6’2″ and 150 lbs., the giant grasshopper bounded about, usually with a big smile on his face, happy to be alive in his own world; tolerating (yet not completely conforming to )the world presented to him. Energy abound, always moving quickly, his long limbs propelling him, one of his unique powers was speed . His job was to race on the track in the summer and on the ice in the winter with the best of all of the other specials (and sometimes regulars) like him and he did well, bringing back to the hub, ribbons of red and blue and medals of bronze, silver and gold. The giant grasshopper also had natural rhythm and could pound out head nodding and foot tapping beats that kept the other specials in the hub moving while they worked….when the drumming didn’t bother them that is…and if it did, he would switch  to humming and singing popular tunes they all knew and loved.

In spite of his wonderfully unique powers, the giant grasshopper struggled to make friends in the regular world because he couldn’t come up with interesting conversations. He knew in his head what he wanted to say, but it didn’t always come out of his mouth just right and he chose to say very little. Still, people tried to get to know him, tried to speak to him but it was the specials and their subjects in the hub who loved him enough to accept him as he was – a giant grasshopper of few words but with with actions that spoke louder than anything anyone could ever say.

The first day the giant grasshopper was accepted into the hub, he frightened the little doll to tears with his long limbs, big movements and loud quirky noises. For weeks she cried and complained that he made her afraid and for weeks he didn’t understand what he was doing wrong but the loyal subjects who worked for the specials did not give up because they knew the tiny doll and the giant grasshopper were good for each other and they were determined to help them become friends. By the end of their first semester together, the loyal subjects had the most unlikely of friends sitting beside each other, eating lunch. They rode the same chariot to the hub every morning.  On breaks, the grasshopper was even seen standing still ( something that was very difficult for him to do) looking over the doll’s shoulder while she controlled the world through the game she was playing on her tablet.

In time, the tiny doll got quite used to the energetic, musical grasshopper. She became so comfortable having him around, she even ventured out of the hub to help the regulars at the local food bank. Though she hated having to take her magical chair on the lowly city bus, she would go in good spirits if her friend the giant grasshopper was by her side. If he could not go, neither would she and if anyone tried to force her to go, they would be subject to her well-honed power of feist. Time passed and the unique bond between the giant grasshopper and the tiny doll grew stronger. When she would not eat, the grasshopper would sit beside her and simply say “Eat your food,” and she would. When she wanted to keep talking, even though he didn’t seem to be listening, he was as he was just happy to be sitting among the doll and the other specials. When his brother, the locust, taught him how to text, the grasshopper invited the tiny doll to join him and his other special friends for dinner at a local restaurant or to join them for an hour of bowling. Time and again, the little doll refused but one day, she said she would come to dinner if he promised never to ask her to go bowling again. She came to dinner twice and and giggled and smiled through the entire meal, the grasshopper fascinated by her her pretty painted little fingers and toes.  Whenever the doll was broken,(i.e. crying) like a true man, the grasshopper made it his job to fix her.

“She’s upset. Why is she crying?” he once asked.

“She does not want to go to the dance in the gym,” the subject replied.

“Okay. Look…just… Dance with me,”

Tears ceased and the problem was solved and another year in the hub came to an end and the specials and their unique powers went on break. The little doll was old enough to move away from the hub and live full time in the world of regulars. She played unique powers baseball and she attended unique powers dance class and though she did not see the grasshopper everyday she texted with him and came out to dinner whenever she could. The giant grasshopper had gotten used to the little doll’s absence from the hub and not seeing her on the chariot that transported them to the hub every day but the texts helped to keep them connected and he was thrilled that he was going to get to see her at his upcoming 18th birthday. She was the first name on his guest list and though he did not have any great words to say to her, he was looking forward to spend time with her and the other specials and their unique powers as they shared ideas on how to teach the lowly regulars how to properly run the world.

The day the giant grasshopper and his brother the locust were planning to text the specials about his birthday dinner, their mother found out that the little doll had died the day before. Her most unique power was her most dangerous power and though she was successful keeping it at bay, it snuck up on her and with no time to put up her defenses, it overpowered her and took her to Heaven.

When the giant grasshopper’s mother told him what had happened to the tiny doll, she was not sure how he was feeling about losing his friend.

“Do you remember Grandad Grasshopper?” his mother asked. The grasshopper nodded. “Tell me what happened,” she said.

“He got sick.” he replied, looking out the window.

“And?” his mother urged.

“He died,” he said, looking her in the eyes.

“Yes, he did. You know your friend the little doll?”

“Uh huh,”

“Well, son, she got sick and she died,”

“Oh.  She died?”

“Yes. Like Grandad Grasshopper, she got sick, she went to the hospital but they could not fix her and she died but just like Grandad, she is sleeping now.  She’s sleeping forever and is in no pain. She’s not sick anymore and she is in Heaven,”

“With Jesus?”

