IEPs and Sexual Predators

I had a very interesting day yesterday.  I want to share the good news first.  I’m not sure if I’ve posted here that I open-enrolled Milly into a different school district this year.  I removed her from our home district at the end of the first semester of her third grade year in order to enroll her in a virtual school where she would no longer be subject to the culture and mistreatment of our home district while also preserving her IEP.

Simply put, our home district wouldn’t implement her IEP.  These days, it feels like it takes an act of God through the appearance of Moses himself to get a district to give you an IEP.  It’s as if they view themselves to be Pharaoh.  Entirely above the federal law stated clearly in IDEA and explained even more clearly in the Federal Registry.  At least that’s how my district behaves.  They finally gave Grace an IEP after our state’s Department of Education, at the bidding of The Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities appointed by our governor, rang them up early one morning and slapped their wrists for “bad behavior”.  Illegal behavior really.

Milly wasn’t ready to return to a brick and mortar school last year, so I did the unthinkable.  I homeschooled an autistic girl.  She needs social interactions to reinforce social thinking scenarios as well as practice, but her anxiety was so high that she wasn’t able to socialize much if at all.  So, we pursued academics at home while we worked on skills independently.  Finally, at the end of her fourth grade year, she told me that she was ready to return to a public school environment, and she was even ready to go somewhere new even if it was hard and meant making new friends.  So, that’s what we did.

But her IEP had expired which meant that we had to start all over again with evaluations.  I hate IEP evaluations.

Yesterday, I went to Milly’s IEP meeting wherein we discussed the evaluation results.  She got her IEP! What’s more, everyone at this school is there to help her.  This school is nothing like her former school.  Her teacher adores her and fully understands autism spectrum disorders.  Milly takes her breaks in the principal’s office with the principal who helps her with breathing exercises.  The environment of the school is validating and cares for the well-being of children.  I feel so much better sending my daughter there knowing that she is cared for and about, and she will now be guaranteed services appropriate to her needs.

One topic that was raised during the IEP meeting was the notion that Milly had good boundaries around adults which was unusual for a child her age.  She was reluctant to disclose information about herself, and she did not willingly go with staff members whom she had not met to another place in the building even if said staff person insisted that they were trustworthy because they were a teacher or school employee.  Milly was suspicious because they were a stranger.  It was pointed out by the autism specialist that this was an important quality to have particularly for an ASD girl.

Special needs children and adolescents are often targets for abuse particularly sexual abuse because they often cannot read social cues or discern the intent of another person.  They are often too trusting of others–even strangers.  Or, due to an inability to communicate, they are abused simply due to predator hubris–“I’ll hurt you whenever and however I please! It’s not like you can tell anyone!”

This was on my mind yesterday when I left the meeting.  I have four daughters.  I have and continue to raise them to be aware of themselves and others.  The world is full of good people, but there are people out there who are not good.  People who mean to do harm to vulnerable innocents.

And, wouldn’t you know, I met one yesterday at my local Caribou.  I took Milly out for an afternoon coffee beverage.  She thinks the Vanilla Coolers are fairly awesome so she begs me to take her to our local Caribou almost every day.  I had a jones for coffee (my constant state of existence) so I relented.  That local Caribou has become my Cheers.  I dropped my grey pashmina in there last week, and two employees yelled my name while waving it in the air.  I was both embarrassed and comforted.  First of all, how often do I wear that thing, and, secondly, how often am I there? Everyone really does know my name!

While I was licking the whipped cream from the top of my coffee drink, I noticed a man staring at me.  Not glancing.  Ogling.  With his mouth hanging open.  I made eye contact with him.  He continued to stare.  He stared at my mouth.  He was seated in such a way that his back was supposed to be to me.  In order to watch me drink my coffee, he had to turn his entire body around.  I felt more than a little disgusted by his behavior.  As soon as Milly started licking the whipped cream from her straw, his eyes darted to her mouth.  He leaned in to his stare and shifted in his chair.  She’s 11 for crying out loud! I watched him watch my daughter drink her coffee beverage, and I felt anger with a mix of fear.

This man didn’t hide.  Oh no, he started rubbing himself as he watched my daughter continue to lick her straw.  Right there in a public place! He shifted and rocked and rubbed all the while staring with his mouth hanging open.  He never blinked.

I had seen him before.  I brought Eadaoin, Grace, and Milly to Caribou a few weeks ago, and he sat behind them in a corner.  He had done the same thing then, but I couldn’t see his hands.  I saw him shifting, rocking, and staring then, too.  We actually left because we were so uncomfortable.  He wouldn’t stop staring at us.  I had hoped to never see him again.

In the middle of his predatory ruminations, three high school girls came in, ordered coffee, and sat at a table just a few feet from him.  He looked like he might explode.  He was undressing them with his eyes.  He ogled their behinds, their chests, and continued to shift and rock in his chair.  Then a girl who looked to be about 10 years-old walked by him, and I saw him wrench his body in his chair to stare at her.  He behaved like a starving kid in a candy shop.  I wanted to vomit.

