My husband shared this post over on his blog yesterday that states things so much more clearly than I ever can, so I decided to share it over here too since he doesn’t really love having new visitors over on his blog. We spend a lot of time talking about the fact that Brinky’s not talking and what, if anything, we should do about it. But is this sweet boy causing any problems because he hasn’t started talking?
No, he’s not. Anyway, on to Lee’s post.
Brinkley is twenty-eight months old and he doesn’t talk or point at objects to indicate interest. He loves to play with string, dental floss, and even spaghetti noodles, wrapping them around his fingers in elaborate, intricate patterns; nothing captivates him so completely. These characteristics—repetitive behavior and lack of communication—are, according to developmental psychologists, two key autism markers. The third primary marker—impaired social interaction—could not fit Brinkley any less. He loves to make eye contact, he laughs and smiles all the time, he’s very friendly when he meets new people, and he’s not the least bit shy or reserved in social situations. So is my son autistic? More importantly, do I give a damn if he is or he isn’t?
What is autism? The fact that Katie and I have read about it and discussed it as much as we have and I still can’t give a definitive answer is, to me, more telling than any answer I could give. As I understand it, there are three major autism markers—impaired communication, repetitive behavior, and impaired social interaction. Brinkley clearly meets the first two requirements and just as clearly does not meet the third. So then he isn’t autistic, right? Not so fast.
It seems now that we have an autism spectrum, and a child can be placed on that spectrum if he or she meets some of the requirements to some degree or another. This is, to my knowledge, a fairly recent development; certainly the extent to which parents are aware of the ‘autism spectrum’ is new. Now you can have a diagnosis for your weird kid no matter what—if you don’t know what else to do, you can place him or her on the ‘spectrum.’
Well, I think that’s a load of crap.
As far as I’m concerned, my kid is weird. He’s weird, but he’s healthy and he’s happy. As my friends and family know, I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for more than four years now, and I bring it up in this context only because this ‘autism spectrum’ brings to mind a maxim I heard when I was in rehab: if it causes problems, it is a problem. I had a lot thrown at me in rehab and not all of it stuck, but that one did. Long-time alcoholics are masters of denial, and one of the most common things we do is create our own criteria for classifying a person as an alcoholic—criteria that we then conveniently fail to meet. For example, I told myself that alcoholics drank all day (many do, of course), and since I didn’t start drinking until after work, I was not an alcoholic. Did I drink too much? Yes. But was I an alcoholic? No, because I didn’t drink in the morning. Driving drunk was another criterion I used: alcoholics drive drunk, I never drove drunk, therefore I wasn’t an alcoholic. I could admit that I drank too much, but not that I was an alcoholic—why did that classification matter so much? It mattered because alcoholism is a disease—at least how I reckon it—whereas drinking too much is simply a bad habit. Habits are quirks that a man can deal with on his own and in his own time; a disease is something else entirely. If I was an alcoholic, it meant that I was sick and that I needed help. It meant coming to terms with the terrible things I’d done to myself and to others, and accepting my weakness and failure. There’s another false criterion for you: alcoholics fail, and I’d never failed, so I wasn’t an alcoholic.
What does this have to do with autism? I’m getting there.
As an inveterate alcoholic I was driven to avoid that definitive diagnosis at all costs. Why? Because if I accepted the diagnosis, there would be no question of what I had to do: stop drinking immediately and get help to do it. The ambivalence and uncertainty I’d used to avoid taking responsibility would be stripped away, and there’d be no more hedging or equivocating. That stark certainty was scary as hell, and I didn’t face it until my family forced me to. But what if the tables were turned? What if the uncertainty was what frightened me? In my case, there was no uncertainty. My mind, my body, my family—it was all coming apart. Soon I would be alone, and soon after that I would be dead, and I knew why. I knew exactly what my problem was. More importantly, I knew that I had a problem. Only the disease allowed me to repress, deny, and project. But what if I didn’t know? What if I wasn’t sure?
