The Missouri Compromise

No, not THAT one.

You’re thinking, oh this will be a boring discussion of slavery and American history. But it isn’t.

I’m drawing on the delineation of Missouri as the “Show-Me” state.

Those of us with loved ones on the spectrum often feel that we aren’t shown that affection that comes so easily to many of our NT kids and family members. For me, I sometimes think that Little Miss and I are on different planets, even though we live in 5518991291_8c8164c5cfthe same small home. We intersect at meals, sometimes. But even then, there’s often a screen in view and we’re absorbed in parallel play.

This existence is lonely-making, certainly. Not that she notices–she’s perfectly happy in her own world. If she’s sing-songing her imaginary stories in her head, she paces and exists beyond where I can see. If she’s absorbed in a screen, she’s elsewhere, too.

So I’m alone, but at the same time responsible for this woman-child, an adult by chronological age, but still much younger than her years from time to time.

She had a boyfriend for her last two years of high school, which worried me at first, as boyfriends do to all parents of girls past puberty. But I didn’t need to worry. She treated him much the same as she treats me–more as a thing to be checked off a list. As in, teenaged girls should have a boyfriend, now I have one. She didn’t worry much over the care and feeding of such a relationship, and eventually he approached me and asked why she didn’t want to be his girlfriend.

breakup-couple-vector-stock_gg64149870What followed was a messy few days when I explained how she is (he also has disabilities, but more physical than autistic), and assured him that it was likely the best he would get out of her. We were both sad, and then he broke up with her on social media. UGH.

She immediately decided she had to have a boyfriend and had logged herself onto OK Cupid before I even knew what she was doing. I panicked and at least put her onto Autistic Singles–who knew they had that?– but I shouldn’t have worried. Within a few days, she was reabsorbed in her own world, and I haven’t heard anything about it since.

So in a way, that’s great. No huge emotional scenes, no pining, no starving to death, etc. She’s happily back to ignoring me.

concert4

pic by Sandora JW Brown

But every once in awhile, a ray of light comes through. Last night we went to a STOMP! concert, and she propped her elbow on my shoulder for the show. It was definitely a “together” moment.

So we don’t push -much- and wait for those moments, those actual expressions of affection and gratitude and empathy. We live for those. Please, kid, SHOW ME. Just once in awhile. Thank you.

 

autism hugs

 

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Great migrations

No, no, not the National Geographic kind.

The kind we families with services experience about twice a year, when our special kids finally start making a bond with their TSS or MT or other wraparound therapist and then that therapist moves on to brighter pastures elsewhere, at another agency that you’re not approved for.

I don’t blame them, of course. The therapists get opportunities for better jobs, better benefits, better wages in a field that doesn’t pay much to begin with, so you and I would be right on that bandwagon too.

All the same, when our kids have a condition that everyone agrees requires the greatest amount of structure and routine that we can arrange, don’t we worry that the constant turnover in (particularly) TSS workers isn’t in their best interests?

I wish that agencies could have their people sign some sort of clause that makes them agree they’ll stay around for at least some sane period, six months, a year, in order to get the job. (Wait, Miss Lawyer, wouldn’t that be involuntary servitude? I think if you’ll check all those law books on your shelf there, you might find it’s illegal…  oh yeah.) But seriously, if an agency is going to put in time and energy to train someone, shouldn’t they have to stick around for some period of time?

Sadly, most agencies, at least in our area, are desperate for TSS workers to keep up with the community demand, so they’re not in a position to bargain much, I suppose. Having bodies to send out to work with the clients is important.

But encouraging children who already have trust issues to trust workers and bond with them, only to have to change a few months later? This reminds me of the situation I have with many of my family law parents, who parade a host of new boyfriends/girlfriends before the children, letting the children bond with the new friends, then kicking them out. The experts say these children will learn not to get close to others, even future partners, wrapped up in protecting themselves from the remembered hurt of potential loss.

It’s just sad to see it happen, during the seasons of the great migrations.

 

Thanks to photographer Royce Bair for use of this photo.

Does the truth really set you free?

Candor is a double-edged sword; it may heal or it may separate.–William Stekel

I’ve seen promos recently for a program on the WE network called “The Locator.” It’s a reality show about a guy named Troy Dunn, who’s made a career out of looking up long-lost family members for hire. This week, for example, the featured hunt is “a young woman’s search for the biological father she didn’t know she had.”

My thought would be, if she’d grown into young womanhood without this man, does she really need to find him?

I don’t know anything about the facts of that case, but I’ve run into this sort of situation many times over my years of legal practice. It almost never turns out well.

For example, husband and wife live together for ten years and raise two children. Everyone remarks over the years how daughter looks just like dad, but son must have traits from a prior generation. Lo and behold, when they break up and he wants to file for custody, mom pops out with “But he’s not your son. Mr. X is really his father.”

Son learns this truth and then spends the next however many years trying to rationalize why his real father left, whether he should love or hate the man who’d raised him, and why his mother is a cheat and a liar. Lose-lose in my book.

Or a case where one parent has moved far from the other to escape domestic violence or a parent who’s commited sexual acts against the children. It’s possible to change names, Social Security numbers, and vanish into a new place, where parent and children can be safe–as long as they’re not traced.

What if one of these children finds some evidence of a former life and begins to unravel the careful web that’s protected her?

