The Ides of March is (are?) not even upon us yet, and already my inbox is filling up with messages about Autism Awareness Month and the campaign to Light It Up Blue. *sigh*
I was really uncomfortable with the whole April-Is-Autism-Awareness-Month-So-You-Must-Purchase-Blue-Lightbulbs-And-Wear-Blue-Clothing-Or-You-Are-A-Terrible-Mother thing last year, so I basically did nothing. Not because I’m completely against the well-meaning concept behind the whole thing, I’m just conflicted is all. And yes, I DO tend to overanalyze everything.
For example. Let’s talk about these things for a minute, shall we?
Last summer, Vince and I were tailgaiting at Motley Crue. Vince scoped out the partying-est group in the lot and parked right next to them because, you know, he likes to be involved in all the action. We ended up hanging with quite an eclectic group, which included
- several 20-somethings, whose fearless leader was a wild man who regaled us with tales of his frat boy days at Arizona State and smoking pot with his dad. For the record, I do not condone smoking pot with your dad. Your dad should be able to get stoned in peace without having you bumming from his stash.
- a couple of 40-somethings who brought along their 21-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, who proved to be the most mature one out of all of us, and
- a couple of hefty 40-something dudes who arrived in a minivan
I found it hilarious that the guys parked across from us drove a minivan. Back in the day, you would NEVER have seen a minivan at Motley Crue. It was all muscle cars, Harleys, and police wagons. Sadly, however, this is what we’ve all become: suburban, middle-aged minivan drivers lamely attempting to cling to our disappearing youth by going to see over-the-hill Motley Crue. It’s quite pathetic, really.
These two minivan guys weren’t unfriendly, but they kind of kept to themselves. (I think the wild, pot-smoking, Arizona State guy was a bit much for them. Frankly, he became a bit much for me when he started slurring about how he prefers older women and how he really liked my hair.) The minivan guys pretty much just threw a football around and sat in the back of their open vehicle enjoying their beer without much spectacle.
I was pretty much doing the same thing in my lawn chair, watching the madness unfold around me from a safe distance. As concert time drew closer, the party in the parking lot started to wane. Out of our collective tailgaiting group, the minivan guys were the first to call it, close up car, and head into the venue.
That’s when I noticed the Autism Awareness magnet on the back of the minivan. One of those guys was a member of the club. All of a sudden, I knew a whole lot more about him.
I hadn’t noticed it before because the van was open and the back was up. I didn’t have the chance to talk to him about it at all. But really, who wants to talk about autism while you’re trying to reclaim your lost youth at a rock concert anyway?
Which brings me to this. I don’t have one of those magnets on my car, and I have occasionally beaten myself up over it. On the one hand, I believe in living my life in truth, and autism is a big part of my truth. I’m quite open with people about my son’s disorder. I am not ashamed of it. It is no secret. A part of me feels like I am betraying my son by NOT having one of those magnets. And when I’m sitting at a red light behind a car that does have one of those magnets, I feel a sort of kinship with that driver, who is a complete stranger but also a member of the same club.
On the other hand, our lives are not just about autism. I am more than just an autism mom, and my son is more than just his disorder. I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea of putting one of those magnets on my car because it projects a very narrow view of us. Plus, it tells complete strangers more about my son than I’m comfortable revealing to possible pedophiles. (For you new readers, my general sense of paranoia is well documented on this blog.)
Also, if I put one of those magnets on my car, my son would definitely notice it and ask questions. I’ve attempted to have the autism talk with him a few times, but he really didn’t seem to understand and came away with the idea that he is different and bad and wrong. I always answer my son’s questions honestly and to the best of my ability, but I’m not sure I want to go down that road with him again right now. I don’t think he’s ready. And I still don’t understand this crazy disorder well enough to explain it to him in a way that would make any sense, anyway.
Certainly, we need to raise awareness. We need to do what we can to educate people who are interested in learning so that we can create a more patient and compassionate world for our children. (Gawd, that sounds sickeningly optimistic of me.) But I am a realist, and I do not expect people to want to learn about autism just because my son has it. I am also a cynic and don’t really see social change happening because of blue light bulbs or car magnets.
Think about it. If I had noticed minivan guy’s magnet earlier, perhaps we could have had a conversation about out children. Maybe I could have learned something, or helped him in some way. But it would have been the two of us chatting it up by ourselves while the party went on all around us. No one else would have paid a darn bit of attention.
Despite my ambiguity about Autism Awareness Month, and despite the fact that I like to keep a low profile, I have signed on to be a part of my friend Karen’s effort to raise awareness by sporting blue hair during the month of April, provided I can procure a removable blue hairpiece. I told you I am clinging to my lost youth. If you want to join in, read about Karen’s very cool idea here.
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