Brinkley isn’t doing everything his sisters did when they were his age, and he’s doing some things they didn’t do, mostly weird things. But they were day care kids; he’s stuck here with me. They’re girls; he’s a boy. They’re two-and-a-half years apart; Brinkley is seven years younger than his closest sister. Moreover, I’m in a position to notice things now that I might have missed before, back when I worked for the bank every day and drank every night. My gut feeling is that my son is fine—peculiar and obstinate, but fine. I trust my instincts as a parent, but I can imagine what I might do if I didn’t. If I didn’t know that my son was going to grow up to be happy and healthy—and let’s face it, no doctor can promise me that about any of my children—and I didn’t trust my own character and judgment as a father, would a diagnosis of autism make me feel worse, or would it be a relief? It would be a challenge, of course, but the next steps would be clear: behavioral therapy, psychological evaluation, possibly some medication or another. More importantly, I wouldn’t have to figure it out on my own, because the doctors would guide me.
What I’m hinting at is uncomfortable to suggest, but here it is: I suspect that the autism spectrum has, in some instances, been extended and improperly applied to children because their parents can’t handle having a weird kid that doesn’t act like every other kid. Parental micro-management relying on cookie-cutter developmental milestones and unsubstantiated Facebook boasts (‘my eight-month-old is fluent in three languages!’) is a fast track to madness. Worse still, it can make you overreact to developmental lags that would otherwise correct themselves, inviting the medical community to slap a label on your child for no reason other than that you can’t be happy if your kid doesn’t hit the proscribed milestones when your friends’ kids do. If my son is happy doing things his way, but I’m bent out of shape about his way of doing things, is he really the one with the problem?
That brings me back to the rehab maxim: if it causes problems, it is a problem. What the counselors there said was that it doesn’t matter what name you give it, if alcohol is destroying your life, it’s a problem. You can’t hide behind semantic distinctions and arbitrary criteria: you’re miserable, everyone you care about is miserable, and alcohol is the cause of that misery. You only need the one criterion: if it causes problems, it is a problem. Well, the inverse is true as well: if it’s not causing problems, it’s not a problem. If Brinkley is autistic, the disease will disrupt and degrade his life and mine to the point that I won’t need a doctor to tell me things are very, very wrong. If you have to ask a doctor if there’s a problem—not what the problem is, but whether there is a problem at all—with an otherwise healthy and happy child, the child may not be the one with the problem.
None of what I’ve said should be interpreted to mean that I don’t believe that autism is a real disease—of course it is. It is a disease, but it’s slowly becoming a catch-all diagnosis for weird kids. I don’t want my kids to be like everyone else—everyone else is already like everyone else. In a world like that, a little weirdness can take Brinkley a long way.
I hope no one is offended by these words – as he said, we certainly believe autism is a real disease, just not that it’s necessarily the right diagnosis for every kid. We’d never ignore something we thought was a true medical issue for our kids either.Read More
As a working mom, I sometimes forget that I need to make an effort for my time with my kids to be quality time. Sometimes I come home and I’m tired, and I just want to sit on the couch and play on the computer or watch TV (or both). One, two, or three of my kids may be in the room with me, but I’m not making an effort to focus on them like I should. I think that’s okay sometimes if I am particularly tired, but not every night. So last night I decided to have more quality time with my family, though it may not take a form that some people consider quality.
Most of my quality time with Brinkley occurs early morning, like this morning:
He likes to run into our room when he gets out of his room on the morning and climb up onto the bed. (He is wearing his sister’s shirt in this picture. I’m not sure why – I didn’t put him in it.) I’ll admit there’s not always a lot of quality to our time together these days, but last night I did spend more time with him playing and trying to get him to point to his body parts or ever talk. That sort of thing. I want to research a bit more what we can be doing with him to try to get him learning more and talking because he’s still not there.
After he goes to bed – and we’ve been trying for earlier because I think he sleeps better then – I can do a better job of focusing on the girls. We’ve all learned how to focus while Brinky is up in his bedroom running around like a crazy person until he goes to sleep. It involves jumping on the bed and constantly opening and closing his dresser doors.
So what did we do with the girls for quality time last night?
Reagan likes to look at funny things with us, so…it was BuzzFeed time. Only with age appropriate posts. Like these:
29 Pictures of ’80s Culture at the Reagan White House – bonus for including her name
If Pop Stars Were Birds, These Are The Birds They’d Be – celebrities + animals = funny
32 Pictures That Prove Vladimir Putin is Only Human – more for Lee than Reagan, but she enjoyed it
14 Things You Missed from the SAG Awards – because we love some awards shows and celebrities in this house
We kept going, especially with cute animal related posts. Those are her favorite. And of course, we read Honest Toddler’s newest post. She loves when we read Honest Toddler together. So for Reagan, quality time often involves reading and laughing at things together. It’s fun!
