Day #57 – Spectrum in America

Normally I write a post the day before it publishes.  This gives me time to stew and think before it actually goes live.  This is not the post I wrote yesterday, this is a post I’m writing today. Why?  I’ve been moved, yet again – but the wise adages of my 12-year-old son.

Yesterday was election day – folks all over the country watched results last night.  Close races all over –

Would the Senate shift in majority?

Would the gubernatorial races signify a change in direction for states across our union?

In Iowa, our ‘big’ race was a Senate race between incumbent Bruce Braley (D) and challenger Joni Earnst (R).  Tucker has watched these races closely.  We talk politics in our house often – not along party lines – but, instead, what it means to be a citizen of this great country.  I grow increasingly frustrated with rigid party lines because they don’t really give me much room [as a parent] to talk about the ‘issues.’  I want to talk issues, not party lines – because I want my children to make up their own minds one day.  I don’t want them to only have MY ideals; I want them to experiences life, to talk with others, to read, to research, to develop their own opinions.

I am moderate.  I am proud to say I have voted both ways.  I am proud to say I am flexible in my viewpoints.  I am proud to say that if someone has a differing viewpoint, I actually LIKE to listen to them.  Why?  I recognize that our viewpoints come from our personal experiences in life.  I have not lived the life of another, only my own – so my viewpoints and opinions are just that – formed from my life experiences.

What does this have to do with a spectrum?  Well – it’s just that, a spectrum of belief and thought.  A spectrum of experience voiced through polarizing language.  We are Democrat OR Republican.  We are fat OR skinny.  We are smart OR not.  We are athletic OR not.  We are this or that.  Well, I don’t buy it…any of it.

I am both a Democrat AND Republican – depending on what issue.

I am both fat AND skinny – depending on my ‘stage’ of life (or who I’m standing beside).

I am smart AND not – depending on the content.

I am athletic AND clumsy – depending on the activity.

It’s all a spectrum, a spectrum of life.

Tucker’s ‘version’ of autism is just like this.  Sometimes it’s this and sometimes it’s that – but it’s always there.  Always shifting, always moving, always changing.  I cannot be rigid in my expectations – he can be successful and overcome sensory overload one day and the next we’re simply a ‘hot mess.’

I struggled quite a bit with this election.  It’s really the first election that Tucker was able to talk about, think about, and ask about.  I’m SO happy for this…but it presented some problems I hadn’t anticipated.  About a week ago, Tucker said to me,

“Mom, I don’t get this all of this.  We talk about bullying ALL THE TIME [yes…he said it emphatically] in school.  When I watch tv it’s like these candidates are just bullying each other.  At school and church we are always told to be kind, but aren’t these the people who want to lead us?  I don’t understand.  How do they get away with being so hateful when someday they want to actually be leaders?  You always tell me that we can have different thoughts and still be respectful, but that’s not reality – is it mom? Which is it – are we to be kind or rude?”

It reminded me of this picture.


Ugh-what a question is that!?!?!  Polarizing language from my child on the spectrum – kind or rude?  I simply responded that we are to always choose love, to be kind, to seek common ground – but also to ‘fight’ battles without disrespecting another.  This morning he woke up and was excited to see the results.

Bruce Braley – 43%

Joni Earnst – 52%

Then, he started reading.  Hatefulness and vitriol from Democrats in Iowa.  There went my ‘fight battles without disrespecting another’ approach.

Then, my child said to me, “Is this the way it always is?  All of this horrible stuff that people say about moving to Canada or being so disappointed? [here comes my numbers guy] it seems to me that the election was about half and half.  So, it was almost a tie.  So, if people are saying mean things – doesn’t that mean you are probably saying mean things about your neighbor?  You know that person on your left and right thing that you say?  So…now people are going to be mad at each other for voting the way they did?  But isn’t it anyone’s right to vote for whoever they want?  Isn’t this just more bullying – but now between people?  I think they should get the ‘be a graceful loser, you can’t win every time’ speech that you and my coaches give.’

Then, I was careful, to show him the hatefulness and vitriol from Republicans in Iowa two years ago.  Why?  Spectrum – I want him to see that it’s not one ‘side’ or the other that behaves this way.

He simply shook his head and said, “But aren’t we all Americans?”

That reminded me of this picture.


Logic.  Tucker’s logic.  Tucker takes the feeling out.  He recognizes how others are feeling – but has a keen ability to go beyond the emotional reaction. Being on the spectrum allows him to understand a spectrum of ideas without feelings attached.  What an amazing, unique quality.

I guess this post is less about autism itself as it is about what we are teaching our children about division and definition.  Tucker has autism.  It’s a thing he ‘battles’ every day.  It doesn’t define him or divide him from his peers.  I wouldn’t stand for that and I get pretty fired up when people try to put him in a box because of it (see Day #35 – I’m a Neurotypical).

Maybe we should stop trying so hard to define and divide each other-like we teach our children.  In Tucker’s words, “It doesn’t make sense mom.  We all have something in common – we’re all human and some of us are lucky enough to also be called American. Shouldn’t that be our focus?”

Yes, Tucker.  Yes, it should be.



One thought on “Day #57 – Spectrum in America

  1. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

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