The Day The Sh*t Hit The Fan


I’m a verbal processor.  I just have to get this off my chest and put this somewhere so that I can deal with it.  So, I’m going to put it on my blog because…? Because.  I don’t know why.  It might clear my head.

Something happened today, and my brain is stuck.  I can’t quite accept it.  I don’t understand it.  And…I’m pissed.

We all know by now that I have four daughters.  My youngest daughter, Milly, is on the autism spectrum.  She’s high functioning.  What does this mean? It means that she has a co-morbid anxiety disorder that is either simmering at a slow burn or burning so hot that she isn’t very functional.  It depends on the day.  It also means that she has a big time theory of mind deficit.  She has huge problems with social skills, and she is developmentally delayed by about two years.  She’s chronologically ten years-old, but she is really about eight years-old socially and emotionally.  She also struggles with language pragmatics so she doesn’t understand puns and idioms very well unless she’s learned them.  This is all very textbook stuff for an HFA kid.  Nothing new here.  Also common to HFA-ASD kids? Poor emotional regulation and sensory processing issues combined with issues with flexibility and/or rigidity.  If there’s a rule, then Milly will know it and expect that we all follow it.  Combine all that with gestalt processing and it’s quite the roller coaster ride around here  It’s okay though.  She’s my kid, and I love her.

We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time helping her.  She’s had play therapy, skills training, therapy with a clinical psychologist who specialized in working with people on the autism spectrum, and I write books and materials for children, families, and professionals who work with individuals on the autism spectrum so I direct a lot of time and energy towards my daughter so that her autism will work for her rather than against her.  Milly does very well.  Many people who meet her tell me that they would never know that she’s autistic unless you’re someone who knows what to look for.  If you are, then you’ll spot her as ASD in under a minute.

There are, however, always bumps in the road.  I can’t change her nature.  She is who she is.  Recently, there has been some discord in our neighborhood.  We live on a block with a few kids of varying ages.  Milly is an extrovert which makes her seem unusual for an Aspie.  She is the extroverted autist.  She loves to play with other kids, but she can’t read their body language very well.  And, quite frankly, she can be a bit too direct.  She tries to cope with her social anxiety by controlling the social situations which is common to almost everyone with social anxiety, but, in Milly’s case, it has come out sideways.  She has started excluding certain neighborhood children because she doesn’t have the social savvy to deal with them.  She doesn’t want to feel fearful or anxious because that’s an uncomfortable way to feel so when these kids come around she simply says, “You can’t play with us.”  Apparently, these children go home crying.  Looking back on my own childhood I recall that one doesn’t need to be autistic to engage in this sort of social interaction.  I recall plenty of kids excluding other kids.  I’m not justifying this sort of thing.  Why do most people hate gym class? Well, for one thing, we get excluded.  Someone gets picked last for a certain team.  Someone else doesn’t want to play with someone else.  All the politics of recess and gym class.  Worlds collide.  Feelings get hurt.  How do you handle it?

Me? I watch.  I decide when I need to get involved.  I know certain things about child development.  For example, a 7 year-old child will be able to recognize that a problem exists but may not necessarily be able to solve that problem.  Parents are required to help in the problem-solving.  So, what’s the problem?  Oh, Lord, it’s all about Pokémon.  God save us from Pokémon!

Two boys from down the block are hot on Milly’s tail to trade Pokémon cards with her.  She outright refuses.  Why might you ask? A year ago Milly traded cards with these boys.  A few weeks ago, these boys were banging our door down claiming to want their cards back.  They were reneging on their trades! The Aspie, rule-lovin’ Milly could not abide by this.  She was completely offended and could not understand their reasoning.  If you trade a card, then the trade stands.  She returned one card, and then she vowed never to trade with them again.  That was it.  All or nothing.  These boys returned every single day.  EVERY DAY! They insisted on trading cards again which really meant that they wanted their cards back.  Milly steadfastly held her position.  Nope.  No can do.  She sent them home crying.

I watched.  I asked Milly about the situation.  What was her goal here?

“Mom, they don’t want to play with me.  They want their cards back.  They don’t care about me.  Besides, they’re mean boys.  They don’t play nice things, and they always tell me that they hate me.  I don’t like them.”

