Posts Categorized: Julie Cole

Wanted: Good Neighbors

Earlier this week, a mom in the autism community reached out to me for some ideas or suggestions for dealing with a difficult neighbor. Her son, who is quite severely affected by autism, has recently developed a verbal tic/stim. Often verbal tics/stims present as loud, unusual, and random sounds.

Apparently this neighbor finds the verbal tic annoying to listen to when the little guy is playing in his backyard or swimming in the pool with his family. So annoying, in fact, that he regularly calls the police to report the child. When the police arrived the other night, they actually suggested the parents try to restrict the time their son spends outside—to keep their neighbor happy.

Yes, you read that correctly—his parents were asked to keep their son inside so he doesn’t make noises that upset his neighbors. Needless to say, their young daughter was left crying inconsolably because the police were at her home to deal with an issue her brother is unable to change.

It is nothing short of disgusting that a neighbor would be so intolerant of a child’s disability that he feels compelled to call the police. Equally disturbing is that the police found it appropriate to suggest keeping a young boy confined to his house, because his disability is an “annoyance” to the neighbors.

My first question was whether the mom had spoken to the neighbors about the issue. She told me they weren’t interested in listening. Whenever she has made an attempt to explain her son’s behavior, she is shut down and met with, “Yes, yes…we KNOW he’s autistic!” How’s that for empathy? I wonder how this guy would go living next to us—with six kids, our backyard noise levels are off the chart.

But this is about more than a cranky neighbor; this is about intolerance for disability. And for that, I’ve got two dozen eggs in my fridge that are looking for a good home on the outside of an idiot’s house. Anyone care to join me?

How would you respond if this was your neighbor? Have you experienced, or even heard of  anything like this? 

How Many Kids? Is There a Magic Number?

According to a recent study, the most stressful number of kids to have is three.

I remember being a mom of one—though it wasn’t for long—and finding it difficult. Truthfully, I didn’t find it exciting enough, and there were times it could be quite boring. When I look back now, and think of how I was juggling a baby and law school, I wonder how the word boredom ever factored in. These days, I’d jump for a warm serving of boring.

I was a happier mom once my second child arrived, 15 months after my first. Even after suffering a miscarriage after we had our first baby, there was still a very small age gap. It goes without saying, our third baby came not all that longer after the second.

And yes, three was stressful, but I found it was more about the circumstances than it was about the numbers. I was living far away from my family, had three babies under three, and my eldest was well on his way to an autism diagnosis. There were no fancy three-kid strollers back in those days, so Daddy-o had to create a make-shift triple stroller that involved a child’s plastic lawn chair with a harness—those were not glamorous days.

If I were to offer a theory on family size and stress, it’s less about the numbers and more about closeness in age and how much support someone has at the time.

Saying that, I can see how three would be considered the most stressful number of children for some families:

  1. It’s a parent personality thing. Kids don’t stress me out the way they do many parents. If I had been stressed at three, I would have stopped. So, yeah—people with more than three kids are probably less likely to stress out about kids. You have to be tolerant of a certain chaos levels when you have a big family. It can absolutely be too much to take.
  2. Maybe some people with three kids like the “idea” of a big family, but two really was enough —so that third stresses them out. With kids, you have to like more than the “idea” of it, because the reality can be bigger than you ever imagined.

Did you have a “perfect” number in mind when you started your family? Is there a number of children you found particularly stressful?

Boston – Talking About What I Don’t Want to Talk About

Julie Cole Mabel's Labels Family

Boston: there are other things I’d rather talk about with my family.

With the tragic event that took place in Boston this week, a number of people have asked me why I didn’t blog, tweet, or post my reaction to Facebook. While I understand it was a high priority news item —and remaining silent about it may have seemed odd—it was the right way for me to handle this situation. My instincts were telling me that whoever was responsible for creating this devastation was getting enough airtime. It disgusted me to think of the attacker at home watching the news or poring over social media—delighting in their sick success. I didn’t want to add to the number of voices that were giving so much attention to the evil person/people who did this.

So, the irony doesn’t escape me that I’m talking about it now. Mind you, I am going to speak in generalities about how to talk to your kids about difficult situations:

1)      First, begin by actually talking to them. Unless your kid is living in a completely isolated world, void of media and other humans, they will hear about it. Deliver the message yourself and provide yourself and your child(ren) the opportunity to frame the delivery of information in an appropriate way. This also makes you available to receive their questions.

2)      Make them feel safe. When I was a kid, we rarely traveled. Whenever I heard awful news on the radio, I would immediately ask my mother WHERE it happened. I vividly remember her response each time, “Oh, somewhere in the States.” To my young mind, the “States” was a faraway land. It made me feel like my family was safe. When it comes to my own children, we discuss how frightening events can happen anywhere;  however, whenever possible, I remind them of the physical distance between them and the tragedy.

3)      Empower your children to help. There is no worse feeling than helplessness. Our family donates to victims’ funds, whether there has been a natural disaster or any other kind of tragedy. We gather the children and encourage them to give something up in order to put our family in a position to donate —whether it’s allowance or paper route money, or maybe a planned trip to the movie. It makes them feel like THEY are contributing.

Have you had to field any tough questions over the last few days? How have you handled this situation?





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