Feb 26, 2013 1 Share

Private versus Public

Hands surrounding the word "Privacy."

After I wrote my first installment of “Life of Reilly,” I started to worry—about Reilly reading it. How would he feel about me publicly airing some of the less pretty parts of our lives? And potentially embarrassing details about Reilly himself? I've always been something of an open book. Not good at keeping secrets—so don't tell me any! I knew that I would share the column on Facebook, and Reilly is one of my Facebook friends. He, perhaps wisely, blocks me from seeing most of his Facebook posts. Those boundaries don't necessarily go both ways; Reilly is FB friends with most of my friends, as well as his father’s and brother's and sister's friends. I thought maybe I could block him from seeing Autism After 16 posts, but he's computer savvy and he would find a way. 

A good friend told me that I should write under a pseudonym, but that didn't seem right, either. The point is to share our family struggles, because so many other families do share our struggles. But Reilly has been reluctant, to put it mildly, to discuss his personal issues. When he was younger, I found a children's book about a professional baseball player who suffered from Tourette Syndrome—Reilly's first diagnosis. He refused to read it. When I try to talk to him about Tourette or autism, he clams up and gets away as fast as he can. But I knew I would have to talk to him before the first column appeared.  

Like most young adults, Reilly seldom answers his cell phone, at least when Mom is calling. So I sent him a text: “Hey bud. I need to talk to you about this new writing job. I'm going to be writing about us, our family. Is that OK with you?” “Yeah, it's ok,” he texted back immediately. “You sure? Maybe I better send you the first column?” “Yes, send it to me.” 

So I emailed the column to him. Since it was partly about his grooming habits, or lack thereof, I held my breath, not sure what I would do if he objected. He replied pretty quickly: “It's a good article. BTW, I've been showering more often, now that I have a GF. So you should be happy about that.” 

That's girlfriend, for anyone unfamiliar with teenspeak. It was news to me! I teared up, overwhelmed by his news and his generosity. He's giving me permission to write publicly about issues he won't discuss with me. Maybe this column is how Reilly and I will communicate about important matters. I promise, Reilly, to respect some boundaries, to try to stay positive, to recognize that you are, in very many respects, a normal 19-year-old guy.  Love you, buddy! 

P.S. The next day he texted me with the news that he had applied for a summer job working the front desk at our neighborhood pool. I’m crossing my fingers for him. Though I'm still not sure that living at home this summer is the best idea. We'll see …

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Keeping Life Private

My 18-year-old also has strict public vs. private rules.  I'm not allowed to use photos and I've changed his name in my blog. He's given me permission to talk about our life and transition issues, but unlike Reilly he never reads the blog. The emphasis on privacy isn't really new for him. He's always bristled when people (even therapists) ask him questions that he considers an invasion of his personal life, even if the question is something innocuous. "Do you have any pets?" can bring about a gruff harrumph, a deeply furrowed brow, and those crossed arms that indicate he's circling the wagons.