Slumber parties, autism, and hurricanes

What do you do when you’re scared?

If you’re the mother of a seven-year-old girl, and that girl is about to head to her first slumber party, you gather all the information you can and try to control for every contingency. I called the hosting mother, asked a million questions, asked other friends for advice, and, having been told that there would be a handful of girls there (five), there would be some arts and crafts activities, and bedtime between 8 and 9, we agreed to let our daughter go. We dropped our daughter off last night, and my husband and son waited in the car while I took our daughter to the house. I’d never been to the house before, had only met the mother a couple times, and didn’t know her significant other. Upon arrival, I was intent on scanning that house and taking note of every detail in a manner that would make Jason Bourne proud. Inside of five minutes, I learned that my daughter’s friend’s older brother and his friend would also be there (fourth graders), there would be 10 (!!!) girls there who would all stay the night, there would be swimming (we didn’t pack a swimsuit) and they had a dog (a small one, but our girl can be skittish). There would also be neighbors (who I didn’t know) coming to the house to help with the party. I was, with all these new and not yet considered facts, stricken.

If you’re say, a former centerfold and scared for your son who has autism, you might, much like the mom of a slumber partier, create a situation in which you know all the answers and assume you can make things better. I wonder what she thinks of all the new (and accurate) information about her son’s diagnosis. Like the New York Times report earlier this week: A new study “provides support for the argument that the surging rate of autism diagnoses over recent decades is attributable in part to the increasing average age of fathers, which could account for as many as 20 to 30 percent of cases… Unlike other theories proposed to explain the increase, like vaccinations, it is backed by evidence that scientists agree is solid.” Or this opinion piece, which posits that “at least a subset of autism — perhaps one-third, and very likely more — looks like a type of inflammatory disease. And it begins in the womb.” Do the outbreaks of whooping cough give her pause?

If you’re a scared resident in a low-lying area in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm, you might, much like that former centerfold, simply go with what you know and do what you can do–even if it means putting yourself and others at grave risk. My husband and I watched “Witness: Katrina” on the National Geographic channel last night. It’s still hard to believe what happened seven years ago, so hard that as we watched, we still kept exclaiming, “why didn’t they leave?” I actually looked it up, and found a study that concludes “that all action is—and should be understood as—a product of what the individual can do given the resources of the sociocultural context. Understanding that many people who stayed in the hurricane-affected area could not simply choose to evacuate could have promoted a more timely and effective disaster prevention and relief effort.”

We’re all the same when we’re scared. We all want our own version of control.

The hosting mother of the slumber party? She had our daughter call us at 8:40 p.m., and posted pictures and videos from the party shortly thereafter, letting us all know that the girls were all asleep by 9:45.

I slept soundly, too.

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