Friday, July 19, 2013


My daughter has an attachment disorder. When she is anything but entirely comfortable she talks constantly, animatedly and without ceasing.  My son has aspergers syndrome. He talks at high volume in an unmodulated voice.

In other words, my children are sometimes rather LOUD.

Consequently, we don’t spend a whole heck of a lot of time in restaurants.  But the other day we had a family date with another mother and her aspergian son and her peppy daughter and, sure enough, the table next to us complained.

See, we had thought we could have a peaceful night out with the kids.

We had walked into the restaurant and immediately seen a large, multigenerational family in the big center table. They’d smiled big, friendly, relieved smiles to see us. They knew we, with our four potentially rowdy elementary school aged kids, would balance they and their two little guys right out. 

But we all knew we’d all be trying to keep our children as well-behaved as possible for the comfort of other diners…

Our sons were excited to see each other. They began putting on raucous, clearly innocent and dorky (vs. aggressive or obnoxious - and why do I feel the need to point this out?) plays with their chopsticks. This friendship has been a beacon of hope for both boys, who struggle socially in their own schools.

Our gals were excited to see each other, chatty, berating their big brothers for being “annoying.”

Maybe four minutes after we sat down, a server approached our table. She was super sweet: “We don’t mind your kids at all but another table is very upset…” They informed us we were welcome to eat in the other part of the restaurant. The closed part? That is usually unused?

We knew it wasn’t her fault and agreed right away, trying to leave as little mess behind as possible, taking our glasses etc. with us, faces burning.

Someone from the other family asked what was going on. Looking straight at the offending table, I informed the nice family in a clear, LOUD voice that someone had complained about our children, despite the fact that they were being relatively well-behaved. I explained that we had to move to another room.

There’s a ferocity to motherhood that once made polite, feminist me hiss the B word at a woman who sniped about my letting my young child play under the table at a restaurant (at the time he'd been diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder and I knew he was overwhelmed by restaurant stimuli). ...A protectiveness that had me retorting “What are you whistling at? You better not be whistling at my baby!” at pregnancy catcallers.

As well as that loving ferocity and protectiveness, there is a sadness when someone judges your child on his or her appearance or on other inevitable aspects of their being. Doesn’t acceptance start in the little things? Allowing children to make a little noise? Reach for their Skittles? Be included even if they are a different color or neurology or different ^$%@%^% ANYTHING?

Don’t ALL children learn through having opportunities to broaden their experiences? By moving outside of their homes and their neighborhoods to restaurants, different streets, neighborhoods, cultures??? Don’t they deserve as many chances to grow as we are able to offer them?

Children who are held to basic standards of kindness yet allowed to make mistakes in the niceties without dreadful repercussions may grow up to be accepting, no?

Post the Zimmerman verdict, I listen to my friends with sons of color talking and writing about how they instruct their sons: “Don’t act suspicious,” “Stay quiet,” “Keep your hands visible, “Don’t make yourself a target”…

A week ago I might’ve ventured to hope that we were moving away from the necessity for such admonitions.

How far are we willing to go to keep our kids quiet? How far to keep them safe????

Acting “erratic” (G) and dining out while brown (Z) are definitely things I see in my kids’ futures. I want them to feel welcome in the world nonetheless! I thought taking them to a restaurant would be a good thing, but our good thing almost got eighty-sixed along with us.

Do you think, stern people of the next table, that we have not tried to have our children fit your behavioral standards?  Do you not think we are doing our best and maybe occasionally deserve the right to go out and eat dumplings?

See those first few sentences of this post where I define my kids as their conditions? You, next-table chumps, have just gone one worse than defining my children by their conditions. You haven’t even given them a chance.

Sure, sometimes a noise complaint is just a noise complaint. But I think we owe it to ALL OUR CHILDREN to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Children raised like that will likely do the same for others.

Anyway, the restaurant had another room and we went there – and the other family actually got up and came over to hang out with us out of solidarity. (Thank you, warmhearted, inclusive, attractive, multigenerational family!)

So things ended up ducky.

Still, the next time you are in a restaurant (or someplace), won’t you smile at someone who is maybe a tiny bit out of their comfort zone? Maybe even ask to watch the chopstick drama?

Full Spectrum Mama

Monday, July 8, 2013


Dear Son,

Now that you are heading into 6th Grade, there are some things you should know.