I chose not to intervene.  She had a point.  I listened to how she spoke to them.  She was respectful.  She wasn’t mean, curt, or surly.  I’m not a parent who believes that her children are above wrongdoing.  On the contrary, I know that my kids will screw up.  I expect it.  We learn from our failures.  I thought that perhaps this might be an opportunity for these boys to learn something.  Don’t trade a card if you really like it.  Also, integrity matters.  Be a person that keeps your word.  But, that would indicate that there was a parent on the backside actually parenting! The reason I don’t let Milly play with these boys now is because one of these boys told Milly that he knew how to make girls feel “really good”.  When Milly asked him what he meant by that, he responded, “I can tickle you in your vagina.  You’d like that.”  Nope.  There are other kids to play with in our neighborhood.  There will be no “special tickling” going on.  By the way, the boy was four years-old when he said that.  Little boys don’t come by that sort of knowledge by accident.  Know what I mean?

So, after all this, Milly is excluding these two boys.  She doesn’t like them.  She is anxious when they come around for a few reasons some more obvious than others.  I have never been a proponent of exclusion.  It hurts people particularly children.  I’m simply explaining it and the context for it.  Today, these two boys knocked on our door yet again insisting that Milly return one of their Pokémon cards.  Once again, Milly said, “No.  I’m not doing that.  We traded fair and square.”  The boys brought along a friend who also wanted to trade, and, as is totally characteristic of my socially inept daughter, she said that she would trade with him because she didn’t know him.  This, of course, hurt the feelings of the boys.  Milly didn’t understand what she had done.  To her, it was all very clear.  Very black and white.  In her mind, the two neighbor boys were untrustworthy and unsafe.  One of them wanted to get into her panties and the other was essentially a liar.  This new boy, however, might be a very nice boy and should be given the benefit of the doubt.  So, she invited the new boy inside to trade!

Shit is now hitting the fan unbeknownst to my husband and me.

My husband and I were in the backyard.  We were getting our beds ready for planting herbs and vegetables.  We were commenting on how beautiful the weather was.  Suddenly, Milly comes running toward us sobbing and hyperventilating.  She was trying to speak, but she couldn’t.  I thought she was hurt so I started scanning her body for injuries.  All I managed to understand was something along the lines of, “Tanya was in the house and she was yelling at me and she was saying that I was bad and…and….and…and…”

I looked at my husband.  He looked at me.  “What do you mean that Tanya was in the house? Are you saying that she actually came into our house?”  She was stuttering and choking.  She nodded.

The mother of the two boys had actually come into our home.  She had not knocked.  Milly had not let her in.  She barged in.  She blocked the door.  She yelled at our daughter.  She could see that we were not present.  She verbally attacked her.  She completely mistreated her.  She has been informed numerous times that Milly has an autism spectrum disorder.  Apparently, this did not matter to her.  From what I have been told, what she said was wildly inappropriate.  It borders on abusive.  In any case, it was traumatic, and it victimized Milly.

We had a guest today, one of Grace’s friends.  She happened to walk through the living room when Tanya was yelling at Milly, and this girl told me that she saw Tanya in our home and also heard her tone.  She described it as threatening and mean.

My husband went ballistic, and I was livid.  Who just barges into another person’s home and verbally assaults a child? I mean, who does that? This is where I’m stuck.  This is what my brain can’t accept.  I was shaking.  Seeing my daughter cry caused my viscera to boil, but I knew that I couldn’t turn that loose onto Tanya.  That would make me just like her.  We had to talk to her about this, but how? We’ve lived peacefully in our neighborhood and at peace with our neighbors for fourteen years.  Suddenly, one woman can just waltz into our home and mistreat a vulnerable child, and we’re left trying to figure out how to handle it.

We walked over to Tanya’s house, and all I could think to ask her was, “Did you come into my home without my permission and confront my child as if she were an adult without the presence of her parents? Did you do that?” That’s all I cared about because, frankly, that was all that mattered to me.  Kids excluding kids? That’s childhood! Victimizing a child with a developmental disability because you feel entitled to do so? That’s simply wrong! And it makes you the perpetrator!

So, we knocked on her door, and she came out all smiles.  We asked what was going on, and she immediately made Milly the problem.  “My boys just want to play but your daughter just continues to exclude them! So, you now, I just don’t get it.”  My response? “Well, I’m not really interested in that right now.  That can be discussed in a moment.  What I really want to know is if you went into my home uninvited and confronted my daughter without my permission and without my presence? Did you do that?”

