On a Friday Morning

We have our groceries delivered, because there’s a local service that is mostly organic, local, free-range, or a combination of the three and it works out to the same price as the big-box place. Delivery day is Friday, and I ran out of the girls’ usual breakfast granola yesterday. Fail. I also forgot to go to the store to get stopgap granola yesterday. Double-fail. 

This morning saw us with nothing whatsoever for breakfast, because Maggie won’t eat eggs and I was not about to fire up the griddle for pancakes. I do many things wonderfully well but pouring batter–even from a batter bowl–for pancakes is not one of them. 

In desperation I dug through our freezer chest and found the very last quart bag of strawberries I froze last summer. Then I raided the fridge and the pantry, coming up with a quarter-pint of double Yorkshire cream, some peanut butter, a rather sad-looking banana, and some English cream honey.

So, that’s how my children are eating the most ENORMOUS bowls of “strawberry ice cream” this morning, because I lied to them and told them the extra-thick protein smoothie was ice cream. 

I regret nothing.

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A binary to banish

One of the questions I am frequently asked is “So where does Maggie fall on the spectrum?” It is a question that is usually asked with kind intentions; its tone is gentle. And it is a question I didn’t know how to answer until recently because none of the usual answers felt right to me.

A lot of the time we hear “high-functioning” and “low-functioning” when describing autistic people. What I realized recently is that I didn’t feel comfortable talking in those terms because the terms themselves are dangerous. You know that some cultures have hundreds of words just for snow, of course. The public, largely uninterested in nuance, has a few words and two categories. Within those two categorical labels of “high-functioning autism” and “low-functioning autism” lies enormous hurt and oversimplification to those to whom these labels are applied.

High-functioning. That’s the one people want to hear from us, because it’s soothing and hopeful-seeming. It’s basically just like being neurotypical except she’ll be quirkily hilarious like that guy from “Big Bang Theory,” right? No. Autism is more complex than a pile of endearing quirks and sound bytes ripe for Internet memes. Before conscious thought can be formed, that pre-set sub-level attitude diminishes the very real challenges people face and very necessary support that people need. They’re drama queens, hypochondriacs, who just need to “try harder.” They don’t need accommodation. They’re just being difficult. And then comes the dismissal.

Worse still is the public’s idea of “low-functioning.” Automatically, you see people’s minds turn to stereotypes and tragedies; never-can never-could won’t-don’t-can’t NEVER pops up like poisonous mushrooms. And then the rub, that great paradox: the idea that people can’t, so why bother? Why bother troubleshooting. They’re just low-functioning, such a pity, ignore what lies within. Don’t bother with assisted communication; forget the idea of living alone or with roommates one day. And then comes the dismissal.

It’s insidious, these ideas. Nobody gets helped, not really. Supports fade away. Unemployment and service cuts loom. Worse still, a hierarchy emerges with “HF” at the top and “LF” at the bottom with no true public understanding of what people actually need or want.There is no room for potential. There is no room for can-should-WILL.

It is a curious and awful experience to be told, in so many words, that because I believe in neurodiversity and do not wish to rewire my daughter’s brain that she must be “high-functioning.” That she doesn’t struggle or work hard to make herself understood, that her anxiety is not real, or that we need not be concerned for her future. She does, and we do, and that would be true no matter what. Her joys and her struggles are as real and valid as any other human being’s, and so is her need for acceptance without condition. All people matter, and everyone has something to say once we find the right way to listen.

So the final answer? “Maggie’s future is very bright.” Because of course it is. And it’s far, far more complex and rich than any ridiculous binary labeling system.

In Seats

Statistical analysis shows that many women of my age, education, and income bracket (almost 30, BA degree, able to impulse-buy Diet Cokes even in pounds sterling) are not married, only just married, and generally not yet parents or are just considering pregnancy/newly pregnant.

I’ve just made some of the wider gross generalizations I’ve ever made, none of which are backed by citations, and I’m not even sorry because it’s been suggested that I “started young” on parenting so many times that I’m starting to think that becoming a mother at 25 is in some circles the equivalent of a late-teen post-high school pregnancy: not the same as getting pregnant at 14, but still widely considered a not-awesome idea.

I will apologize for that last run-on sentence.

Anyway, I’m a mother of two in social groups that have one child, if any, or are just pregnant with/trying for their first. As the self-assigned Ranking Toddler Mom I get asked occasionally for product advice (most may also call this “pushing my opinion when it hasn’t been requested”). I even sent a product list to a pregnant friend who enjoys travel, so proud I was of our streamlined minimalist style.

And then I realized something: we have purchased SIX CAR SEATS.

We have two children and one five-seater car. So–language warning–that really begets the question:

How the fuck does that even happen?!

Individually, all the purchases made sense. There was Maggie’s infant carrier, which we hated with a fiery passion and sold as soon as she could hold her head steady. There was the convertible seat that replaced that infant carrier. Moira came along, had her own infant carrier seat because we sold the last one because sucky, and was a giantess baby. Giant baby needed the convertible, so we gave her that one and got Maggie her current command-center-style seat/throne. It’s a heavy sumbitch and Maggie is very tall and mature for her age, so we got her an inflatable backless booster for travel. And Moira is neither mature nor old enough for such a seat, and we plan to rent a few cars in Europe over the next few years as well as ride in coach buses, so we needed an EU-spec travel seat with a harness for Moira.

That all makes sense. It’s rational, reasonable. The travel seats are VERY budget-friendly; their permanent seats are sturdy, solid investments and top-ranked in their class. But SIX. SIX SEATS FOR TWO EXTRA-TINY BOTTOMS. If we only had the 8-passenger SUV to go with it, we would be a perfect test case for American excess.

And lo, I shant brag about our minimal ways ever again. I’ll just blame the excess on my maternal youth.