Or in the worst possible set of facts I’ve encountered, mom has an affair which brings her a child. Husband, horrified because of the affair, divorces her. Because she’s married at the time of the birth, a legal presumption applies and the biological father, though verified by genetic testing, is let off the hook for support.  Husband will have nothing to do with this child, knowing it’s not his, and the father has vanished from the child’s life. Child grows up with no father at all.

When he gets old enough, what could he possibly learn from the man whose DNA makes up half his chromosomes but who walked away and washed his hands of the mess?

Would someone like Troy Dunn really help any of these people?

On his website, Dunn talks about the need to “purge,” that people will heal and feel better once they’ve come clean, as it were, and revealed the truth.

Every family has one or more secrets they have chosen not to share, for one reason or another. Some of these old family stories might just be a fictitious wedding date, to protect the legitimacy of a child, or they might be something very serious, like the ones above. Even adoptees desperate to find information about their birthparents might discover that that mother or father had very good reason to place a child into a loving home, and the revelations uncovered could do a lot of damage.

Sometimes Col. Jessup is right: we  can’t handle the truth. And we shouldn’t have to.

Is it so hard to be the adult?

I attended a recent hearing where a father and son had been estranged for many years. The son had experienced serious issues growing up and had moved around from family member to family member, then ended up in the home of a stranger through foster care. He’d turned 18 and opted out of the system, even though he only had four months of high school to finish. He was leaving the state, potentially forever.

The father, my client, hadn’t come to many of the hearings over the years, at my suggestion, as the court refused to place the child with him because of a rocky history, and the boy wanted nothing to do with his father. Why take off a day of work to waste it in court?

But this hearing was different. The young man had stated his intention to leave, to forego his diploma, to strike out into the unknown without help. I suggested that Dad come to the hearing. It might be the last time he ever saw his son.

So he did. I give him credit for that. After years of the boy slamming the door in his face, he came to court to face him. After the hearing, in the hall, he gave the boy some news on family members he’d known, and we all stood there. Neither seemed to know what else to say, these two (now) adults related by blood but disengaged. I suggested that the dad shake hands with the young man, a symbolic healing of sorts, but his hands were firmly jammed in his pockets. He was clearly broadcasting his hurt feelings. “If he wants to,” he mumbled.

I looked to the newly-freed young man, and his attorney asked if he wanted to shake hands with his father. His hands remained jammed in his own pockets. He stared at the floor. He didn’t speak.

So after a long pause of uncomfortable silence, we all turned to shuffle away. Moment lost.

Maybe I’ve just been very fortunate with my own children, that we enjoy a relationship of mutual caring and respect. Even though they are far away, following their dreams, we communicate and share our lives. I can’t imagine being in a place where we couldn’t look each other in the eye, or take 10 seconds to allow our hands to come into contact, when it meant goodbye forever.

Who should have made the first move? I’d have said my client. He is the parent. He’s the adult. After all his years on the earth, he should have learned what the boy could miss without the possibility of that relationship. Yet he chose to allow his own petulance to block what might have been their last chance. It was one of the saddest moments of my career.

Bad parents! No soup for you!

So the long-suffering Cabana Boy and myself conceived it would be a great idea to steal a date night for the two of us. What were we thinking?

We left the children with my daughter, who has five kids of her own, knowing they were in good hands, and headed to Erie–I know, not the fancy metropolis of fabulous entertainment, but we have pretty low standards. An hour, undisturbed by little voices at Barnes and Noble? Heaven. A meal at the Olive Garden, without constant nagging about table manners, courtesy of a friend who gave me a couple of gift cards? Nirvana. Telephone call from daughter indicating Captain Oblivious had broken his ankle?

Priceless?

Not exactly.

So we checked out at Target without buying the 32-inch LCD tv we were drooling over (probably a good thing, actually) and headed home. My daughter had said they thought it was sprained, till it swelled up and turned purple (ouch), so they called our mutual pediatrician. He said it was a three to five hour wait at the emergency room this evening, and they wouldn’t cast the thing till tomorrow anyway till it quit swelling, so not to bother going. So they kept up the ice on 20 minutes, off 20 minutes routine till he fell asleep shortly after we got home.

It doesn’t look nearly as bad as I’d pictured it–you know, it had been described as somewhat indigo-colored and size of a football. Not really. It’s a little puffy and maybe a bruise toward the heel. He won’t walk on it; but then C.O. is the kind of Aspie kid that when he makes up his mind about something, that’s what he does, no matter what the facts. We’ll probably take the run to the ER tomorrow, just to be sure, and keep our fingers crossed.

I can’t help but feel guilty, though. We haven’t had a night out like this in a couple months. Because all the extended family lives away, we don’t get weekends off or have family in town who routinely take the children. My daughter has her five, who range in age from 15 years to 8 months–I hardly ever ask her, she’s got her hands full! But it had just reached the point where it felt like there was a canyon between my husband and I, and we had to do something. So we rolled the dice, and got snake eyes. I’m sorry we weren’t here, son. I suppose we’ll think long and hard before leaving them again.

As Lionel Kauffman said: “Children are a great comfort in your old age – and they help you reach it faster, too.”

UPDATE:
After a three hour trip to the ER, turns out it’s “probably” a bad sprain but no one is sure, and if there IS a fracture, as the paperwork says, it’s on the growth plate. So we have to go see the orthopedist tomorrow. Sometime. And C.O. gets at least two days off school during my busy week. Bad BAD parents…. *sigh*