I stared at this man.  He made eye contact with me numerous times.  Milly asked me if I was okay.  She said I looked like I was going to kill someone.  Finally, I texted a friend.  I needed to do something.  He told me to tell the manager.  It took me a moment to find my courage.  I’m a survivor of sexual abuse.  There was a part of me that was irrationally fearful of him.  Instead, I pretended to text someone and took a picture of him with my phone.  I know the manager, and she was there! I walked over to her.

“Pretend that I’m showing you pictures of my kids and laugh,” I said quietly.

She looked alarmed.

“Just do it.  Laugh.”

She laughed.

“There is a man in here watching women, young women, and girls.  He sits in here, pretends to work on a laptop, watches these girls and women, and rubs himself or gets off by rocking and rhythmically shifting in his chair.  I’ve seen him do it today, and I saw him do it another time.  I’m going to show you a picture of him now.  Tell me it’s cute because he’s probably watching.”

She looked sickened but tried to follow along.  As soon as she saw the picture, she said, “I know who that is.”

I saw her jaw clinch.  She looked as angry as I felt.  I could tell that she was trying to figure out what to do.  The assistant manager is a male.  She was going to start by alerting him.  Most of the employees are women.  I then told her to laugh as I walked away.  It had to look like we were talking about something funny.  So, she laughed.  I laughed.

I went back to the table, got Milly, and left.

That’s not an easy thing to do.  I was trembling when I left.  It’s easier to walk away.  It’s easier to never return, but that’s my place! I go there! I’m not going to allow a sexual predator to “window shop” and do nothing! I also want my daughters to know that we can do something.  We don’t have to sit there and take it as women.  If a man is behaving in a predatory way, then we can and should say something.  We are right to do so because young girls and adolescent girls often don’t notice or notice but feel helpless to do anything simply because they don’t know what to do; or, they’re too scared to do anything.

I pondered the possibility that this could be a misunderstanding.  What if this man simply had a scorching case of jock itch and lacked any and all social skills? Then, someone needs to school him on how to behave in public:

  • It is not appropriate to scratch, rub, and rock oneself in public.  Go to the bathroom if you must repeatedly touch your crotch.
  • It is never appropriate to stare at people to that extent particularly while rubbing one’s groin.
  • Men should not ogle little girls, adolescent girls, and women.  If a man wants to stare at women for hours on end, then pay for that privilege and go to a strip bar.
  • If a man has an STI or some kind of health issue that affects “groin comfort” to the extent that he cannot even sit still, then stay home while the issue is being treated.

All in all, it was a very interesting day.  I hope today is boring.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hooked on A Feeling

Ever since we saw “Guardians of The Galaxy” Milly has been singing songs from the soundtrack particularly Blue Swede’s “Hooked on A Feeling”.  As soon as we get in the car, she grabs my iPod, hooks it up, and selects the song.

Aah yes, the familiar strains of “Hooked on A Feeling”.  I’ve always felt bad for the studio singers, wondering what they looked like standing there singing the opening chorus with such commitment and feeling:

“Ooga-Chaka Ooga-Ooga Chaka-Ooga Ooga-Chaka…”

This song is like Milly’s cup of morning coffee.  She cranks it up as I’m driving her to school, and then she car dances to it.  She doesn’t hide her car dancing in any way.  She looks like she’s having a seizure, flailing around in the front seat.  I have to drive with a straight face, or she’ll think I’m laughing at her.  ASD kids often think this way.  Truth be told, I would be laughing at her a little bit because it’s funny.  She’s hilarious but trying to explain the nuance to her isn’t worth it.  So, I keep it together.  It’s not funny.  Ahem.

The part of this scenario that is a little unsettling to my maternal DNA, however, is the singing.  Milly belts out this song like a drunken bar maid.  Have you listened to the lyrics? I never paid attention.  Lyrics have never been something I really noticed.  Case in point, “Greased Lightning” from the movie “Grease”.  “Grease” was my all-time favorite movie until I saw “Xanadu” at which point that became the best thing I’d ever seen.  I had every song from “Grease” memorized and could sing them on command.  Prancing around the house at six years of age, I would jump on the couch like John Travolta and shout, “The chicks’ll cream, for Greased Lightning!”  When I watched “Grease” at a friend’s house during my senior year of high school, listening to “Greased Lightning” was a revelation and a shock to my system.

“The chicks will…CREAM? Are you kidding me? I sang that when I was in Kindergarten! What the what?! And what’s with Kenickie’s condom breaking in the backseat of his car with Rizzo? This isn’t a kids’ movie!”

Well, “Hooked on A Feeling” isn’t a kids’ song either.  Listen to this!

Lips as sweet as candy
Its taste is on my mind
Girl, you got me thirsty
For another cup o’ wine

And this!

All the good love
When we’re all alone
Keep it up girl
Yeah, you turn me on

It’s a classic pop song full of sexual innuendo, but it sounds so weird coming out of my 11 year-old daughter’s mouth as she does her morning calisthenics car dancing when I drive her to school! I wonder if that’s how my mother felt listening to me sing “Greased Lightning”?

Yesterday, as we were out enjoying what is likely to be one of our last really wonderful autumnal days, Milly had once again decided to be the car DJ.  She was scrolling through all the artists and came across Ginuwine.  I winced.  I honestly can’t remember how Ginuwine got on my iPod, but I knew exactly what song it was.  “Pony”.  The lyrics were suddenly right there.  Oh Lord, let’s not play that song.

