Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sick


Noe is sick. He has a fever, probably a summer cold, but I'm keeping an eye on it.

I hate it but I also secretly love it when he's sick. He doesn't get sick very often. The last time I remember him running a fever was when he was in sixth grade and in bed for over a week with a bad flu.

It is remarkably obvious when he is ill. His constant movement and OCD behaviors grind to a halt and he lays eerily still in bed and stares up at me with his sad, moist eyes.

I've been trying to analyze why I secretly love it. This has to stay a secret because I am a mom and moms aren't supposed to enjoy seeing their children ill. I don't enjoy seeing him suffer ... at all. It's not about that. But. I do enjoy having a problem surrounding him that I can actually fix.

I can give him medicine and liquids. Make him comfortable with blankets and pillows. Put a cold washcloth on his forehead to take down his fever, or rub his back. I can read him a story or put a vinyl record on to help district him from his discomfort. Eventually his fever lifts and his energy returns. I can't cure autism, but I can take down a fever.

I also get a glimpse of him without all of his autistic behaviors. Sadly, I think he looks most like a typical kid when he is under the weather. It makes my mind wander a bit, thinking about what he would be like without the yoke of his autism. It is futile wander, always leading to disappointment when he recovers and inevitably resumes his stims.


Postscript: It wasn't a summer cold, but strep. Confirmed at the doctor for the both of us when I woke up with my throat on fire a day before our move down to Portland. Another challenge of raising a nonverbal autistic kid - figuring out when to see a doctor. Unless he gives his illness to me, I don't always know what is going on in his body. We are now recovering together in our new Portland home stacked high with unopened boxes.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Belief

It is almost bedtime on a warm July night. The open bedroom window offers a gentle breeze. We are snuggled into our summer book of the week.

A sentence grabs his attention. The teenage daughter in the story is rebelling from her Catholic upbringing.

"Is it really ok with you if I choose what I want to believe about God?"

"Yes, mijo. As long as it does good for others and is true to your heart, I will always support you."

I watch his face relax. He reaches for my hand.

I can offer him this gift.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Language and Race

I’m currently reading the Trevor Noah memoir - Born A Crime. It’s a really interesting look at apartheid through the lens of a child growing up as “colored.” He makes lots of really interesting observations about race. One of his best observations is when he explains how “sharing a language” is more powerful than sharing a skin color. He talks about his experience entering the newly desegregated public school system in South Africa. He could speak English and several African languages, so he was accepted by all groups even though he was the only “colored” (half black, half white student) in the school. He eventually felt the most comfortable around blacks and joined their group.

Interestingly, in America, Trevor would have been identified as black. But in apartheid South Africa, “colored” was its own category of people and they were separated geographically from both blacks and whites, and given their own set of rights (less civil liberties than whites, but more than blacks). I'm a little embarrassed that I knew none of this before reading this book.

I find so much truth to the power of shared language. Growing up with lots of immigrant and refugee students in my classes at school, they seemed much less like “the other” as their English improved. Ed always tells me how much easier his life became at his Boston prep school once he lost his East LA accent and learned to talk like the other East Coast kids. Every incident of racism that I can remember Ed experiencing occurred before he was given the chance to open his mouth. Once people hear that he speaks flawless English, he is mostly accepted - or at least left alone.

When Ed and I were dating and I started to introduce him to extended family, I’m pretty certain this “shared language” alleviated fears in some of my oldest relatives. If Ed had spoken in broken English, or even had a strong accent, the “sell” might have been harder.

I’m afraid this observation could be interpreted to mean that everyone should speak English in America. Rather, I see it as stating a fact of human nature - and being aware of it so that you can make more of an effort to find common ground and friendship when there are obstacles of language.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Privileged

I grew up thinking I had a really hard life. I was a survivor. Oldest of five? All of the pressure! All of the extra responsibilities! Babysitting my little brothers and sisters! I always played the victim. I didn't get into my school district's Talented and Gifted program even though I knew I was brilliant. The coach didn't played me enough even though I was clearly the best on the team.

I tried to use my victimhood to motivate me. I took all of the hard classes in high school to prove I should have been a 7-year old TAG kid who rode the bus once a week to a special school in a faraway location. I ended up making all-league basketball my senior year. But really, the victim look was pathetic on me.

Between the lines you can see my privilege oozing out. A college prep education with plenty of extracurriculars. In high school and college, I worked jobs for gas money and movies, not food or rent. A spacious home in a quiet, safe neighborhood. Two parents who loved each other and a larger family who loved and supported me.

A friend once said about the kids in our neighborhood, "We had everything we needed, and a few things we wanted, and nothing more." We had a little more than most, but I didn't know that until much later. There truly isn't a better way to grow up.

Into my forties, I am still realizing all the ways my life has been charmed. It has been a slow process, this unearthing of my privilege. Kind of like digging through sand with my bare hands. The sand is always shifting and the bottom still isn't in sight.

I remember being a senior in high school and an Asian friend explaining to me the concept of "Driving While Asian." We were sitting in AP English with our copies of Things Fall Apart and he kept insisting that cops targeted him and other minorities on the road. They would pull him over for no reason, and even occasionally harass him. This was my introduction to racial profiling and I thought he was being completely ridiculous. I could read a book about blacks in Africa and believe their oppression, but I couldn't accept it was still happening in my own country.

A few years later, after I met Ed, I watched him get pulled over by cops needlessly and ridiculously. I saw it with my eyes in real life, and I could no longer deny it. I started doing most of the driving and handling all interactions with law enforcement. It was easier.

