Mom, do you know about the bird?

“Well do you?”

Conversations with my son Brandon – some funny and some not so funny.

This was a recent conversation with my son Brandon.  Brandon came into my office and said, “Mom do you know about the bird?”  Then I hear, “Well Brandon’s gonna tell you about the bird.  The bird, the bird, the bird is the word”… and it continues… and continues… and continues.

I have to admit it was one of the funniest conversations I have had with him but he is always doing stuff like this.  Brandon is autistic so he tends to repeat things he hears on television or YouTube.  He loves YouTube.  Unfortunately, not everything on YouTube is good.  He also likes to watch the Family Guy, another show that is probably not good.  His version of the bird comes from the Family Guy as does his version of Can’t Touch This.  He sings them both A LOT!

When he goes out in public with me I always worry about what he will say.  He can be quite the entertainer but he also can sometimes repeat things he shouldn’t or touch people or just do something to make people stare at us.  He is a little bit strange but adorable at the same time, usually anyway.

He has recently discovered the difference between white people and black people, apparently.  And, well he has said a few things that have made me want to crawl under a table.  My family is not racist (which I hope I didn’t need to explain that) and it is very important to me that my kids are raised not to think people are different because of their race or any other issue for that matter.  My brother is bi-racial and it’s not like I keep him in a closet and we only talk to white people.  So I am really not sure why Brandon asks people weird questions about their race.

So here we are on the ferry ride to Mackinac Island and he and daddy were sitting next to a guy that happened to be black.  Brandon looks at him and says “Are you black?”  Kelly told me this story. I didn’t actually witness this.  Then he says, “You know there is a black suit Spiderman.”  Kelly said the guy just laughed so hopefully his weird questions didn’t offend him.  I really hope not because I know Brandon is just noticing things and asking questions like kids do.  Kids don’t always have good sense about the things to ask and the things not to ask.

So I am trying to figure out how to talk to Brandon about this but not sure the best way to go about it.  We don’t have normal conversations because he is autistic.  I can’t always explain things to him.  Our conversations are usually him repeating something from television and me listening.  He is hard to communicate with but even though he is autistic I still would like for him to know that it is not okay to say to someone, “You are supposed to be white.”  He said this to one of our friends recently and I felt very bad about it.

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  • Oh gosh! The things kids think up really can throw you for a loop, can’t they? I have to say, I laughed at the black suit spiderman. I hope you can find a way to relate to him on this one!

  • i LOVE brandon. he is so very funny, and likeable. when we were singing ‘the bird is the word’ the other day, it just MADE my day. truly!!

    and, as the mom of the interracial girl he said that to (“you’re supposed to be white”), i have to say that we weren’t bothered by it (in context), AND, it gave us a great way to talk (yet again) about racism. don’t feel bad!!

    we’ve experienced racism, and it is HORRIBLE. this, however, was gentle and curious. i am also disabled and have fielded questions about my walking abilities (or lack thereof) for years. when you can pull all of these elements in and have a REAL talk about it, it is not only a learning experience for ourselves, but we can also learn about others. that day? we learned about brandon, an autistic kid who is curious about his world, and exploring it the best he can. aren’t we luckY?! thanks for your friendship. 🙂

  • Oh hun!
    I have to say first of all, that when I saw the title of your post I immediately started singing “the bird is the word.” I didn’t even read the post, just the title, then when I read the post it made me laugh, and feel not as silly since that is what the post was about!

    Kids make very blunt observations. They usually have nothing to do with the child being racist, or being taught racist feelings. They are just comments that the kid makes about his observations or curiosities. Working at the preschool, I would hear kids say things all the time that in an adult context would probably be racist, but in the child context they were just saying “you are black and I am white.” to them it is the same as saying “I have blond hair and you have red hair.” The one that made me cringe the most was when I heard a little boy say to his mom at pick-up “Mom! D has TWO DADDIES and NO MOMMIES! That’s strange because everyone else I know has one mommy and one daddy.” then he finished with an emphasized “Weird!” he wasn’t saying the other child was weird, he was just saying that the situation is not what he already knew. They actually had us take a lot of workshops about handling comments about race with kids.

  • JessieV I wasn’t sure if I should post about this. I knew I was going to post about the bird, which btw I made a video of him but I can’t get it uploaded to YouTube for some reason and I don’t know if I can get him to do it again OR if I want to encourage this. I decided to post about his other discussions because I thought it was important topic to talk about. I think as parents we run into these situations where our kids ask questions but it is how we respond as parents that helps shapes how they think.

  • i am glad you posted it! and, i think that Jess was right, in that kids are always talking about what they observe. i didn’t think it was racist at all, and how we DO react and talk and explore the world with our kids is such a gift we can give each other.