Her expression changed and she evaded.  She immediately went on the attack and called Milly a bully.  She attacked her personhood.  I said, “Stop.  You are evading the question.  Did you go into my home and verbally assault my child without my permission and without my presence?”

She didn’t like that.  She put her hand up and said, “How dare you tell me to stop! Did you just tell me stop?”  She then attacked Milly’s character.  She then went on to say that she didn’t believe that she was really autistic.  She was older than her children and ought to know the social rules.  We explained what autism was.  We explained to her as we have so many times before what that developmental disability means, and she just smirked at us.  She blamed Milly for her sons’ unhappiness and insisted that her sons have every right to play with whom they want, and our daughter is the one who can’t play with anyone anymore.  That’s how it has to be.  She has to go home when they come calling.

I then told her that she had yet again evaded the most important question, and I expected an answer.  Had she come into my home without my permission and engaged my daughter in a confrontation without my permission or presence? She sneered and then she lied.  She said that she never came into the house.  That was a lie, and she showed no remorse for anything that she said.  It was at that point that my husband lost it.

He quietly approached her in his easygoing Texan manner and said in what I would call a menacing tone, “I don’t give a fuck what you think your children are entitled to.  You do not walk into other people’s houses and mistreat their children particularly when you know their parents are in the backyard.  That is wrong and don’t you ever do that again.”  As soon as I heard my husband say ‘fuck’ I knew that we were done.  My husband is a brilliant negotiator.  He does it at work all the time, but he was seething watching this woman lie, evade, and justify her almost abusive actions as well as her blatant trespassing.  I waited for her reaction.  It was predictable.

She told us to get the fuck off her lawn and shouted that we both had Munchausers (sic).  She then slammed her door.

We both stood there in shock.  I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think it would be wrong if I shouted out, ‘Don’t you mean Munchausen by proxy?’ I mean if she’s gonna insult us she should at least get it right, don’t you think?”

I look forward to living a life that has no drama whatsoever.  Munchausen by proxy? Really?! If I wanted this much drama in my life I would have gone to Julliard and been a drama queen like I planned when I was 17.  This life? No one wants this much attention.

I mean…unless you really do have Munchausen by proxy, I guess.  ::shudder::

Do you think Tanya would like to sit in the Behavioral Health ER or ride out a mixed state or pay for all the medications or talk a child off a suicidal ledge or deal with an Aspie having an anxiety attack or go to DBT skills group once a week for the next 21 weeks or sit for hours while your child endures neuropsychological testing or help your child cope with severe emotional pain so that they don’t cut or use the holding technique on an autistic child so that they can emotionally regulate rather than self-harm? Do you think she would like that? Do you think she would be so tempted to treat her boys like special snowflakes entitled to the world at the expense of everyone else once her boys actually see what the world is really like? Or at least someone else’s world? I wonder…

Shit.  Lord have mercy!



18 thoughts on “The Day The Sh*t Hit The Fan

  1. You need to call protective services about that boy who mentioned “tickling the vagina.” DO NOT blow that off just because a child mentioned it. Frankly–I think that was more important than everything else mentioned. I’m currently engaged in litigation because my daughter was molested by another CHILD. The whole thing has been devastating.

    • I’m sorry that your daughter was molested. That’s a life-changing event, and litigation is beyond stressful. I hope that settles soon for everyone’s sake.

      I didn’t blow off what the boy said. He said that a year and half ago. I had to weigh his remarks very carefully and consider his family life and parents. I’ve called CPS three times in the past regarding other children, and they have seldom involved themselves even when I could report known physical abuse. It’s ridiculous. If I didn’t *see* the marks on the child’s body but only heard the child tell me about the abuse, then CPS didn’t initiate an investigation. Imagine what CPS would do for this? Nothing.

      This boy’s family has very different boundaries about sexuality than I do or even than I think are appropriate. I think that they would benefit from a CPS investigation simply so that they could learn what is appropriate developmentally. Children should not be watching porn with their father or be privy to sexual conversations, but that’s not my call. These parents believe that kids should learn about sex in the context of watching adults express their sexuality. So, I’m pretty sure that’s how this boy came to know what he does. He lives in a sexually saturated environment with little boundary enforcement due to the beliefs about child development held by the adults in his life. In reality, this is sexual abuse, but I don’t have hard evidence. I only have observations and things I’ve learned when I’ve spoken to the parents or walked into their home.

