Last week my firstborn, 14-year-old Elliott, informed me that a group of girls at his middle school were (and I am quoting him directly here) “causing a fuss about #YesAllWomen.”
I was delighted, shocked and confused at the same time. Ever since the Isla Vista killings on May 23rd, I’d been mulling over how I was going to talk to my children about the latest mass murder to occur in the good old USA. I even started a blog post about it that bore the long-winded title “I know I should talk to my kids about Isla Vista but I don’t know if I can.”
Why the hangup? You try telling your third grade daughter about the ubiquity of gender-based violence. You try telling your keenly logical Asperger’s son about the misogyny that fuels so much of said violence–because this is what he will say:
And that is exactly what came out of Elliott’s mouth when he explained how uncomfortable the girls’ fuss made him.
Asperger’s tends to produce thinking that is black/white, good/bad, wrong/right. To him, the fact that HE has never committed an atrocity against women or girls in his life PROVES that “not all men.” If that is a FACT, and really and truly a FACT, then it MUST be brought to everyone’s attention.
Please do not read the above and think that my son is an unfeeling robot on autopilot, as current stereotypes might lead you to believe. In fact, he has an extremely tender heart, a characteristic not usually attributed to Aspies but should be; the Aspies in my acquaintance (and there are many) may flounder with the finer points of social etiquette but they are loyal and loving when it counts. I remember well how Elliott’s already pale cheeks whitened several shades when I explained the Newtown shootings over a year ago.* CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT IN SCHOOL, his mind raced. CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I think that the detachment some see in spectrum people is really just terrible confusion and anxiety at a world that isn’t easily categorized as they would like.
The “fuss” that the girls were causing involved writing down some of their favorite #YesAllWomen tweets and posting them on the walls of their school. I thought this was fan-freaking-tastic and told him so.
“But it made me feel bad,” Elliott said.
“Why?” I said.
“Because I don’t do that stuff,” he said.
“I know that,” I said.
“But posting all that makes me think that I’m like that, but I’m really not,” he said.
I sighed. “And you felt like you had to tell those girls that you were NOT ALL MEN, right?”
He looked bewildered and more than a little embarrassed: did his mother actually know what happened on the internet?!!
I found an excuse to take him for a walk around the neighborhood, as I’ve found my kids do their best thinking when active. We must have gone back and forth for at least 30 minutes before I stopped him on Park Avenue and asked, “Elliott, have you ever made fun of someone just because she was a girl?”
“No,” he said immediately.
“Have you ever made fun of a girl’s clothes?”
“Why would I do that?” he asked.
“Have you ever called a girl a slut?”
He looked like he was going to throw up. “No way,” he said.
“Have you ever hurt a girl? Physically or mentally? Have you? HAVE YOU?” By now I had my hands on his shoulders and I was staring directly into his adorable hazel eyes.**
“NO!” he shouted, so loudly that I’m sure the neighbors heard.
“THEN YOU DON’T NEED TO WORRY,” I announced, “BECAUSE THE GIRLS IN SCHOOL ARE NOT TALKING TO YOU.”
He made a face like the one above (taken in response to the lousy defense in the first quarter of the Minnesota Lynx home opener), took a deep breath, and….
We hugged. It was amazing. It was beautiful. I have a feeling it will go down as one of my favorite parenting moments, ever.
Which is why I am blogging it and sharing it with you, and with the Elliott of the future when he Googles his mother’s name.
Elliott, if you are reading this, know that I love you and I am so proud of the boy you are and the man you will become.
*it sickens me that I must have this conversation every few months. GUN SENSE NOW!
**seriously, he’s the cutest boy in the world