And later we had kids and lived in a little town called Reston tucked deep into the DC suburbs. Reston was supposed to be this shangri la of the south. Constructed in the early 1960s by an eccentric and idealistic millionaire, it was explicitly unsegregated and meticulously planned. Quite diverse in terms of race and income, it really did live up to most of its hype, but privilege didn't disappear completely.

Reston was comprised of several neighborhood villages. Each village included different types of housing, a central shopping area, and often an elementary school and park. The villages were connected by roads, but also by a system of wooded trails for biking and walking. We spent a lot of time walking and biking those trails with a young Noé and Asher. Besides the public parks, most neighborhoods had their own private playgrounds. Technically, these playgrounds were only for the kids that lived in the neighborhood, but no one really enforced that rule and kids were free to play anywhere.

The boys LOVED one of the private parks in particular, nestled right against the Reston trails near our home. I think it was the fast, twisty slide that warmed their little hearts the most. One day, Ed came in with the boys after a walk. Everyone seemed upset. When I inquired, Ed explained that they were kicked off that beloved playground by a neighbor. I was shocked - I'd taken the kids to that park many times without incident. I knew a lot of the moms and kids who played there and we were always made to feel welcome. When I expressed my outrage, Ed just mumbled something like..."it wasn't the first time this has happened." I was welcomed to this private space with my kids, Ed was yelled at and told to leave with these same kids. Repeatedly.

Oh...there are so many more stories to tell. The Greek laundromat owner in our Queens neighborhood who screamed at Ed for every ridiculous infraction whenever he went in to do our laundry (and I thought for the longest time he was just trying to get out of helping with the laundry). The time when I had to go rent an apartment without Ed because our friends who were leaving us the apartment sheepishly admitted they were afraid the owner may not rent to us if Ed was there. (Yes, in retrospect, we should have never played that game, but the rent was SO good and the location was SO great...a New Yorker's dream).

The funny thing about Ed is that he never cries foul. He never once pointed out what became fairly obvious - like most other POC in this country, he was being singled out for the color of his skin, so I came to these realizations on my own. Perhaps more slowly than most.

There was this process of realization for me with every incident that went something like this:

1) my oblivious denial of racism in the world, or at least in *my* world

*racist act occurs*

2) initial confusion and disbelief

3) realization and stark anger

This process has been condensed for me now to - initial confusion and then quick anger. I can sniff it out pretty fast now.

It's to the point now where I often do things, just because I know I can get away with it, to remind myself of my own privilege. Nothing illegal or really even wrong, just dumb stuff, like going into a nice restaurant that I'm not eating at just to use the restroom. And then as I'm walking through the restaurant, I think...this is about where Ed would get stopped.

I just can't believe there are white people in America who deny the existence of the privilege the color of their skin affords them. But then, I can. Because I was one of them. It all comes back to being willing to understand the experience of POC in this country. Reaching out, listening to them, and believing them.








Tuesday, June 5, 2018

You Need A Mexican!

I was frantically weeding my side yard, which faces the street (because: THE MOVE), when a man with the same shade of skin as Ed, somewhere in his late twenties or early thirties, missing a couple of teeth and with a young child in each hand, approached me and pulled out a business card and said with a warm smile,

"You need a Mexican for that!"

I looked at him and then his card, and then up at my house, where somewhere within resided a Mexican. My Mexican. Likely on his laptop doing work, but not the work that is stereotypically ascribed to his race.

And all I could do was nod and agree. And laugh.



Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bar Graph-ing Our Move



I made a representational bar graph of our family in the middle of packing and getting our house ready to sell, because..... because..... it seemed productive at the time. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Last Blog Standing

When I mentioned to a casual friend that I still keep a personal blog, her reply was, "Wow, so 2006!"

It was a little rude of her to say, but she is correct that the mommy blog era is no longer. But just like cargo pants and Gilmore Girl reruns, also 2006 favorites, the blog still works for me.

If I'm in a busy phase of life (kind of like now- we're selling our Seattle house, preparing to move to Portland, and ending the school year), the blog is a quick way to guarantee I'll get at least a little writing done. And it is still nice to have a place to record family milestones as well as the quirky everyday happenings of Familia Guzman.

I have no idea who, if anyone, is still reading. But for some reason, it is more satisfying for me to publish on a blog rather than keep a traditional journal.

And I'm so glad I started this blog. Even if I was bending to mommy peer pressure to go along with a current trend (but I don't think I was as I never bought a maxi dress, I just like to write), it has already become a treasure trove of family memories. It is so fun to look back at earlier posts to see what the kids were doing, what they were like, what things about them drove me batty! One of the things I love to do most with Asher right now is go back and read old posts about him. And he loves it, too! He can't believe he was such a silly little kid! I can't believe he's almost grown.

It is interesting to see how the blog has evolved through the years. The first couple of years of entries are sugary and cute. I think I was subconsciously copying the style of other mommy blogs at that time, which leaned towards the idyllic.

At some point, I tired of that style and started getting real about our family life. These posts are my favorite.

These days, I'm a little stuck for material, as Asher does not want me writing too much about him, and I want to respect his privacy. I also feel like I should be mindful of Noé's privacy, as he cannot give explicit consent. But I also think autism families need to tell their stories. Well, all families need to tell their stories. It's a hard balance.

Perhaps, we need to get a dog to generate more blog material.

But I'll keep writing my 2006 mommy blog. Even if it is only about our imaginary dog.