      It all fits though when put together with Tanya’s attitudes about my daughter’s autism. She refuses to believe that it’s real. It doesn’t meet her needs to believe that it’s real. In that boy’s house, it may very well be that the parents are raising the boys in a manner that meets the parents’ needs rather than the other way around, hence, a 4 year-old who knows how to “make a girl feel good”. And, while that might be an abusive environment, I can’t measure that. So, CPS won’t do anything about it.

      • Ugh, ya I guess you are right. It is heartbreaking though as I’m sure those children have no future. I too have a neighbor from absolute hell. Long story, but she doesn’t believe my daughter has issues……she told my daughter all her issues are caused by me. She said a lot of horrid things and she won’t let my daughter play with her grandchildren. So I was thinking hmmmm…..if I have the power to cause things like sensory integration disorder, anxiety issues, bi-polar etc…..I would definitely zap that bitch off the face of the planet. Unfortunately she is still here so I guess I don’t posses those powers after all LOL. It is horrid living next to someone so evil (trust me, I could write a book about all the crap she has pulled). I’ve decided that if I ever sell this house and buy another one—it will be in the middle of 20 acres of land with no neighbors.

      • I have never been blamed for my children’s illnesses before. I was warned a few years ago that at some point someone was going to pull out the Munchausens card, and I thought, “Really? How can that be?” And sure enough, there it is. I’ve been judged, of course, and felt judged because people judge what they don’t understand. That’s human nature. Mental illness scares people, but this outright refusal to accept that a child has a developmental disability? In this case, I must consider the source. This is the woman who told me that Grace’s SCZ was caused by allergies. Allergies! So, I’m sure in her medieval mind autism is just another word for “vaccinated child” or something like that. I find it ironic that people would call my children ‘crazy’ when really it’s behavior like this that I’d define as ‘crazy’. And that’s what I ended up saying last night. “Girls, you can’t reason with crazy.”

  2. It is so difficult to engage with people who are not willing to put aside their narrow frame of mind and surpass the limitations of their limited experience by taking the time to understand mental illness. When people make dismissive statements, such as your neighbor, it undermines all the selfless time and effort by doctors, therapists, school counselors (and other mental health care providers), caregivers and, especially, those who live each day with mental illness with such courage and tenacity.
    Stay Strong, Gayle

    • Thanks for your comment, Gayle. We are still reeling from yesterday’s events. It just replays in our minds, and Milly is struggling to make sense of it. She doesn’t understand, but she thinks it’s her fault. I can’t really make sense of any of it myself, but I know that I don’t want to play a role in it.

  3. Yep, my neighbor from hell did the same thing. She told my daughter that babies are born innocent and without problems. When my daughter tried to tell the neighbor from hell about her issues–that is when the neighbor told my daughter that she didn’t have any of those issues…..and that her behavior is a result of me being a horrible mom. Yep–she actually said this to my daughter. And your right–you can’t reason with crazy LOL

    • Babies are born innocent and without problems? What would this person say to a family who had a child with Downs? What does this person think geneticists exist for? I don’t get it. What a strange point of view. Sure, there are environmental factors that can activate/deactivate genes, and those genetics get passed on, hence, the entire field of epigenetics. It’s a rather frightening notion that the trauma experienced by a parent, for example, can activate genes, and those “new” genetics caused by trauma exposure will be then passed on to children. But to assert that horrible parenting is the sole cause of bipolar disorder? Uh…if that were the case, then there would be a hella lot of bipolar people running around! Goodness! What is *wrong* with people?! Truly!!

  4. Well. What an extraordinary blog. Jesus.

    I am amazed at your ability to write such informative, educational and (forgive me) entertaining posts, while dealing with all that you have going on. It’s been a helpful way for me to understand what a parent in this situation has to deal with.

    I have a friend with a daughter Grace’s age. She has some type of childhood onset schizophrenia. Do you have any advice for what kind of help/support a parent might want/need in this situation. He has other kids, so I’ve tried to help him with food for the other kids when there have been been hospitalizations. I’ve offered to listen when he wants to talk. It all seems pretty inadequate, but I want to be a helpful friend. This struck me when I read on of your older posts, about friends who are helpful and talkative at first and then disappear.

    • Your comment made me smile! Thank you. You don’t need to be forgiven for saying that my posts are entertaining. Humor is our saving grace in the midst of what has become a very big life full of unpredictabiity.