“Ginuwine.  That’s Donna’s cousin on ‘Parks and Recreation’.  Can I listen to this song?”

“Uh…well, hmmm.  I think there are….”

And she hit play.  That grinding bass started and then Ginuwine’s singing, “I’m just a bachelor lookin’ for a partner, Someone who knows how to ride without even fallin’ off…”

Eadaoin was in the backseat.  “Why is this song called ‘Pony’?”

“I think that we should find another song.  This song is too sexy for younger ears, Milly.”

“What’s so sexy about it?”

The more I make a big deal out of something, the more she’s going to want it.  So, I have to play it off like it’s nothing.  This is human nature.  I, however, do not want to explain the meaning of this song’s chorus to my daughter!

“If you’re horny, let’s do it.  Ride it, my pony.  My saddle’s waiting.  Come and jump on it!”

I asked myself why, in fact, I had that song? Why?! Then I remembered.  It’s Channing Tatum’s fault.  I went out for a girls’ night to see “Magic Mike”.  Channing danced so…er…nicely to this song that I was inspired to buy it.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.  Beyond that, what I knew for certain is that I did not want to be asked: “What does horny mean?” I hate that word for one, and I also…just didn’t feel like it.  She can hold onto her childhood a little longer.  She can be in middle school when she learns what ‘horny’ means.

In the middle of my maternal ruminations, Eadaoin shouted at me.  “Mom! I know what this song means! I know why it’s called ‘Pony’! I’ve figured it out! That’s disgusting!! Mom! How could you? How could you have a song like this on your iPod! Mom!!! Just…MOM!” she said in an obvious shaming tone.

I grinned.  She obviously doesn’t want to know what ‘horny’ really means either.

And I’m so happy about that.  I will wear that badge of shame applied to me by daughter with pride this morning as I take Milly to school and NOT laugh at her as she, once again, car dances and sings her heart out to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on A Feeling”.

I know I’m definitely hooked on a feeling.  I love my girls.

 

Raising The Standard

Yesterday morning, Grace was struggling with self-harming ideation.  She’s hit a dip in the road.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know that anyone knows why.  Sometimes people like to blame the progression or evolution of her condition on her budding hormones.  We are a family of late bloomers.  Grace is 13 but still looks very boyish in her body.  Visually, ain’t nothin’ goin’ on there, but I’m sure her endocrine system is busy priming the pump.  As soon as puberty hits and her brain is bathed in estrogen and progesterone, I’m sure we’ll be riding the roller coaster ride again as everyone keeps reminding me.  She’ll get her period, and then she’ll really go crazy.

I, however, get really tired of everyone telling me that.  Like Doomsday is waiting for us.  When you’re a parent to girls, you hear a lot of people talking smack about females.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out and about with my girls when some stranger has approached me and asked, “Are these girls all yours?”  I look at my daughters to ensure that I haven’t picked up a few stragglers on the way and then respond in the affirmative.  Yep, they’re all mine.  “Wow.  Four girls, huh? You’re really in for it when they all hit puberty.  Good luck to you, ma’am.”  I look back at my daughters who have all heard this statement or something very similar countless times before.  Doireann is usually rolling her eyes.  Eadaoin looks offended.  Grace has always been very vocal so she’ll ask, “What’s that supposed to mean?”  Milly is Captain Logic so she is the most rational: “Who was that man, and why was he talking to you?” Exactly.

Is this a common experience for parents of boys? Do random strangers approach mothers and fathers with a group of boys and ask if that gaggle of boys following them all belong to them? Do they make sexist remarks like, “Good luck to you when they hit puberty.  You’ll be finding crusty socks under their beds, porn on their laptops, and changing the sheets every other day! Best to just lock ’em up to protect the general population from being forced to associate with your sons while they experience The Change.”  No, this is not common, but it’s okay to tell the parents of girls that they’re in for a bloodbath of both a physical and emotional nature? Why?

You even hear this in the medical community as well.  When Grace was in the prodromal phase of her illness, I tried to mention some of her symptoms to a specialist.  He told me that she was probably just hormonal.  She was 10.  As a girl, her symptoms were dismissed, even as a 10 year-old girl, because at some point in the next four years of her life she would begin menstruating.  I find that to be unacceptable.  When I mentioned this oversight to a friend who loved this particular specialist, I was dismissed.  “Oh, well, you know how it is.”  No, I don’t.  How is it? Great doctors can’t miss the boat, or it’s acceptable to lump mental health symptoms in girls in with stereotypical female hysteria based on gender bias? Or both?

Where am I going with this? For those of us involved in the world of mental health care by choice or by force of circumstances, we are aware of the gender bias.  Getting angry over it isn’t fruitful.  I think I am feeling something like frustration over the fact that what people like to call ‘realism’ is really just another name for cynical naysaying and a very real lack of awareness.

