May 22, 2007

In which I come out as the softiest of softies

Posted in Children and adolescents, Family at 6:20 pm by The Lizard Queen

An exaggeration, perhaps. Still, I found this editorial quite moving. It’s about a man who, together with his wife, adopted a six-year-old autistic boy. Other people question the choice, saying amazingly insensitive (not to mention classist, racist, and/or ableist) things like “God knows what that kid’s parents were doing when they conceived him;” “You two have such good genes. . . Why waste them?” and “Healthy white infants must be tough to get.” The whole thing is worth reading, but these paragraphs nearly had me in tears:

The boy who was still in diapers and said to be retarded when he came to live with us is now a straight-A student at our local middle school. He’s literally rewriting the common scripts of autism and “attachment disorder” (the broad diagnosis for the problems of abandoned and traumatized kids). These are hopeless scripts, unforgiving scripts in which the child can’t give back.

My son does, and others can as well. Recently, in response to my hip replacement, he typed on his computer, “I’m nervous because Dad has not brought me braces [his word for crutches].” I was just home from the hospital — wobbly, a bit depressed, in pain. To my question, “Why do you need crutches?” he responded endearingly, “You know how I like to be just like you.” My son was trying to make me feel better, taking on my impairment, limping with me.

Again, the whole thing is worth reading.  [h/t to Jill at Feministe]


1 Comment »

  1. DavidD said,

    This reminds me of fundraising stories at the charity where I volunteer. They’re always true, but somewhat selective. We leave out the harder parts of the success stories. We don’t tell the stories of failure at all. Sometimes I wonder if it would help anything to tell of the clients we can’t help or don’t do well with the limited help we can give, as a way of saying, “See, look how much more people need.” But I understand the danger of that. People want their donations to be effective. No one likes to be confused with mixed messages.

    In the same way, this father alludes to the “crushing” problems, but doesn’t describe anything so negative. He makes an inference at the end that requires a supposedly autistic boy to have enough empathy to try to make his father feel better. Well, if he’s not actually autistic and has such empathy, that would help his recovery from abuse a great deal.

    There is indeed as wide a range of outcomes for abused children as there is for the needy served by charity. Some do amazingly well and are great for fundraising. Some wind up following that “hopeless script” despite all attempts to help. It’s not that the hopeless script is fiction. Maybe if there were enough resources, everyone could do better than the hopeless script, but to ignore that the hopeless script is a possibility isn’t something someone can do who helps a lot of people in need. If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried that many times.

    People do say “so there” to those who told them they were making a mistake, as this editorial is largely about. The graciousness of such payback varies. It’s interesting to read the comments at Feministe condemning the nay-sayers with no knowledge of who anyone is or how accurate the quotes are. Human nature controls people so much.

    I try to be a realist, not a cynic. People regularly mislabel me or otherwise tell me I’m wrong in that. I suppose I’ve had my share of writing “so there” stories along the way. There’s only one reality, a reality that is regualrly distorted by our words and our ignorance, the source of any stories claiming physical miracles, in my opinion. Yet I do believe in mental miracles and in human determination, love and knowledge having a payoff, as it did for the boy described in this editorial. Does that mean love conquers all? No it doesn’t. Does it say that nay-sayers are heartless beasts? No, they are trying to express love in their own way. Does it say there is no reality to the hopeless script? Some might take that message away from this editorial, but I can show you hopeless people any day of the week. I can usually help their suffering a little, but that’s all I can do. If everyone wanted to do the same, it might be different, but people each have their own agenda. That’s not a reason for hopelessness, but it is a reason for patience and to be slow to judge.

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