Friday, September 26, 2014

Hoodies and Pragmatics

Hooded in the UK
(If you're a Facebook friend of mine, no need to go further. This is just a slightly edited version of this morning's post there!)

N's hoodie is his security blanket; he wears it walking in to school every single day--even the days where it's been in the 90s at 8 am. This morning, a cooler morning though by no means cold, he mentioned as we walked to the car so I could drive him over, "Did you notice I decided not to wear my jacket today?* Even though it's a little bit cold?"

I was about to congratulate him on what I knew was a brave--if odd, since there was really no reason for it--step when he added, his voice quavering a little bit. "If I went to get it now, we'd be late."

"No, we wouldn't," I said.

He was off like a shot, back into the house, grabbing his hoodie.

"I don't know why I like to wear this jacket so much," he said, as he got back into the car. "But I need to."

And I was glad, once I'd realized what was really going on, to have been able to let him get it. Going in to middle school every day is scary enough WITH a hoodie. I say give him his armor. Whatever works, right?

*I often talk about N having pretty severe communication issues; those people who know N often look at me as if I'm insane. But it's true: Communication issues are a critical part of almost every autistic person's life, at some level. N speaks both fluently and fluidly, but that is where the real 'teeth' of his type of communication problems are. When he said "I decided not to wear my jacket today," he meant "I forgot my jacket." But how was I do know? He does this sort of thing on a very regular basis, often winding himself in big trouble when I don't 'get' what's going on and so it seems as if he's lied or that he's contradicting himself. (And trust me. He can flat-out lie, so it's not as if I'm wrong to sometimes assume that!  ) Often, he literally doesn't see where the contradiction is; I believe that's because his brain 'hears' what he MEANT to say, not what he actually said. Unfortunately, because he's not truly "scripting"--in the sense of using language I can tell he got from elsewhere--it's almost impossible for anyone else, including Baroy and I, to know when he's talked himself into a corner…until you hear that quaver, or see his brow furrowing at the followup questions, as if he can't understand why you would ask THAT, which has nothing to do with what he said. And then untangling all the words that came before to find the problem ones…it's a challenge. Thank goodness today's example was an easy one!

Pragmatics, man. They'll bite you in the butt. Or the hoodie.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Drama. Both Kinds.

We're more than a month into Em's senior year. OF HIGH SCHOOL. You could knock me over with a feather, people.

This means it's time to think about the next step. The college step. The step that turns every innocent conversation into a trap in which you find yourself yourself and your kid being compared to your friends and their kids, or your friends' friends and those friends' friends kids. My skin is too thin for this shit. So if you talk to me about college and I snap at you as if I were a dog and you just stepped on my tail? That's why. It's because you think you're asking innocent questions ("What's her GPA?" "How many times has she taken the SAT/ACT?") but I'm hearing "Why didn't you make her study more?" or "Oh. Well. That's…nice." or "My kid's way smarter and now I don't have to worry about your kid being competition for him. Yay!"

One of the things people are talking about are extracurriculars. ("My son is volunteering at a homeless shelter" becomes, in my head, "What the hell has your daughter been doing all this time?" which becomes "Boy, you really DO suck as a mom." My head is a super fun place to be!) Em's done a fair amount of volunteer work over the years, working for a couple of seasons with a special-needs soccer team, as a helper at the Religious School N went to, and as a counselor at a Girl Scouts camp in our neighborhood. But she a) is terrible at follow through so has no documentation of the first of these things and b) has had one all-consuming passion for the past three or so years, which she has pursued single-mindedly.

And that bring me to the other kind of drama. The literal kind.

So, this year Em is taking five classes. Two of them? Drama. One's the school's 'top' drama class, the one in which you're not supposed to audition for you're not willing to essentially eat, sleep, breathe, and DREAM theater.

Em? Eats, sleeps, breathes, dreams, and then dreams SOME MORE about theater. So yeah, she's in that class.

Her second drama class is a kind of directors' workshop; they spend some of the time being instructed on what directing is and how it is best achieved…by an instructor who originated one of the main roles on Broadway in one of the most well-known musicals of all time. In other words, an impressive woman. Em is beside herself. The rest of the time they spend as TAs in the other classes, directing small groups in scenes to be done in showcases or at theater festivals around LA.

That pretty much IS her dream.

But wait. There's more. She's also on the varsity squad for her school's Comedy Sportz team, which rehearses at least once a week and plays a game a couple times a month. She's also their social media manager, maintaining the team's Facebook page and other such things.

Oh, and she's copresident of the school's Thespian Society chapter, and has been named an honors thespian.

I'm probably missing some stuff, too.

So now you're thinking: Um. That stuff up there about college? And how you feel like you and your kid are a couple of slackers? You're such a hypocrite.

Well, yeah. It's possible that there's a grain of truth in there. Em's got depth, that's for sure. She has a demonstrated passion for theater, no doubt. And since I've finally admitted (because even my River Denial ain't deep enough for me to pretend otherwise) that she's going to major in some aspect of theater, that may help with getting into college. But there are still issues. She has the depth, but she didt go to a specialty theater school, so won't get that same kind of attention. And she han't so much on the breadth. Nor so much on the 4.0+/top 10 percent of your class that are needed for so many schools. Nor so much on the studying for the goddamned SATs. (Grrrr.) I'm hoping that, in the end, all of this will mean she winds up where she is 'meant' to go, where she'll thrive. But we've started touring colleges, and she's started falling in love. And I want her to go where she wants to go. So I worry. A lot. Though I need to stop.

Here comes the drama. Long live drama.