For example, there are some people in my life that might call themselves ‘hopeful realists’ when it comes to difficult circumstances, but they’re not.  They’re actually quite negative.  I have to be careful with what I share.  They ask how Grace is doing.  If I share that she did well in her skills training, they might say, “That’s good.  We’ll see how long she can hold onto that new skill.”  Or, “Well, she’s stable now but just wait until the hormones hit.  You’ll be right back in the hospital again.”  Please tell me how either of those statements is in any way helpful.  Are they truly affirming or helpful? No.  They are meant to produce fear and anxiety.  Do these people think that I’m lacking self-awareness? Do they think that I’m living under a rock? Do these strangers that approach me in malls and cafés assume that I have no idea what happens to the female body during the adolescent years?

“Really? Something is going to happen to my daughters’ bodies at some point in the future? What’s puberty? Is that a big deal? Please do tell me, strange man, what will happen to my family? Will it be significant? You took the time to come over here and warn me.  Surely, it must be a terrifying experience because you look like you’re scared of little girls.  You even look a little scared of me.  Will there be…blood?”

The people who are the most aware regarding what’s facing their families are the primary caregivers.  Mothers know what’s in store for their daughters.  If a woman had a difficult time with the onset of her period, then she knows exactly what’s facing her daughters.  If a woman was a Judy Blume fan girl who read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret over and over again, then she’ll be tuned in to her daughters’ experiences out of empathy.  We don’t need strangers and society at large treating our daughters like the Ragnarök of our family life.  More than that, we certainly don’t need the people in our lives undermining our support system by participating in this paradigm by insinuating that the hard work that our kids have done will be destroyed by a very normal part of human development.  We need support! Our young women need support.  We need someone to just sit with us and be our friends as well as be real friends to our kids.  People who will show humility and authentic kindness, treat our kids like human beings with rights, witness the suffering that’s going on in our lives, and not attempt to fix it.

Being a caregiver is one of the loneliest jobs because we don’t ever get to stop really.  Our friends can ask.  People can bring a meal.  Others can stop over or take us out, but, at the end of the day, everyone else gets to leave and go back to their own lives.  The people that we care for are our responsibility.  No one else’s.  We plan our lives–our minutes, hours, and days–around the person or people we take care of.  We often can’t even eat or go to the bathroom if the person requiring care is with us.  It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live like we do.  They might think they understand, but they can’t.  I thought I understood until it was my turn.  I thought I had a grasp of what it meant because I had an autistic child, but I wasn’t prepared for schizophrenia or a potential mitochondrial disease.  I wasn’t prepared to watch my child disintegrate before my eyes, and I wasn’t prepared to feel so left behind.  I wasn’t prepared to feel so happy about the small victories and so sucker punched when others minimized them.  If you wonder why parents of special needs kids or even primary caregivers to those with profound needs seem closed off or excessively private, this is why.  People seem to feel compelled to remind us of the reality of our situation and future as if we are ignorant, and, at least for me, I find myself, at times, terribly weary of it.  Sometimes I want to shout out, “I know! Do you really think that we don’t know? Why can’t you just be happy for us in this one moment? Just rest in this minute with me.  Just experience this moment of victory to the fullest before it passes.” Mindfulness is not easily experienced by many people.  I am just now realizing this.  There are people who will try very hard to pull you down with their own dark gravity.  They cannot let you stay in your orbit.  They must find a reason to catastrophize and blame.  They can’t allow you to celebrate.  Not even a little.

Yes, it’s true that the onset of puberty is often the time at which certain neuropsychiatric illnesses present.  I’m not denying that, but correlation is not causation.  As much as certain men (and women) would like to believe that the menstrual cycle makes women crazy bitches, there’s simply a lot more to it than that.  Women (and men) can always reserve the right to make very bad choices which will have nothing to do with Shark Week:

images

My period made me do it.

And women (and men) can always implement those decisions with a very, very bad attitude–menstruating or not.

images-1

Blame has always been a popular choice.  It’s easy.  Personal responsibility is hard.  Empathy is even harder.  Compassion is the hardest.  It is entirely up to me to create a life that is rewarding even as I take care of Grace and Milly…and Eadaoin.  Life will not stop moving just because I can’t keep up or because, Heaven forbid, I have my period!

 If I need help, then I have to ask for it.  I have to be sure that I’m not participating in blame either.  Caregivers often don’t have a lot of personal time so we have to be very deliberate in how we live our daily lives.  It’s vital to our well-being so that we can provide the care that our dependents rely on.  We have to make sure that our thought lives are healthy.  If we are giving into fear, cognitive distortions, and feelings of helplessness, then it’s up to us to pursue mental health supports so that we can stay healthy.  Is this easy? Hell, no! Is it vital? Hell, yes! There are days when I walk into my therapist’s office and simply declare, “I just need you to check my reality for me.  I think I’ve lost my compass.”  I can take a lot, but, between stupid remarks from strangers, dealing with the insurance company and the Ned Flanders types at the behavioral health company that my insurance company uses to provide coverage for all mental health claims, insensitive remarks from a spouse, paying the bills, normal daily human interactions, and all the pressure that comes with life and what it means to have children with special needs not to mention a parent with mental illness, we need an outside observer to reset us sometimes.  We need someone to hook us up with resources that we don’t have time to track down ourselves.  It’s important.