When Reagan decided to move on and read for a little while before bed, Lee and I started looking at iTunes because we wanted to check out the 69 cent songs – especially since we had an iTunes gift card to spend. Of course, music drew Jenny into the room. She had fun (and stayed up past her bedtime, but so did we, so it was okay) giving us her opinion on different songs and getting to choose a couple for herself. I talked last week about how music brings my girls together, but generally it can bring our whole family together, especially when we decide to listen through clips on iTunes. Jenny’s favorite thing is to go through the top 200 songs on iTunes and see which ones we know. Last night’s answer? Lee and I didn’t know any songs in the top 10! Jenny’s so much cooler than we are. And I can’t even tell you how much time Jenny spent smiling and laughing (which is becoming more rare these days) while we listened to music.
And for inquiring minds who want to know (also known as my brother), these are the songs we felt compelled to buy last night:
Daydream Believer – The Monkees because who doesn’t love this song?
Old Enough – The Raconteurs never heard this one before, but it sounded like something I’d like
Whatcha Say – Jason Derulo a Jenny choice
The Remedy (I Won’t Worry) – Jason Mraz I loved this song, okay? And the girls love Jason Mraz now.
Can’t Stand It – Never Shout Never Jenny again
Save the Best for Last – Vanessa Williams another one I loved so much – in high school
Cradle of Love – Billy Idol Lee loves this one, and somehow didn’t already own it
Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve Lee and I both realized we like this one and didn’t own it
Absolutely (Story of a Girl) – Nine Days another one I used to really like that we discovered Jenny also loves
Friday I’m In Love – The Cure seriously, we didn’t own this already?
D.A.N.C.E. – Justice I was so excited to see this in the 69 cent songs because I love it so much on Just Dance
And now that I’ve already made this post so long, I’ll also add a list of the songs the girls bought with their money last week after about a week of planning precisely how to spend their $25.
This Is My Paradise – Bridget Mendler
The Call – Regina Spektor
Sk8er Boi – Avril Lavigne
Take A Bow – Rihanna
You Found Me – The Fray
The Story of Us – Taylor Swift
Stuck Like Glue – Sugarland
Beauty Queen – Ben’s Brother
Best Friend’s Brother – Victorious Cast
Lucky – Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz
Fallin’ for You – Colbie Caillat
Mine – Taylor Swift
Realize – Colbie Caillat
Safe & Sound – Taylor Swift
I Won’t – Colbie Caillat
Ours – Taylor Swift
Bleeding Love – Leona Lewis
It’s Time – Imagine Dragons
Too Little Too Late – Jojo
You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift
Beautiful Girls – Sean Kingston
Never Say Never – The Fray
Bubbly – Colbie Caillat
Replay – Iyaz
The One That Got Away – Katy Perry
One last bit of information: we spent a lot of time listening to music, and I still ended the night with this song:
The girls bought it a couple weeks ago, and I think it’s been stuck in my head about half the time since then. I said that I kind of didn’t want to like it because Taylor Swift can be annoying, but I think it’s good. And Jenny said, “Yeah, I know, I don’t want to like Taylor Swift, but she’s actually my favorite artist and I love all of her songs.”
Linking up with Greta and Sarah for #iPPP:Read More
I posted in one of my pre-Christmas gift ideas posts about my plan to get Mother Daughter journals for my girls for Christmas. They were honestly one of the gifts I was most excited about this year once I settled on ordering from Minted. Here’s what we ended up with:
Aren’t they cute? They’re similar, but a little different. And I loved being able to customize them for my girls so easily. I also ordered sketch journals for each of the girls with unlined pages. I had so many fun ideas with all the choices available on Minted!
Jenny’s is a Mother/Daughter journal since she’s all grown up (in her opinion).
And Reagan’s is Mommy/Daughter.
On both I chose to put the date started in the lower right-hand corner in case we manage to save these for the future (it would be a miracle).