      You are the first person to ever ask me this question. What an amazing question! I’m stunned.

      So, to answer your question…The people who have been the most supportive are the ones that just show up, and I have a few friends who have shown up in different ways. I have one friend who has faithfully provided food during times of exhaustion and crisis. She just shows up, feeds us, asks what we need, provides it, and then leaves. She also comes by and takes my other kids out, often spontaneously, when she takes her dog to the dog park. My youngest girl really likes this. It provides her with time away and helps her feel valued because another adult is spending time with her. So, that has been one way to be supportive.

      I have another friend who is the Crisis Friend. She has gone along to the ER visits with me because my husband has to be home with the kids. Back in the early days of the DX, Grace was a frequent flyer at the Behavioral Health ER, and this friend would go along. She would distract Grace, provide humor, and just be there to hang out. She was a witness to the situation, and now we can talk about it and even joke about it. My post about The Complete Pig is about her.

      I have another friend who is on stand-by. She simply says to call her when something is wrong, and she’ll be there even if it’s just to listen or bring a meal. We meet for coffee, and we just share our lives. I don’t have a ton of friends locally. But, the ones that live here and are privy to all the details show up, listen, ask if we need anything, and often just show up with help, hot coffee, a meal, something that the girls like, a cool t-shirt for me, or even an invitation to get away for the evening when I can. And, they form meaningful relationships with my girls. That just makes me so happy.

      I think, in the end, it’s all about relationship. Grace’s illness isn’t the center of our lives anymore because we know what’s going on. It can overwhelm us from time to time when she is suddenly hospitalized with something, and we’re rearranging schedules, etc. But, I think that, for the most part, we still want to be treated like people. Not judged for having a sick kid with a disease that bears a stigma. We are always humans first, not just spouses, parents, or caregivers. And, we love our friends and want to give something back to them, too. I love it when my friends give me the opportunity to be their friend as well. I don’t like it when they say, “Gosh, it’s just that you’re going through so much. I don’t want to burden you.” I want to be generous. I want to show up in their lives, too, and offer what I have as well because it keeps me balanced and prevents me from being too self-involved.

      Does any of this make sense? I have a tendency to be verbose.

      Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate your thoughtful question and have enjoyed answering it. Best, MJ

      • Ha. Verbosity is underrated IMHO.

        This was very helpful. Much of the time, I want to ask what they need, instead of just getting or doing something. I know it’s better to just “do”, so I don’t put them in the position of having to verbalize the need or accept the help. But I also want the help actually to be helpful. I tend to get stuck by indecision about what to do.

        Maybe I should just have a frank talk and say, “these are the things I can do when x happens. When x comes up, I’ll do them and I’ll ask what else I can do. And you HAVE to give me at least one answer.” 🙂

      • You know, I don’t think it’s necessarily better to just do. I think being thoughtful is a very good thing and asking is important. I think your idea is good. It’s puts boundaries in place. This is what I can do, and what else do you need? Tell me something! I mean, what more can one ask for? And sometimes presence is better than anything. Being vs. doing.

      • BTW, this has also been helpful for me with regard to perspective and mindfulness – two things I used to be better at. I felt like a whiny #$#%**# after reading this. My attitude is determined by me, so it was nice to be reminded of that.

        Coming upon a new blog can also induce Netflixitis. You binge read, and then you have to wait for posts to trickle out. 🙂

      • Well, they call it the “practice” of mindfulness, right? It’s like practicing a song on the piano. The first few rounds sort of sound like shit. Practicing mindfulness is the same, I think. You give it a go, and you feel like it didn’t go so well. “My mindfulness sounds like shit!” But, the more you practice, the better you get. If you stop, then you can always pick it up again. Sort of like the piano or another instrument.

        Hey, at least waiting for my next post isn’t like waiting for the next “Sherlock”! I just watched all the episodes in a row, what?! Gnnnnnnn….

      • Well, I have learned a lot. I have been reminded of a lot. I have a better perspective on my own messed up life.

        My guess is that people who actually think they’re gurus probably suck at it.

        Perhaps “role model” fits better.

      • I’m glad you visited here, and thank you for saying such kind things. I really enjoy a good dialogue. I bet your life isn’t nearly as “messed up” as you think. We all have our deficits, but with every deficit comes a benefit, too.

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