First, while style is not of the deepest importance and may never be your forte, you should at least master Preventative Style.

I bring this up because the last time I asked you to choose your own outfit, you managed to dig up the worst, bottom-of-pants-pile, horrible, teal (teal!), Members Only style, rustling parachute pants I’d gingerly received for you as a hand-me-down and hidden away for a *dire laundry emergency. *

You located them, somehow. Then, as is your custom with leg-coverings, you pulled them up to your chest. And you tucked your shirt into your underwear and pulled that above the waist of those high water pants.

You see?

No, I am afraid you don’t, dear son.

I don’t mean to even try to teach you conformity, just basic clothing safety. You need to learn to ask yourself, “Will this item of clothing (or mode of wearing said item) instantly and inevitably cause people to make fun of me?” Some possible starter red flags might include: teal, overly embellished, ill-fitting, visible underwear.

Why should you care about this? Let’s just say it will ease the next few years of your life.

Actually, I am probably the wrong person to identify fashion red flags:

Figure I – FSM, Junior Sartorialist, not much older than G is right now. NB: You cannot even see that I had rubber bands on the bottoms of the bellbottoms – just to kinda bring ‘em in and then let ‘em flare out again -- and, gosh, I think Roman sandals?

Next, darling, while I do not want to curb your loving nature, now might well be the time to learn that not everybody has your best interests at heart. I got called into a Dread Meeting after you were away at camp with your class because your teacher was concerned about your going around and giving massages to adults you didn’t know. He worried that you might be vulnerable to getting hurt because you have no idea that some people can have bad intentions. He wondered, as I do, how we can protect your sweet heart while giving you some strong boundaries as you head into adolescence.

This is hard to explain, especially to someone honest, literal and pure-intentioned like you. But everyone gets confused about this stuff at first.

In the aforementioned meeting, your teacher told me a story about how he was once in an airport with his young son when his son asked him, “Dad, are any of these people strangers?” It’s so beautiful that there are, for you, no strangers. But it is time to learn to draw the line between who is a good candidate for a massage and who is not. Time to know that no one has the right to touch your private parts or hurt your body in any way. There will come a time for intimacy, but that time is not now, buster.

So, for now I will very simply say: you should know – at least in principle - that there is danger in the world.  The best way to avoid – prevention, again, being the theme - this danger is to reserve your trust for people you know well. Also, to never, ever touch someone you do not know or let them touch you.

Finally, regarding things you should do only in an appropriate fashion to others: courting.

I remember reading somewhere about Social Coaches for this stuff, professionals who offer pointers on just how long one may appropriately look at people one finds attractive, and things to say and do in romantical circumstances. Here, sugar, as at least part of the equation, please think offense prevention, humiliation prevention…

As with the clothing issue, I may not be the smoothest mentor here, but I can say that you should not be following girls (or boys) around at length or staring at their body parts in a noticeable way.

For example, when we are at a party (Why? Why????) and the 6th Grade (going into 7th) girl you are crushing on (Yes, G, we know this) arrives, you should not go stand 11” away from her and talk awkwardly at her while still holding your food plate while food falls off it, while she is talking to three other 6th (7th) grade boys and totally ignoring you.

When you told me, “Mom, I can handle this,” well, I tried to believe you, really I did.

But, um, I am afraid you cannot.

As I have explained, Crushgirl is about a MILLION years older than you. Yes, she, too, is 11. But she is a grade above you and female, ergo, a million years older than you.

She seems to be a super nice kid, who actually sees the wonderful person you are (versus merely tolerating you as some ignoramuses do), but

1.     she likes talking to other people, too, and

2.     in a Zillion years, a 6th grade gal will never “like” a 5th grade boy.

So, to return to our example, when I call you over and

1.     the fellow next to me joins me in advising you that acting like a stalker is bad, and

2.     Ayi E fills you in on how her son never talks to any of the girls and they all crush on HIM…

…To be very clear, we did mean that you should maybe give Crushgirl some space and experiment with being quiet, sure.

What we did not mean was that you should go stand 27” away from Crushgirl and pretend that you are a MIME.

Your (Full Spectrum) Mama

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writer's Block?

A concerned reader sent me a link to an article about overcoming Writer's Block.

That's not the issue for me, I wrote, to reassure her. No, I don't have Writer's Block...just Writer's Children.


Full Spectrum Mama