I wrote an initial note to each of them before I wrapped the journals and gave them to the girls for Christmas explaining that we could write anything we like to each other in these journals – even things that might be hard to talk about out loud.
Or, you know, they can write about the Percy Jackson books, which they’re also willing to discuss out loud.
I’m hoping this is another new habit we stick with! So far, we haven’t lost them, and we have written back and forth twice. Pretty good for a week into the new year!
If you’d like to look at other journals available from Minted, check them out here. Disclosure: this is an affiliate link, but these are products I ordered myself and am using and love!
Some of us stayed up too late last night, watching election coverage until we felt certain of the outcome.
Reagan is still awake in this picture from late last night, just reading. We let the girls stay up and watch election coverage with us. And by “watch election coverage,” I mean completely ignore it and use it as an excuse to stay up. Jenny told me a couple days ago that she was interested in the election, and I asked her if she was excited about it. Her response: “As excited as an 11 year old can be since I’m not even allowed to vote!” She was very offended. Anyway, we stayed up until midnight. All of us.
Except this boy:
And he has a lot more energy than the rest of us do this morning. He’s got some new books I got him yesterday to entertain him when he’s trying to get to sleep in the big boy bed (by the way, I’m calling that a success – he’s sleeping better than ever at night). So this morning for him involves, holding his books and jumping on the mattress. He’s strangely doing some kind of one leg jump that makes it look like he’s at a hoedown. Not that I know what a hoedown looks like.
*Don’t forget the Tiny Prints giveaway!
Linking up with Julie and Greta for the best weekly linkup!
About a month ago, I received a couple items from Papersalt to use and review. While Jenny’s only 11, she’s at that age where she’s maturing and aging, so Being a Teenage Girl seemed perfect to me. I looked through the book myself first. Sometimes it’s hard for me to find the right words to tell her my thoughts on some of what she’s experiencing as she grows up.
I found that this book does a great job of expressing things the way I wish I could – some of the lessons are about things you may not even think of. Obviously I don’t think a book can replace actually talking to her, but I like that I agree with everything expressed in the book and that it can inspire conversations that we might not have had otherwise.
A couple of my favorite pages:
This one first in perfectly with the Rachel’s Challenge event we went to recently and our family discussions about how to stop bullying.
I love this. And I still read whenever I can. Jenny does too – here’s how I caught her this weekend.
Something else I love about this book is its format and size and the fact that it’s supposed to be a “living book.” The Papersalt website says that means it is for “teenage girls to reference, write in, and refer back to often.” When I pulled the book out to write this review, I found that Jenny had done just that on a few pages, and it reinforced the value of the book for me.
Though I’m not sure how I should feel about her underlining of “You may not like your parents all of the time.”
We also received Being a Girl for Reagan, and she’s enjoying it, but I wanted to focus on how perfect Being a Teenage Girl is for Jenny right now in this review!
One other Papersalt item I’m excited about trying is the book of Kid Coupons. The girls are not doing a great job with their chores lately (read: terrible), and we’ve been trying to think of new ways to motivate them. So I’m thinking about giving these coupons as incentives. Especially this one because it would be fun for me, too!
Take a minute to head over to the Papersalt website and check out all of their products. You may find a perfect gift – because can you believe Christmas is only two months away??
*Disclosure: I was provided with these books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.Read More
When you read that song title, be sure you read it to the tune of Careless Whisper because that’s what I’m doing.
I love having the ability to look at both girls’ grades online so I can see how they’re doing in their classes as often as I’d like. But sometimes I get so annoyed with Jenny when I look at her grades and see a lower grade because I know it’s usually because of something careless.
This is what I see when I look at her grades right now:
Honestly? I know these are pretty awesome grades, especially for the beginning of her first year at middle school, which is a huge change. So I feel bad that I zero right in on that B in the middle of the page. And when I click on the details I see an assignment where she got a 76 staring out at me. Why did she get a 76? Because the instructions required answers in complete sentences, and she didn’t answer in complete sentences. Careless, right? It bothers me so much more than if she gets a lower grade because she actually didn’t understand a particular concept. But I wish I did a better job of focusing on the overall – her grades are great. Or maybe it’s good for her that we always push her to do her best. Parenting’s hard sometimes, you know?Read More