The Social War (#525)

Socius is the Latin word for “ally” and the Social War refers to the war fought from 91 to 88 BCE between the Roman Republic and the other cities in Italy who had been Rome’s allies prior to the war. The inhabitants of these cities in central and southern Italy could not become citizens of Rome, but, rather than seeking to do so, they attempted to create a new republic, on the model of the Roman one with a senate and two consuls. Under the Roman generals Pompeius and Sulla, the Social War ended with the capture of the two Italian capitals, Corfinium and Bovanium, and the loss of some 300,000 men.
And here you thought the title of the post was a reference to Mean Girls perhaps or—since this is an autism blog—to the difficulties that autistic children have with social skills.

I have to say, it is not simply that Charlie is “socially awkward,” that he shakes hands to greet children and adults while offering a rather canned “how are you?”: Charlie shakes hands, and then sniffs his palm.

It is not simply that Charlie speaks at inappropriate moments in public in the grocery store or the library: Sometimes it will just strike Charlie as the right time to reenact some yowly scene from his past, complete with bending over double and saying something like “ow-eeeeeeeeeeeeea!” and “no sushi today no sushi tooDAY” and then standing up straight and giggling.

My usual response is to fail to see the looks of shock/alarm/”what in the world!??!!” and to say, very blasé, to Charlie, “I think you’re remembering how you used to get upset about not eating sushi? Let’s get some juice for dad.” Sure, in the past we would fabricate elaborate plans and programs to ensure total and constant social appropriateness especially in public places; certainly it is not a bad thing for Charlie to learn some social graces, from greetings to “thank you” to “please” to being (or trying, at any rate) to be basically quiet at certain times. But one of the hard-won lessons of life in Autismland has been, there are some things that you, autism parents, just cannot control and better to let them run their course and rather than to have a big scene and fuss about “you weren’t supposed to do THAT in front of all of these people!”

Some battles are just meant to be lost.

Or maybe a better way to think of “the social war” is to hope that our world is being made safe for differences and that, wherever we might go with our “different”-thinking-being children, there will be secret allies lurking, who know someone with an autistic relative, who have an autistic relative, whose partner is autistic, who is her or himself autistic.

The terrible news last Wednesday of the killing of 12-year-old Ulysses Stable by Jose Stable, his father, has generated much feeling and some heated exchanges among autistics and parents of autistic children, and more than rightfully so, I think. And I also think, one thing that tends to get forgotten, is the extent to which we are each other’s allies. At the end of every day, we have thought more about and cared eons about and talked a lot more about autism and autistic persons than anyone else; there is plenty to disagree about (such as fighting words like “cure” or “prenatal genetic testing“).

Allies don’t have to agree about everything but there is some commonality that ties us (like it or not) together.

Charlie, now 9 1/2 and clearly as big as my mother and gaining on me, still uses his fingers to eat, has been known to tip a chair when over-excited or angry, stomps his feet and chortles rhythmically (and all of these did happen at Thanksgiving). On Sunday, stricken on knowing that my parents would depart in two days for California, Charlie issued a scream that was more like a decibel-strength squawk (and in a house wrapped in Sunday morning quiet). We talked about their leaving quietly and looked at the picture schedule with my parents’ photo on our house in New Jersey for these past seven days, and then the photos of their house in California for the rest of the days. Charlie, perhaps extra-happy because he was not feeling so upset at their departure, showered for almost an hour while talking loudly (“bye bye Gong Gong bye bye Po Po hahahahah”), his voice booming out into the street, let the neighbors think what they will.

We know who our allies are.

9 Responses to “The Social War (#525)”
  1. reuben says:

    In short, and if I may be allowed to summarise, fuck ’em.

  2. Making allies of one’s “enemies” is no easy process, indeed.

  3. enna_id says:

    Thank you for writing this post. Sincerely, Enna id

  4. Lisa/Jedi says:

    That’s exactly it, isn’t it? When Brendan has loud tics or anxiety reactions in public, I’ve become aware that my reaction not only sets the tone for those of the observers, but also sends a strong message to him, too. It is not easy for me to stay calm when he’s frantic (& I feel the pressure of the eyes upon us) but it’s the best, most graceful, most respectful thing to do. Not looking around, as you mentioned, also helps 🙂 It took me so long to learn this, but it really works…

  5. Leila says:

    I come from a place (Brazil) where people are not as uptight in regards to disciplining kids. Children there are allowed to be rowdy and hyper, parents are allowed to spoil them, and nobody cares if they’re still sucking their thumbs at 6 years old. My problem is, after all this exposure to American culture, I became more concerned with “not bothering other people”. This is the “excuse me/I’m sorry” culture. My son was only 1-year-old and my American husband was already trying to shush him in restaurants or in an airplane. So now I’m trying to revert back to my Brazilian mode, letting my kid be a kid in all his exuberance, be it by talking loud or running around in a toy store or having a major tantrum in public. Adult passersby should be wise enough to understand not every child is the same and this is nobody’s fault. If they don’t realize that, let them come talk to me and they’ll get an earful.

  6. The culture(s) that I’m from emphasize not standing out, not acting out, in public, especially in the case of children—-such would be a way to “lose face.” Brazilian mode sounds like something we could all learn from—-yes, wearing “blinders” is not a bad idea!

  7. kyra says:

    ‘let the neighbors think what they will.’


  8. Meg says:

    Hi Kristina!

    Remember me? I have been drowning in the world of unimportant time and life sucking events. This entry so resonates with me, Fin gives nothing to those well wishers who say hello, or ask his name. It used to bother me, but no more. I know at least if he is touched by the hand of a stranger, and someone maybe attempts to walk away with him who should not – they will be met with more than they bargained for! I still have more to let go of, to let him be who he needs to be, we will all get there eventually.

  9. I do indeed……………. good to hear about Fin. Every little thing counts with our kids, I think—-hope things are well, or well enough, and will keep visiting My Quirky Boy.

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