As parents of an autistic son, we have had our share of embarrassing moments. Our son doesn’t have much of a filter. He is the youngest of four, and our first three were always quite well-mannered in social settings. I have had a myriad of experiences in the last few years to get me over people pleasing, many situations of my own making, but nothing calls for instant humble acceptance more than social faux pas with your own child!
There was the time when we were at a quaint, conservative, outdoor wedding and our son pelvic thrusted front and center … oh! Bad timing, really bad timing on a lot of levels! My eyes, already rather large, grow three times their regular size and my smile turns inward as I clamp my lips into my mouth! There were the times when we attempted to visit a restaurant and my beautiful son would expel gas from various parts of the body in fairly quiet setting with all eyes on us! (See my It Took Nine Years To Go To A Restaurant.)
But nothing turns me inside out more than seeing my son’s butt crack exposed when he bends over! Why does this undo me so fiercely? I think it’s because so much of this journey feels out of control for me. I didn’t get the instruction book for this child; there is so much to learn, so many new tools to try in a moment’s notice. I already feel so inept, so unqualified for this job description. When my son bends over and inadvertently exposes himself, it’s another reminder that I didn’t plan appropriately, I didn’t do enough, and that I am not the best caregiver for this person entrusted to me. (All these thoughts I work through, by the way, one minute and one day at a time as I walk out my humanity.)
You would think that after it happened more than once, we would have put a plan together to ensure that it didn’t happen again. But you just do not understand, unless you understand what a cascade of events happen in a single day of an autistic adventure.
Well, the catalyst day came while we were at a Christmas party. We were having a lovely church Christmas party held in a picturesque, historic castle in our area. There was a white elephant exchange going on and it was time for our son to pick out his gift, which was done one by one, in front of the congregation. He walked up front to pick his prize out of the basket and displayed a lovely, round, full moon for all to see.
That was it! We had an epiphany. It was NOT going to happen again on our watch! It is OUR responsibility to ensure his dignity and teach him to care for himself when we aren’t around to remind him.
We bought him long tank tops and a new belt! He is not to leave the house with out tucking his tank into his jeans and putting his belt on, with a shirt over both. It works so well. He has a new routine, which he thrives in, and we have peace of mind that he has self respect.
I have had the opportunity to work part time at a school this school year. My eyes have been opened (literally) to the amount of buttock cleavage that is on display! It is just gross. I mean, don’t we all wince a little when someone bends over and the moon comes out? It is not reserved for just the kids either, which is even more disturbing! Remembering my son, I have bought a belt and tuck my shirt snugly in my pants because I bend over quite a bit on my job, speaking to children and otherwise.
Sometimes I want to shout; “Please cover your butt crack!” as I am sure people felt like shouting to our son from time to time. But it is our responsibility as adults to teach these character qualities to our children. I know I must sound like a dinosaur in such a free spirited and filter-less culture, but I see what this one small shift has done for our son’s confidence and showing concern for some one else other than himself. We were all made for quality, importance, and distinction—this is just one small way of showing it.