At heart, I’m an idealist, but I’ve been alive long enough to be a hopeful realist now.  I can’t control other people.  We create our lives even if we live in a pressure cooker.  We still bring a lot of the ingredients to the pot.  I can’t stop well-meaning people from saying insensitive things.  I can only stop myself from saying something equally insensitive in return.  I know that I am not going to be able to stop strangers from saying stupid things to me.  I hear something from someone almost every time I’m out with my daughters.  Admittedly, I’m tempted to create a scene wherein we all grab our stomachs, walk like Quasimodo, cry and moan, and carry boxes of tampons while asking people where the Midol is.  Perhaps Grace could throw herself to the ground and writhe just for good measure.  Doireann could hiss at anyone who attempted to help and shriek, “The light! The light! It burns…”   I could just stand there and cry, “My life….my life…”

I’m sure at that moment an acquaintance will walk by, observe the scene, and nonchalantly quip, “I called it.  Puberty hit and they all went crazy.  Women.  Am I right?”

images-2

Or this…

a-c-a-b_o_2382989

Isn’t the media great? Someone thought these were a good idea.

Me? I disagree.  I would like to say something different about girls and women and caregivers because I know that there are male caregivers who are giving it their all, and it takes a special male caregiver to care for a daughter with special needs.  Girls and our bodies must seem foreign and strange at times, but I know that there are fathers and uncles and even older brothers who are helping their loved ones navigate adolescence because they have to.  There is no one else.  They have to be father and mother to a special needs child, and that’s a profoundly difficult role.  Combine being a caregiver with being a caregiver to a child of a different gender, and it gets tricky.  Put it all together with what society at large has to say, and you’ll find that there’s just not a lot of support.  Misogyny is still alive and well.  Shaming girls for their physiology is still “a thing”:

images-3

I’d like to say that a girl, be she neurotypical or not, mentally healthy or not, living on her own or not, feeling well or not, managing her menstrual cycles with aplomb or not, is 100% valuable.

6146304_f248

Caregivers Are Awesome, Too!

And, you know, maybe we’re not mean or nasty or bitchy or unreasonable or unkind or irrational at all.  Maybe all of us are just being true to our generous natures…

6144705_f248

It’s a joke, but true humor starts with a kernel of truth

Maybe it’s time to stop ridiculing girls and women for having bodies that create life, but, at the same time, accept that it’s not romantic in any way.  Enough with the girly commercials already.  It’s gross and messy and nothing like a Massengill commercial.  It smells.  It’s really inconvenient.  We don’t like it.  It hurts, and I’m pretty sure most women couldn’t care less that our cycles match that of the lunar cycle.  So what? When the moon bleeds, cramps, and experiences moodiness on a monthly basis, we’ll start bonding with it.  Let’s just be honest.  Telling the truth often takes away a lot of the mystique as well as the prejudices.

March-05-2012-17-05-04-tumblrm0a8j3H7781rp8oc7o1500

Maybe it’s time to stop approaching mother and fathers with girls and warning them of the tumultuous years ahead of them because your ex-girlfriend’s daughter was a real bitch when she was on the rag and crazy the rest of the time.  Maybe it’s time to stop saying negative things altogether to strangers with children, be they special needs or not.  If a woman is in pain, how about offering to help? If a father is struggling with his daughter, offer him a smile and a word of encouragement.  Take him out for a beer! If a young woman looks discouraged, encourage her.  If you know a caregiver who has daughters, don’t point your finger at the future and paint a picture of darkness and doom citing blood and rage.  Hell hath no fury like a woman on her period! Hades hath no rage like a schizo during Shark Week! Instead, tell her that you’ll be there for her and her family as long as you’re needed.  Tell her that you love her.  Tell her that you think her children are special and have a lot to offer.  Offer to persevere alongside her.  Offer to be another healthy adult and resource to her children.  Sex education is difficult for some families.  Sometimes it’s easier to talk about periods and sex with an adult outside the immediate family.  Sometimes kids have questions about their own development that they just don’t feel comfortable asking their parents or family members.  Just think of what a powerful ally friends can be! And, of course, the boys in our culture need the same thing!

Shame and empowerment don’t go together.  We’re either all in or not.  A man can’t say in one breath, “I’m pro-woman,” and follow it up with, “Women.  Am I right?”  We either surround ourselves with people who truly value and love girls and women, both neurotypical and not, and instill in them a sense of worth…or we don’t.

Oddly enough, that starts with how we caregivers treat ourselves.  If you are a woman, then your language, what you model around your own femininity, how you talk about other women, and how you treat your body speak volumes to the girls, boys, and men in your life.  Raise a standard, keep it, and then make sure that your standard never comes at anyone else’s expense.  Especially yours.

Milly Meets Lavender

Recall how I spoke about Milly, my Aspie 10 year-old, and her new fascination with sexuality.  We had The Talk with her, and now she’s bursting with questions about “doing it”.  I thought we were finally past the worst of it.  She stopped asking me if I liked “neck kissing” like the ladies on TV.  She stopped asking my husband and me what we were really doing in our bedroom when our door was locked.  After all, we don’t always lock the door.  Why lock the door only sometimes? Were we having sex?

Aspies are not subtle.  It’s positively grating and unnerving, but, on some level, I thought it might be good for me.  Let’s just get it all out there.  Yes, men have penises.  Women have vaginas.  Men put their penises in women’s vaginas.  They roll around a lot when doing this.

