Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Archive for October 2012

Girl Cousins

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Only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.

We hear that a lot in our house.  It is an established fact.  A Pudding fact at that- nothing more irrefutable.  Going to England meant the kids were going to meet their British cousins for the first time.  Pudding has one girl cousin, and Pudding wasn’t going to tolerate any competition.  I thought a mutual love of Hello Kitty might bring the girls together.  I excitedly told Pudding that her cousin was going to have a Hello Kitty birthday cake the day after they met.  I thought she’d love it.  But I’d forgotten that only Pudding likes Hello Kitty.

So before meeting her, Puddings cousin was on notice.  Not only was she going to have the cake, but a birthday too, of all the rude things! Didn’t she know that Pudding likes birthdays?  And then there was Nanny.  Was this little usurper going to steal Nanny’s affections too?

This time around, Pudding had immediately bonded with her grandparents.  This is the tough part of foreign service life.  And the tough thing about autism.  For a child struggling with social interaction, limited time with loved ones doesn’t help.  We can’t predict how things will be.  When we visit family, I feel like I’ve just set off a soggy firework- it might fizzle out to nothing, or it might be explosive, and you don’t really want to be the one to risk trying to fix things when it could go off in your face.

This time with my mum it was like this from the first day…

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Which was awesome!  But I noted how Pudding jealously eyed her neurotypical three year-old.  Because Nanny is her Nanny too.  And every time previously, Pudding has only had to share her Nanny with Cubby, which is fine because she has to share everything (but Hello Kitty) with him.  But this was new.  And new can be hard.  And new people?  Even harder.

Jealousy may be ugly, but someone this beautiful should never be play the ugly step-sister role.

This little cousin already came with her own thoughts and feelings.  Pudding hadn’t allowed her to like Hello Kitty, or to have a birthday, or share Nanny.  This was hard.  Not just for Pudding, but for me too.  Well aware that the time we could spend with family was constantly trickling away, I wanted everything to be perfect for everybody concerned.  I knew it wasn’t going to be.

Then again, I could see that Pudding’s response was valid and true to who she is.  In fact, a perfectly normal feeling.  So I let her have it.  I stopped trying to force interactions.  I allowed her to be jealous.  If allowed is the right word- she certainly doesn’t need my permission to feel things.  But I acknowledged it.  Kids get jealous.  Even spectrummy mummies get jealous, we all do.

And just like any of we creatures on this planet fortunate enough to sense the range of emotions that make up the human condition, it abated.  Or dissipated.  Spent.  Probably a whole lot sooner than if I’d tried to facilitate the relationship.  And in its place…interest.  Fascination in another little girl.  Then, before we knew it- affection.  Love.

Her enemy turned into a friend.  When Pudding’s cousin balked at the idea of riding in a horse-drawn pink princess carriage, Pudding didn’t want to ride without her.  When she wore princess slippers,

Pudding squished her way-too-big feet into a matching pair.  And whenever they were together, the two held hands, and ran around giggling at each other.  Best of friends for their remaining time together.  Inevitably, of course, the two were wrenched apart, and we had to feel the pain and loss of separation.

Still, we have memories to last a lifetime full of love, friendship, and family.  But they don’t have to last a lifetime, just til next time.  It is something over families take for granted, but we know just how precious it is.

  When we return she’ll know there are people there who love her through good and bad, just as she is.  And if we’re all very lucky, they might even be willing to share their Hello Kitty cake once again.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Wordless Wednesday 10 Oct 12

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Frustration

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 10, 2012 at 8:41 am

Wordless Wednesday 03 Oct 12

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Step1: find old-fashioned telephone box in picturesque English village.

Step 2: sing Maroon Five’s “Payphone” loudly. Repeat throughout trip.

 

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 3, 2012 at 7:05 am

Freedom of Speech

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Sometimes my life seems to have very separate compartments, and you can divide them up quite neatly.  There is my life in the foreign service: as an employee of the State Department, and the wife of a diplomat.  Then there is my home life: as a wife to my husband, and mother to my children.  Then I suppose there is the side where I write and advocate.  Most often I wrote about my children.  Sometimes I write about autism and special needs.  Other times life in the foreign service.  But this is wrong, because I’m always writing about all of those things at the same time.  If they are my experiences, they are a unique blend of my past and my present, personal history and present geography.  In moments of clarity, I understand that the world isn’t black and white, but several shades of grey (not fifty though- get your minds out of the gutter)!

On R&R in England, foreign service life seemed far away.  We visited Durham Cathedral on September 11th, and I showed the kids how we light a candle for those who can’t be with us.  Our children are too young to understand much, but I told them that when things are dark, we have to light the way.

That same day, four of our colleagues were murdered in Libya.  Over the next few days there were violent protests directed at other US embassies and consulates.  It was a strange disconnect, being away from our foreign service community at that time, but seeing images, and reading friends’ status updates on Facebook as the action took place around them.

My brain wants things to be black and white.  It makes things easier to understand  if there are sides and good guys and bad guys.  This is how Cubby likes things to be.  He needs to know who is good and bad, who is right and wrong.  But it is more complicated than that.  It is wrong to make provocative movies, deliberately dubbed to offend religions and communities, to destroy the peaceful efforts and relationship-building that Ambassador Stevens and others lived for; then died for.  And yet without freedom of speech, what do we have?  Every time I post a blog, I exercise a right that many in this world don’t have, may never have.

So too, do those who are hurt or offended have a right to protest.  It isn’t wrong to protest- it is a democratic right.  Another kind of freedom of speech.  But violence against innocents is wrong, even if done in protest against abuses.  When protests came last week to our consulate, I thought more about the fear and potential threat- the dark- than the light of living in a society that permits and encourages the right to protest.

Freedom of speech is an interesting concept to me.  Words come easily to me, and I’m safe to express them.  What then, about my daughter, whose speech does not flow so freely?  How do I protect her rights?  One way, is respecting her expressions of protest.  Pudding can refuse, or dissent, or stay quiet, or walk away.  I’ve explained to her therapists before that her needs should always be respected, rather than corrected.  At times she can articulate those needs quite clearly, when she is overloaded, she cannot.

I’m mindful that this right I have is actually a privilege.  A power not extended to all.  And so, if I abuse that power, intentionally or not, others have a right to protest.  The grey area gets murkier, because words, particularly from those in power, can have unforeseen consequences.  Every time I write about Pudding, her autism, and our lives, I’m mindful of the fact that I’m balancing my freedom of speech with hers.  We’re all Ambassadors, all the time.  When things get dark, we have to light the way.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm