Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bringing a Knife to a Gun Fight: On Giving Advice To a Typical Child

So yesterday Audrey had one of her pre-arranged playdates with a typically developing peer.  Mary is only 4 months older than Audrey, but might as well be 10 years older.  She is incredibly mature and wise beyond her years.  In Audrey's defense, Mary puts most typical kids to shame.  She really presents herself as older than most teenagers that I know.

Both of Mary's parents work and, incredibly enough, allow me to pick up and drop off their daughter while she is under the after-school care of a nanny.  It's kind of a chaotic household.  Mary has two older brothers, plus the nanny has three kids of her own.  No one seems to care much about her comings and goings.  The nanny seems happy to be rid of her, and Mary seems happy to get the hell out of Dodge for an hour or so.  She is forever fighting with her brothers, and more than once has gotten into my car crying her eyes out.  Yesterday was one of those days.

Audrey's photographic
portrait of Mary
Mary:  "So there's this girl Julia at school and she had a birthday party and everyone else in the class was invited except me.  And everyone at school was talking about the party and how fun it was and how everyone was there so I know that I was the only one not invited.  I thought she was my friend.  I don't know why she hates me."

Me (out loud):  "Um.  Uh.  Duh.  Der."
Me (in my head):  "Hey Toots, if I'd wanted to deal with bullshit like this I would have had a typical kid."

I realized that I was completely unequipped to deal with this situation.  Frankly, even if I had a typical daughter, I wouldn't have expected to have to have the "mean girl" convo as early as first grade.  But I couldn't help but think that I may never have this conversation with Audrey.  She is not unlike her grandmother in that the only reason she'd feel slighted over not being invited to a party is because she missed out on cake.  As I've noted before, I think Audrey has skipped right to senior citizenship. 

I wonder if she will ever feel the sting of girls shunning her or making fun of her behind her back.  Right now, she is pretty oblivious and not exactly adept at picking up social cues, which is not such a bad trait to have during the ugly middle school years.  But she is also just a really happy, sweet kid, who I think would have trouble understanding why anyone would be mean.  Like a father showing his weakling kid how to have a fist fight, I picture one day having to explain to Audrey the art of the bitchy put-down.

As for poor Mary, I managed to belch out the following:
"Yeah, some girls are like that." 
"Well, hate is a pretty big word.  I'm sure that she doesn't hate you." 
And the oldest chestnut of them all:  "If she's like that, she probably isn't worth being friends with anyway."

She'd have done better going to her gay uncle.


  1. heh. "I think Audrey has skipped right to senior citizenship." I've had thinking like that, too. That persons with delayed development are really advanced to adolescent behavior.

    "I realized that I was completely unequipped to deal with this situation." Honestly, I think you did just fine. Listening and responding with cliche is standard parenting fare. Somebody(ies) make parents of children with special needs think there is a perfect way to respond to each and every parenting-challenge. Who's getting the ABA anyway?


  2. Hehehe... you know, I've never been convinced that Bud's Asperger's is as much a curse as it is a blessing. When she stands there staring at other girls carrying on over what she sees as really stupid social stuff, the look on her face is hilarious. Curse/blessing... oh that tightrope walk. ;o)

  3. "Toots?" Are we now going for a Three Stooges Theme?

    We have one of those "taking college level physics at 18 months" kids in our life. She is about 3 weeks older than Griff. Upside - she is going to start babysitting him real soon.

  4. Oh man. Katie wouldn't have had a clue, either, and I would prob just be too blown away by the huge conversation the kid was throwing at me to even think. Kids talk that much? Ha! I am always afraid nt kids can see through me...they are scary...

  5. I hate how catty and cliquey young girls become in a group. For what it's worth, I would have had a really hard time giving advice in that situation too. But honestly, there's not much to say beyond what you said. People are mean sometimes; there's not much you can do about it.

  6. I have no idea how to talk to NT girls. And I'm sure it doesn't help that I have this love-hate relationship with them. I think they think I'm wierd. I'm so used to over explaining things. I'm also used to fielding only basic questions about specific dates, places and times, weather, and food. Anything much more insightful than that and they're throwing curve balls at me.

  7. Mean girls suck. I'm equally worried that Bea will be the victim of them as I am that she will BE one.

    Owen is still oblivious when kids are being pricks to him. Its gonna break my heart when he finally understands meanness.

  8. I hear ya. Last year in pre-K, I witnessed a couple of boys giggling about Billy's recitation of Charlie Brown Christmas. Now, they were 4, so they were probably just enjoying the show. But it made my blood run cold.

    While Billy will likely be oblivious for a while, I dread the day he understands mean girls, mean guys and just mean in general.

    And as for Willow ... eh, I'm just so unprepared. So very unprepared.

  9. It's actually interesting for me to see that even typical kids who are extremely social have issues in first grade. This helps give me some perspective.

  10. Kids are so brutal with eachother. I feel bad for Mary. We've all experienced something like that. I feel for little kids like her who get lost in the shuffle of their own family. And if she were to tell her mom of this ordeal, her mom would probably either fluff it off or ignore her completely.
    At least you gave her your ear if anything. And it's true, this girl isn't worth Mary's friendship if she wasn't invited to the party!

    How did the playdate go with Audrey?

    Yeah, no mom looks forward to the day when their child comes home and has been ridiculed or shunned by who they thought were friends. Hopefully, that time for Audrey won't be too horrendous!

  11. I totally wonder if one day R will also know and understand the cruelty of some people
    he is such a baby still

  12. I loved the advice. Can't go wrong with the classics. I would have sounded just like my mother and then had the inevitable internal breakdown when I realized I sounded just like my mother. I am also dreading those days when my kids have to deal with it. I've been there, done that and have the scars to prove it. I hate that it's pretty much a rite of passage to have to deal with mean kids. My basic instict is to want to shelter them for.ev.er.

  13. Have you read A Friend Like Henry? There's a scene where the mother teaches the child how to swear at the girls who are picking on him in the playground. Maybe we all need to do that with our (autistic) kids at some stage...

  14. Sounds like Mary's escaping the busy house and is quite comfortable at yours. So you're doing something right ;-)

    Being a kid, special needs are not, can be so hard.

    I say well done you :-)

    xx Jazzy

  15. Thanks SO much for stopping by LifeIsASpectrum yesterday on my SITS Day! I nearly went into a love coma it was so awesome.

    It's so funny: Dave (my husband) who is also a HUGE fan of yours said at about 5 p.m. yesterday, "Where's Lynn?! Is she OK? Lynn hasn't commented yet!" as though he was worried that something happened to you :-)

    To which I replied, "You've read through all the comments on my blog and figured out that Lynn hasn't commented yet?" (Isn't he cute? I'll be honest: I had an unusually large amount of crap to do yesterday and didn't notice till he told me.)

    "Or Big Daddy."

    So he's greatly relieved that you're OK, and now I'm off to check on BD.

  16. Thank you! I thought I was alone in just not knowing how to deal with typical kids! Neither of my boys notices if someone ignores them or is mean. Unless it's something super obvious...like they hit them over the head or something.

  17. Yeah, sometimes I rejoice and am glad that there is some crap I'll probably never have to deal with: excessive materialism, kid staying out all night, premarital business, drugs. Sometimes I watch that show Intervention just to remind myself that parents of NT kids have it pretty friggin' hard too.

  18. @jen: you would not believe how much typical kids talk...holy shit. Yack yack yack. Shut up already!

    @ryoko: We've been having weekly playdates with this girl for about 1 1/2 years, so we've been through some ups and downs. But overall she is a great peer model for Audrey, who accepts stuff from her that she would never from us.

    @lebelinoz: Welcome! I have not heard of that book, but will definitely check it out.

    @Amanda: Hi Amanda's husband!! As I wrote you via Twitter, BD and I are feeling a bit pouty on account of all your new friends who you clearly love better than us.

  19. @Amanda: Lynn hit it on the head. Pure jealousy. Nothing more.

  20. Now I have to dig through your posts and find your senior citizen references because my daughter is a total senior too. She and her great-grandma have so much more in common than she does with any other high schooler.... they can spend hours dissecting a meal or counting cars that go by. Oh and not to worry you but she was completely oblivious to all things social and then this crazy new awareness hit in 7th/8th grade and then we were screwed.