It doesn’t sound the least bit fun when I put it like that, does it? I’m trying to imagine some guy in a bar saying to me, “So, I’d really like to put my penis in your vagina.  Whadya say?” I shudder at the thought.  I think that’s how Milly is imagining it.  She is very literal in her interpretation of events.  Sex must sound positively disgusting to her then.

So, imagine Milly’s confusion and my husband’s amusement when, last night, Milly decides to go digging in his sock drawer for a flashlight.  The sock drawer seems to be a place to hide things for many people.  For years, we have hidden a variety of things under the socks in my husband’s sock drawer because the girls weren’t tall enough to reach it.  Secondly, there has never been a reason for any of the children to go looking in their father’s sock drawer.  They don’t wear men’s socks after all.

Milly is different.  She thinks like her father.  He keeps a flashlight in his sock drawer ergo she will look in his sock drawer for a flashlight.  Would she think to ask out of respect for our privacy? Hell, no.  Her only goal is to find a flashlight.  Did she find what she was looking for? No.  She found something altogether different.

She found Lavender.  My vibrator.

She hoisted the lavender vibe high in the air and declared more than asked, “Wow! What’s THIS?” I wasn’t home.  Thank God.  My husband looked up from his computer, and, apparently, tried to look insouciant.

“It’s nothing.”

“But, what is it?”

“Nothing.  Put it back.”

“What is it?”

“It’s not a flashlight.  Put it back.”

She reluctantly returned Lavender to her resting place and continued searching for a flashlight.

My husband quietly informed me of last night’s events this morning as I drank my morning coffee.  Not only does Milly find everything I try to hide, but she also has the hearing of a dog–“I can hear you, you know,” she shouted from two rooms away.  I asked my husband if Milly figured out what Lavender was for.  He just laughed and shook his head.

I can see it now.  “Does Dad massage you with that purple thing? Why is it shaped like a penis? What do you do with it? Where do you put it? Why do you have one? Does it belong to Dad? Does he use it on his feet? Is that why he has it in his sock drawer? Why is it purple?”  The next time the door is locked: “What’s going on in there? I hear a noise.  Is that purple thing out?”

The sad thing is…this is the most action Lavender has seen in a year.

I gotta get these kids out of the house more.

Sex Ed in Our House

Now that the can o’ worms otherwise known as sex has been opened in our house, I am being pestered nonstop, and not in a good way.

Milly is fascinated by babies and how they are made.  She has applied her autistic mind to the subject, and my sex life is under the microscope.  Every time she sees a man and a woman doing anything remotely sexual or affectionate on the tele she must now inquire about my sexual preferences.

We were watching a show, and a husband was kissing his wife’s neck.  Milly turned to me and said, “Dad kisses your neck.  Is that something you like? Does Dad kiss your neck often? Is that something you do when you lock the door? Neck kissing?” I just sat there.  I think my mouth was hanging open.  A bird could have nested in my throat.  She just kept talking.  “Do you suppose they might have sex? I wonder if they might make a baby.  Do you like sex?” While a bird was building a nest in my gullet, my eyes just fell out of my head.  I have discussed sex and sexuality with three other girls none of whom have an autism spectrum disorder.  They never asked for specifics.  This girl is altogether different.  I had to get myself together.  She was looking at me expecting an answer.  I knew that I had to say something! “Milly, I want you to ask questions, but I am not going to discuss my sexual likes and preferences with you.  It’s just not something that is appropriate.  You are ten years-old.  I think it’s enough that you know how babies are made, how they are born, what a man and a woman do to conceive a baby, and what sex is.  What your dad and I do when the door is locked is simply not for you to know.  That’s why the door is locked.  We are adults, and you are not a part of that relationship.  That sort of information would be too heavy for you to carry and is simply not for you to know.”  Being who she is, she simply said, “Oh, okay.”

As soon as that conversation ended, Eadaoin dramatically entered the room and declared, “Ermigerd, health class was so weird today! We watched the weirdest movie!!!!” I was intrigued and fearful at the same time.  Not being one to shy away from a challenge, I asked, “What did you watch?” Eadaoin almost shrieked, “My health teacher very enthusiastically made us watch a movie on masturbation.  LIke, eeeeew!” My husband and I tried not to laugh, but we couldn’t help ourselves.  “Wait, they showed you a movie about masturbation? What is this? Sex ed in the progressive North? Back in Texas we were just taught to fear the penis.  That’s it.  The penis is bad.  It is to be feared above all else.  If you see one, then run.  Run away.  Don’t touch one.  Don’t be near one.  Don’t look at one.  Better yet, don’t spend time with anyone who actually has one just to be on the safe side.  Protect your vaginas, ladies! Protect your vaginas.  Keep your hymens intact!!!! They’re actually teaching you about masturbation?” I was shocked.  My husband was trying desperately to restrain himself.  “So, what did this film depict exactly?” he asked, trying to look serious and sincere.  Eadaoin inhaled deeply and said, “Well, first of all, it was hosted by some gross boy.  Like a 17 year-old or something.  I mean, why? I’m sorry, but I am just not all that comfortable listening to some dude talk to me about….THAT!” I stood in the kitchen biting my lip.  My husband stood next to me nodding his head, turning all shades of red, trying desperately not to explode from holding back his laughter.  “You guys, the worst thing though was how the video ended.  This gross, gross guy was standing there looking at us with this creepy look on his face.  And, he said right before it ended, ‘I have some time right now…’ like he was gonna run off and, you know, DO IT!” That was the moment that my husband lost it.  I was stunned.  While my husband was practically rolling around on the kitchen floor, I had to ask just to be certain, “You mean the dude actually ended the video with the implication that he was going to….” My husband interrupting, “…crank one off!” He continued to laugh, tears streaming down his face.  Eadaoin shrieked, “Dad! EEEW! You are so gross!” I just stood there taking in the scene.

