Author Archives: mffox615

Dealing with Ought-ism

The work that I do is rewarding, challenging, and much like Autism itself, ever changing.  I spend most of my days researching information so that I can stay up to date on the latest Autism research as well as what services are currently being offered for the ASD population.  I try to stay up to date with what’s going on in the State House regarding the budget and Autism.  I do this so that I can be best prepared to tell parents and individuals what they ought to do when they call requesting information.  I do my best to make sure that I have provided people with the best information possible so that they can do what is best for their family and their situation.  After all, people are trusting me with their families wants and needs.  The least that I can do is fully listen to them and offer any advice I can give…. Right?

You’d think, or at least I’d think, that this would be the way it works in all aspects of life.  If I have a question, there’s someone that I can call to get advice from.  That person can be a family member, a friend, or an agency that has expertise in the area in question.  The easier the issue the more resources I would have when looking for an answer.  It wasn’t until very recently, that I realized how willing everyone is to tell me what I ought to do.

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least.  My husband and I bought our first house.  Shortly thereafter we found out that we were expecting our first baby girl.  We lost my mother who couldn’t win her 19-year battle with cancer.  And on March 18, my sweet baby girl came into the world.  With so many highs and lows I have never felt more out of control.

There have been a number of times that I found myself seeking out professional advice.  With my house it was:  Is the wall we want to knock down a weight bearing wall?  Why isn’t the radiator in the bedroom working?  During my pregnancy, every decision I made now wasn’t just a decision for me and my health, but the life I was growing.  So that brought on a whole new topic of questions:  Is it safe to eat _____?  Can I still ride my horse?  When my mom’s health was worsening, I was asking questions about her:  Is this the end?  Is she comfortable?  Can she hear me?

And then, when our baby was born there was a plethora of new questions I had.  The difference with this situation is that I didn’t/don’t have to reach out to a professional.  It seems like everyone has so much advice, even on questions I didn’t even know I had! I have never heard the phrase “you ought to” more so than in the past four months.  I know that the people giving me this unsolicited advice don’t mean any harm by it, but all of these “ought-isms” definitely leave me questioning everything.  You could ask 5 people the same question and get 5 very different answers.  I’ve been told that I ought to leave her sleeping in our room until she’s 6 months.  Then I’ve been told that I ought to get her used to sleeping in her own crib in her own room as soon as possible.  I’ve been told that I ought to start her on fruits and vegetables at 4 months, but I’ve also been told that I ought to wait until she’s 6-9 months.  I’ve been told that I ought to put on sunscreen when we go outside, but I’ve been told I ought to wait until she’s at least 6 months to use it.  I could go on and on with the different things I’ve been told that I ought to try or do.  I was even told by a nurse in the hospital that I “ought to shorten the spelling of her name.  It has too many letters.”  (My babies name is Ellianna.  The nurse that said this was Rosemary.  THEY BOTH HAVE 8 LETTERS!!!).

For The most part, I appreciate the advice that I’ve been given.  It’s usually from moms that have lived and breathed motherhood already and the advice they are giving truly comes from a good place.  But this has definitely taught me a new skill that I didn’t even know I needed in every aspect of life be it parenting, my professional work, or even just being a friend.  I need to listen more and wait for the person to ask for advice.  Sometimes when someone calls to talk, they just want that person on the other end of the line to listen and to reassure them that they are doing a fine job.  They don’t want or need any ought-isms.  I need to remember that.  Going forward, in conversations I’m going to do my best in giving the assurance that people need and the advice that they want, when they want it.

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“You’re just taking it the wrong way”

My friends come in many shapes, colors, sizes, and ages.  We all met at various stages in our lives.  Our careers range from Project Managers, Paralegals, Homemakers, Social Workers, Engineers, Dental Hygienists, Mechanics, Customer Service Reps., Educators, Musicians, and so so many more.  We enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, animals, football, hockey, BBQs, camping, bonfires.  Our absolute favorite thing to do together is to simply HAVE FUN!  And I’d say we do that quite well.

However, the one thing that can ruin a good time for me is to hear one of my amazing, beautiful, intelligent friends use the “R” word (side note, I do not even like typing that word, let alone repeat it). Hearing that word is like one of them giving me a solid gut punch.  For a while I would just take that punch and let it tear me up on the inside, but I wouldn’t say anything.  I don’t know if it was because I didn’t want to start that conversation and stir up a lot more than I was ready for, or if it was because I didn’t want to be labeled as the “fun sucker” or “Debbie Downer”.  Whatever my reasoning for staying quiet was, I’m glad I’m over it.

After a while it occurred to me that they aren’t going to know they are hurting me unless I tell them.  So, I began speaking up.  If one of my friends said the “R” word in conversation in front of me I would make a face and ask them if they could use a different word.  Depending on the day, the topic, and the friend, sometimes they would say a quick “sorry” and jump right back into conversation.  Sometimes they would have that nervous smile and say “oh yeah”.  Other times my friends would catch each other saying it and say “we aren’t supposed to use that word in front of Mary.”  But then there were times when it would stir off into a whole conversation about why I don’t like that word.  They would say things like “you know that’s not what I mean” or my favorite “you’re just taking it the wrong way”.

These conversations used to make me feel uncomfortable.  I don’t have anyone in my immediate family that has a disability so how was I going to find the words to explain why this word feels like a gut punch?  How was I going to drive this home?  Honestly, I’m still working it, but at least I’m trying.

The definition of the word in the dictionary is “less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one’s age”.  I doubt that it was ever intended to be used the way that it is thrown around today.  I tell them that “if everyone used this word correctly, it never would have become slang in our conversations”, it would still be more of a medical term or a diagnosis.  I try to explain to them that unfortunately the “R” word is attached to an unpleasant stereotype.  However it happened, it has now replaced “stupid” or “dumb” and people use it far too often for the wrong reasons.  When they say “that’s not what I mean”, I ask them what exactly DO they mean?

According to the Oxford Dictionary there are 171,476 words in the English language surely they can find a replacement word, can’t they? Or when they say that I’m just taking it the wrong way.  Am I? Well…. No.  No I’m not.  I’m taking it the way that you are intending it which is demeaning and degrading to all of the amazing individuals that I have had the privilege of working with in my career.  The individuals that try so hard to overcome obstacles that life throws at them daily.  Individuals with hearts as big as they come.  Individuals that some days have difficulty finding any words never mind words to use to stick up for themselves.  So if I’m offended that you’re calling someone “Re****ed” for doing something wrong or saying something silly, then please PLEASE tell me what way I should be taking it?

I try to keep my cool.  I try to recognize those teachable moments and when I see them, I try to only stand on my soap box for a short time.  Knowing my friends the way I do, I can tell you that they all have truly good hearts.   I know that they didn’t mean to offend me.  My friends aren’t good people… they are the GREATEST people.  Each and every single one of them means the world to me.  I don’t ever want to seem like I’m trying to push them away or shut them up.  I just want them to know the power that THAT word holds.  Maybe some of my friends will stop saying it in front of me.  Maybe some of my friends will slip up and say it occasionally.  But maybe, hopefully, my friends will be able to erase that word from their vocabulary altogether.

“A tongue has no bones, but it’s strong enough to break a heart.”