“Yes”  The grasshopper listened to his mother’s words, nodded and said,

“Okay, thank you. I’m going to my room now. I’m good,”

From time to time over the next day, the grasshopper would ask “The doll is gone?” or “She died? The doll is dead?”  and his family and his loyal subjects would confirm that she was indeed gone. His mother told him that there was an opportunity for him to see the doll one last time and say goodbye and the grasshopper decided that was a good idea. When his day was done at the hub, he changed out of his uniform into  a nice shirt, tie and jacket and went to where the doll was resting. He saw her picture, he signed the guest book and waited in line to see his friend. Being taller than everyone in the room, the grasshopper saw her lying peacefully in her casket.

“There she is,” he said. “She’s sleeping. She should wake up,”

“She can’t, son, remember?  What happened to her?” his mother asked him.

“She’s dead,”

“Yes,”

“Dead, dead…forever,”

“Yes, she is asleep forever but she is…”

“She is in Heaven like Grandad Grasshopper, with Jesus.  Are you okay?” his mother asked searching his face to see what he was feeling. The grasshopper said nothing but gave the thumbs up. As they approached the doll’s parents, hugs and words of kindness and sympathy were exchanged and the grasshopper shook hands with her family members and nodded when they thanked him for coming. He stopped and stared at her, his his face unreadable and he moved along the line of people to the very end where he took a seat on a nearby sofa. Hugging a cushion close to his chest, he buried his head into it then lifted it, revealing a brief smile.

“What do you want to do now? asked his mom. “Do you want me to take you home?”

“I want to see her again,” and he rose, looking even taller than he was, walked to where the little doll lay and knelt beside her. His loyal subject told him that he could touch her if he wanted  and he did, gently placing his large hand on her tiny one. He paused for what seemed like an eternity then he sighed and said, “Well…see ya…I love you…I’ll miss you,” He got to his feet, turned and left the room but not before taking the memorial picture card of her and gently kissing it before putting it in his pocket.  Noticing his mother’s face, he asked,”You okay? You look sad,”

“I am,” she replied “Thank you for asking. I am sad but I will be okay. How about you?”

“I’m good,” Let’s go home,”

For a few hours after the visitation, the giant grasshopper would randomly tell his mother, father, brother and loyal subjects that the doll had died. He would get reassurance from them that she was never waking up and that she was gone forever but she was okay because she was in a better place everyone called Heaven.  The photo of them at the food bank and the card he took from the visitation are in a visible place in his room and I suspect, in spite of the challenges of his  unique powers, he does feel deeply and he will always remember his friend, the little doll.

 

 

To C: You Will be Missed but Not Forgotten

I have a heavy heart this week. I just came off a heavyhearted October when we laid Logan’s friend’s sister to rest and this morning I found out Adam’s friend and former classmate died suddenly yesterday. She had a medical condition that rendered her to a wheelchair and she had special needs but she was, we thought okay.  She recently graduated from high school where, like her Life Skills classmates she stayed until she was 21.

As I got to know Adam’s classmates, I realized they all wanted what ever teenager/young person wanted – to hang out with their friends without parents hovering. So I started inviting them all to join Adam at a restaurant once a month, or go bowling or go to the movies. They loved it! They were just friends, hanging out with no parent interruption and they were just like everyone else.  C came out a couple times this year and she had a great time. She had a sweet giggle and she always had her make up on and her pretty little painted toes. This afternoon, Adam was going to text her and invite her to his birthday dinner next month. His teacher called me this morning with the news and we both were sobbing and she and I decided that she would tell him first and then later this afternoon Tom and I would tell him again and help him understand that she is gone.

Adam is autistic and struggles with emotional display but he showed compassion towards C. He was concerned whenever she cried and he tried to make her feel better. They did their Co-Op at the food bank together and she ventured out to that commitment partly because Adam was going to be there with her. I think C was one of my son’s true friends and we will miss her. At least, we have one photo of them together and I will frame it for him so he will not forget her.

I am torn up by her passing because once again someone who represented all that is good in this life has been taken from my son and from so many people. I feel for her mom as I know how much she sacrificed and how hard she tried to give her daughter the best possible life and now, just before Christmas she is gone. My second boy, Logan, in his attempt to comfort me and make sense of yet another young person’s death, said,”I believe in my heart she is already back. I believe she has returned in the form of a newly born human. She will grow with no health problems and she will run and jump and dance and she will not be sitting in a chair anymore. We may even recognize her in someone else,”

I hope my son is right. I also hope if her spirit is soaring, that she soars about her friends and that she finds Adam, and sits on his shoulder and that she guides him and watches over him and helps him as he moves into adulthood. I can’t stop crying for the loss of C and there will be an empty space at the table next month but they will raise their glasses to her and she will not be forgotten.

Rest in peace C. My son was your friend and he really did care about you and I know you cared about him.