Saturday, June 4, 2011

All in the Family

So the other day I was talking about how the children of employees at a local prestigious university can get free tuition if they get accepted.

"Just think," I said, "Can you imagine if I could send Peaches to a school like that for free?"

Oh. I am so ashamed that I said that. Immediately I thought of an Archie Bunker episode I watched sometime before the age of ten that I have never forgotten. It was about feminism, and a character told this "riddle" about a boy who is with his dad when the boy gets very badly hurt. The dad rushes the boy to the hospital. Just as they take the boy into emergency surgery, the surgeon says, "Wait. I can't operate on this boy. He's my son." The riddle is, how can the boy be the son of the surgeon as well as the man who drove him to the hospital? It was the 70s, and no one could figure it out, because "those were the days" when no one's mind could readily come to the conclusion that a woman could be a surgeon. Even in elementary school, I got it, and I felt enraged. I hated the assumptions, the minimization of my gender. For one brief moment, I forgot that I stink at science and I forgot that I wanted to be Charles Kurault when I grew up, and instead I wanted to prove the disbelievers wrong, I wanted to be a great scientist.

So a friend heard my mistake, heard me make the offensive university remark, and she shot me a look. "Can you imagine sending BOTH of your children there for free?"

I felt enraged, at myself. I hated the assumptions I had made about my own boy, the minimization of kids who have autism. But ever since that moment, I have been thinking how much I WILL believe that my boy can do anything he wants, anything he sets his mind to, and that includes going to a highly competitive university when he grows up.

I DO believe. Sometimes the group think of assumptions clouds things for me for a while. Sometimes I confuse belief with hope. Belief is easier, hope is scarier. But for my little seven-year-old boy who is on the spectrum and has ADHD, and for kids like him, I'm not going to give up on either. If you see me make a ridiculous mistake or an offensive assumption again, please, shout at me.

Just say, "Stifle yourself!" And I'll stop being a meathead.

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