Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Truth

I linked this article because I think it demonstrates an important truth: optimists don't have a monopoly on inspiration. Put another way, pessimism and inspiration are not mutually exclusive. I began composing a reply, but I was interrupted interrupted by my son screaming, pounding on the walls, and tearing down pictures. Why? Because he suddenly decided he needed an "adventure" by which he means someone getting in the car with him, taking him someplace, and buying him some food. (And no, this wasn't about hunger. He'd just eaten half a pizza.) No one would drop everything immediately and do that for him just because he demanded it, so he started his screaming and wall-pounding. This was not a meltdown. A meltdown is much worse. When I said no, he began alternately threatening to keep pounding on the walls until I took him on an adventure, and briefly stopping his pounding to demand an adventure as a reward for stopping. I told him that no means no, and I will not respond to manipulative behavior. That meant we had no choice but to ride it out. So we did.

That's life around here. I tell it like it is. When something good happens, I celebrate. I don't mope around whining about my miserable life as the father of a boy with autism. When things are hard, I don't put on a counterfeit plastic smile and spew some saccharine platitudes about the glass being half full when it's darn near empty. I'm 100% real 100% of the time. Some people can't handle that, but at least I know they're rejecting the real me, not some synthetic version of me manufactured to please the public and failing to.

Have you noticed how a sanitized, Disneyfied version of a great story, whether a true story or a classic work of fiction, is never as satisfying as the original? Tame the fear and the sadness, and you tame the joy as well. I have no choice but to face anger, fear, and sadness untamed. I intend to embrace wild joy. That's what I like about Understanding My SonKicking KittensLife is a SpectrumBig Daddy AutismBoth Hands and a FlashlightOn the SpectrumAutism Herd, etc. The laughter is sweeter and the tears more poignant because they are real. I'd rather have real sadness than fake happiness. I will not allow other people, nor other parents, nor even other autism parents tell me how to interpret and experience my life in their funhouse mirror. It is what it is.

A few months ago, I visited an online homeschooling forum. Several moms were--let's call a manually-operated digging implement a spade--bitching. And there's no bitching I find quite so irritating as euphemism-clad Christian bitching. So what were they bitching "sharing" about? It seems that each mom had at least one kid (usually a daughter) who was a pessimist or, at the very least, whose optimism wasn't up to snuff. Here's the deal-breaker: they were not content to demand an honest assessment of events from that child; they demanded that she put a positive spin on everything. They were going to train this pessimism right out of her and make her a bleeding optimist! Their methods ranged from the absurd to the cruel. Have you ever felt the urge to do the impossible, reach through the computer screen and slap someone? If a positive attitude were so good and powerful and holy, and a negative attitude so rotten and weak and reprobate, how did they expect their negative attitudes and actions to inspire optimism? I immediately began composing a rebuttal in the form of a satire, titled "Optimism is a Serious Character Flaw." I wasn't foolish enough to send it. In fact, I never finished it, though I might one of these days.

Yes, we all have our good days and bad days. Yes, we all have moments when we tend toward excessive pessimism and others when we tend toward foolish optimism. If you choose not to talk about one or the other, you have the right to remain silent. But when you tell someone else they have no right to speak the truth because it makes you uncomfortable, and especially when, by speaking, that person inspires another to take righteous action, you can just go where liars go. I refer, of course, to Washington.

Coming Soon: Autism Parents: Two Camps, and Why I Don't Fit in Either One.

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Blogger Life as the mother of 4 said...

I'm interested in your take on the two camps

October 26, 2010 at 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, I think you're right. And I think that what some parents believe to be pessimism is actually realism. In our house, if it's negative to the point of absurdity we analyze the logic (to the extent each child is capable) and try to adjust the view accordingly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, then okay, you have the right to view things the way you want to. :shrug:

But that's just how we do it in our house.

Good post. :-)

October 26, 2010 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Big Daddy Autism said...

I love GL's idea of an "adventure." Going to get a pizza is a great adventure in my book.

I have often thought about the subject of this post. I try to keep everything on my blog humorous but life with my son is dificult. Very difficult. But it is not without it's treasures. It's those bits of awesomeness that I try to share. Just like I wouldn't want someone to demand that I post all the negative stuff, I would never demand that someone else lighten up or get more positive on their blog. To each his own. If someone does not like the content of a particular blog - they shouldn't read it.

October 27, 2010 at 8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh, I see where you're going with this now. I'll admit, at first I felt as if you were pointing out that I've been too pessimistic lately. (which I agree with and will try to blog the good stuff that happens too) It's about balance - my current mantra is to not minimize, not dramatize, just be truthful.

I grew up in an environment where stuffing bad emotions was common, which just means they erupt in a destructive way later on. I want to make sure that never happens with my kids so expressing whatever I need to on my blog is necessary.

But it's a really interesting discussion! I'm looking forward to your analysis of the two camps, I've often felt like I don't really have a niche to fit into.

October 27, 2010 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger lebelinoz said...

Saccharine-coated platitudes drive me nuts. I stopped writing about my autistic kids on Facebook when I got fed up with "friends" who kept trying to tell me autistic kids are special gifts from God, and that their disability is actually a special ability!

October 27, 2010 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

@lynnes Yes, realism and accuracy are what I aim for. Putting on a happy face isn't going to magically cure my son's autism. OTOH, just because he has autism doesn't mean I shouldn't laugh when he says or does something funny, (considering his feelings, of course) or be proud of him when he accomplishes something difficult, even if it would be easy for other kids.

About emotions: my other (NT) son tends to leave his spread out on the floor sometimes, so it is hard not to step on them. I tell him he has a hole in his tummy, and his feelings have leaked out. It is okay to take them out and talk about them, but when you are done, you need to put them away so they don't get stepped on accidentally.

October 27, 2010 at 3:32 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

@Big Daddy I respect your decision to keep your blog light, humorous and positive. When my day is not so good, it's encouraging to know there are places I can go to temper it with happiness and humor. And I probably wouldn't read a blog for long that's all bad news all the time. I have also been encouraged by people who, while going through incredible difficulty and telling about it accurately, manage to find and point out the bright spots when they occur. There is something to be said for finding the good in any situation. I just don't believe that everybody has to be upbeat all the time.

October 27, 2010 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

@ lebelinoz : for my take on people who don't understand my life telling me what God is doing, see
(Cut and paste the link if it doesn't work. Or select it from my blog archive.)

When people tell me I have a special blessing, my response depends on who's saying it. If they don't have kids, I just smile and nod. They're not going to get it no matter what I say. If they have kids, I offer to trade. Not that I actually would put my son through that, but it makes them think.

October 27, 2010 at 3:48 PM  

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