“What else are they teaching you in health class?”

“Well, Mom, there’s that video about the fifty nifty sex terms, and then there was that one about the freshman girl sleeping with the senior guy who then started sleeping around. Uh, hmmm.  What else? I’m thinking.”

I used to think that putting a condom on a banana was scandalous.  Sitting in a room full of adolescent boys watching another adolescent boy teach me about masturbation?

I would just die.

I’m so glad I’m 41.

I’m just sayin’.

She Knows

I just got off the phone with my husband.  We get to go home! This is cause for celebration.  Grace is not having seizures.  The neurological activity that she is experiencing is related to migraine activity so that’s the next step in her treatment, but that wasn’t what my husband and I spent our time discussing.  Apparently during my absence, Milly just had to know exactly how babies were made.  In the car.  Alone with her dad.

I am filled with a schadenfreude-like glee that she decided to pursue this line of questioning with him because I’ve had The Talk with every other girl in our family.  It’s about time he suited up to take on The Birds and The Bees.

“So, Milly just had to know how babies were made last night.  Like she really had to know how the sperm made it to the egg.”

“Really? What did you tell her?”

“Well, I’m not gonna lie! I told her!”

Snickering with delight, “I wanna hear what you said!”

“I just told her that the penis goes into the vagina, and that’s how it happens.  Then, sperm leave the penis and swim to the egg.  She’s a little horrified that she’s got eggs in her body.  I think she feels like a bird.”

“What did she say then?”

“Well, she asked if people did this naked.”

“What did you say?”

“I said yeah, of course! That’s the best part!”

“You did not!”

“Hell, yeah, I did!”

Busting a gut laughing, “What did she say then?”

“She asked if we did that naked.”

“Of course she did.  Oh Lord…”

“I told her that we did it at least four times because she and her sisters are here! Oh, and Eadaoin was in the car while this was going on.  I might have left out some stuff, but I covered the important details so I’ll let you flesh out what I missed.”

“Flesh out? Really? PHRASING!”

Tears were running down my face.  The thought of my husband telling Milly that we have naked sex is almost too much for me.  The thought that she now knows exactly what that means is beyond! She’s a literal thinker! She’s an Aspie! Every time our door is locked from now on I can safely predict that she will dramatically and very loudly ask, “Are you naked? Dad, are you putting your penis into Mom’s vagina? That is just so disgusting! I am never doing that! I am horrified.  GROSS!”

So, this is what happens when I leave the house!

What Not To Wear

I posted yesterday that I have sick kids.  Eadaoin missed her bus due to oversleeping so my husband took her to school as he was leaving for work.  I didn’t see what she was wearing when she left because I was tending to Milly, but I saw what she was wearing when she got home.

Pause: Of all my girls, Eadaoin is the girliest of the bunch.  She likes Momiji dolls, pastel colors, and Peter Rabbit.  She likes chick flicks, the idea of romance, and wants to get married one day and have babies.  That’s just her.  She’s also the least squeamish about The Facts of Life.  When I had The Talk with her, she was the least shocked about where men put their penises.  Grace, on the other hand, fell off the couch.  I’m not kidding.  Grace suddenly turned some kind of ashen color, went stiff, and fell off the couch.  Eadaoin has always enjoyed taking care of herself, practiced good hygiene, and loves that lip gloss comes in so many shades of pink.  She also loves watching “What Not To Wear” with Stacy and Clinton.  She’s a budding fashionista.  This is why it was so shocking to see yesterday’s ensemble…

Play: I was in the kitchen when Eadaoin hugged me from behind.  She looked rather tall.  She was wearing her only pair of heels–3-inch heels to be exact.  They are really more of an autumn shoe made to wear with skinny jeans and trousers or a tailored skirt so why was she wearing these shoes in May? Then, I saw the dress.  Firstly, she was wearing a new sundress, but she had washed it recently and put it in the dryer.  It was smaller now than when I bought it for her.  The bodice was too tight emphasizing her growing cleavage, buttons looking ready to pop.  As I observed further, I noticed that if she were to, say, drop a pencil in class, she would be taking her life into her own hands to pick up that pencil.  She would be showing off her entire ass to everyone in the immediate viewing area! The cotton dress was scarcely a few inches below her “cheeks”.  As a mother, I wanted to grab the nearest blanket and cover her up.  As a woman, I needed to sit this girl down and have a heart-to-heart with her STAT!

Milly was in bed horking up a lung (and she’ll be heading to the doctor today.  I fear she’s been exposed to pertussis! Damn that Wakefield!) Grace and Doireann, however, saw Eadaoin’s dress and heels as well as my horrified expression.  They didn’t want to miss any forthcoming discussions so everyone gathered in the living room when I called Eadaoin.

“Eadaoin, I really do like that dress, but it’s a bit short.  When I bought it for you, I specifically said that you were to wear it with the leggings that I also purchased.”

“But, it was so hot today!”

“It was 55 degrees this morning.  It was hot yesterday.”

“Well, I was hot.”

“Eadaoin, you don’t think the dress is too short?”

“No…”

“Okay, well, I just dropped that tissue on the floor over there.  Would you please go over there and pick it up for me…without walking like a Barbie doll?”

“I don’t want to.”

“Why?”

“I can’t bend over.”

“Why?”

“……”

“Why?”

“Okay, I get it now.  But, Mom, the girls at my school all wear short dresses.”

“Don’t compare yourself to the girls at your school who are taking their sexual cues from the Victoria’s Secret models who look like they are practically masturbating in the stores’ ad posters.”

“What does masturbating mean?” Grace asked.

“Mom will tell you later,” Doireann managed to say between laughs.

“You may not see yourself as you look, but your shape is changing.  You might feel like a girl on the inside, but you’re starting to look more womanly on the outside.  You have to think about how you present yourself because others are paying attention.  You like to look pretty, and I relate to that.  So do I.  But, please, take it from someone who has embarrassed herself too many times to count, don’t set yourself up to fail by wearing something like this to school.  All it would take is for someone to bump into you, and, POW, you’re on the floor with your ass visible for everyone to see.  Please tell me you at least thought about what underwear you wore today…you know, in case…”

“No….”

“Eadaoin!”

Eadaoin left to go change or, at least, put on leggings.  Doireann was laughing and shaking her head.  “I thought that she would be the last person you would have to talk to about that stuff.  Geez…but she can’t go around dressed like a hooker! It’s just not right.  Have some self-respect for God’s sake!” I whipped my head around and stared at Doireann.  “Doireaann! So judgmental!” Suddenly, I heard Doireann yelling from upstairs.  “You’ve gotta be flipping kidding me! Really, Eadaoin? That’s what you’re gonna take away from this? MOOoooOOOm! Eadaoin is saying that she’s a screw-up! She’s not understanding that there’s value in making mistakes, and I don’t have time for this! Come fix it!”

Now, this is a big deal.  I have been working with Doireann since she was a tiny thing on her perfectionism and tendency towards self-flagellation when she feels that she’s messed up.  We stress failure as an opportunity to learn in our house–not a bad thing.  Make mistakes.  Embrace the process of learning, and make your mistakes now, when they cost you less.  Slowly but surely Doireann has come to see that mistakes are a valuable part of life and the learning process so her rather blunt announcement was music to my ears.

I went upstairs to find Eadaoin curled up in Grace’s room looking rather embarrassed.  “No one was supposed to hear me say that!” Doireann ran in and pointed her bony, pedantic finger at Eadaoin, “Well, I did! And, that’s just enough of this self-pity stuff.  So what? You dressed like a hooker.  Who cares! Don’t do it again.  Dress like you like yourself tomorrow.” Grace stood by and observed.  She finally had to say something.  “All the girls at the middle school would wear booty shorts.  I could see their bottom cheeks.  I don’t know why they did that.  But, I liked your dress.  Maybe just wear leggings with it so a wind doesn’t come along and blow it up.  You know, showing off your underwear or something.  That would be very embarrassing.”  Eadaoin was starting to look mortified.

Doireann can be a bit of a firebrand as if you couldn’t tell.  I needed to step in.  “Eadaoin, you did not look…inappropriate.  You looked pretty, but what you wore was too revealing.  And, I know that you are feeling weird now what with your sisters coming at you.  Let me just say that this does not compare to what I did my freshman year of high school.  I wore a very short skirt to school.  I was sent home to change, too, after being sent to the principal’s office.  The principal’s secretary took out a ruler to measure the length of my skirt to determine whether or not it violated the dress code.  She insinuated that I was a slut and called my mother.  Also…uh…I forgot to wear underwear under my pantyhose, and I might have flashed my entire Theatre Arts class which is why I was sent to the principal’s office in the first place.”

There is nothing like one of my embarrassing stories to add much needed perspective to a situation.  And, believe me, I have a metric ton of ’em.

Eadaoin’s eyes became impossibly wide.  Grace covered her mouth, and Doireann shouted, “Mom! Oh my Lord…you did that? Wow…just…wow.”

“Yes,  I did that.  And, I wasn’t trying to flash anyone.  I just turned around quickly.  And, your dress is shorter than my skirt was.  Do you see now why I am so concerned?”

Eadaoin quickly went into her room and changed.

I suspect Eadaoin will be undergoing a neuropsychological work-up soon.  She’s on the bipolar spectrum, and I need to have that in hand for so many reasons.  Between trying to use a butane lighter to bake meringue cookies, her avoidance of school and homework, and her burgeoning sense of self, I would like to stay ahead of what might be headed our way.

Gosh, I never imagined it would be quite so challenging.  Do you suppose it’s like this with boys? Even my girls wrestle and break windows.  Hmmmm…