I often joke about the need to teach Dude everything he should know to become more independent because he's not living with me for the rest of his life but it's true ... and a little scary for me. I love seeing him grow and learn and do things for himself. I love seeing his confidence increase and his anxiety decrease yet every time he takes a new step towards independence my heart lurches in my chest and my mind is flooded with all of the what ifs.
What if it's too loud, too busy or too bright and he gets disorientated? What if he gets overwhelmed and freaks out and no one is there to help him? What if kids start joking around and he misunderstands and gets upset? What if he says something rude or condescending and offends his friends? What if the kids he's with start making fun of him? What if someone makes fun of his hair? What if someone starts playing a Justin Bieber song? What if, what if what if?
We have survived on what if ... they are what has got us this far. My ability to see a situation and predict all possible reactions and outcomes in a split second has kept us moving forward, kept us from melt downs. Being able to see five minutes into the future, to sense the next melt down and move around that trigger is what has made outings into the world possible. It is a sixth sense that most parents of kids on The Spectrum develop and rely on much more than any of their other senses; I know I do ... er ... did.
For the past four years or more we have hoped for normalcy. We set a goal of helping Dude to become as much like other kids as possible and we have worked very hard towards that goal. Every year we see more maturity, understanding and self control on his part. We see him making friends, fitting in, initiating conversations, looking at people when they are talking and managing his emotions and recognizing emotions in others ... just like a regular kid.
So then why does my heart stop when he wants to walk to school with his pals, stay for lunch in the cafeteria and go bike riding with the neighborhood kids? Why does it scare me so much to see him inch towards independence just like a regular 11 year old kid?
Oh yeah, because he's a regular kid and I'm a regular mom and independence and worry go hand in hand sometimes. It's normal.
Be careful what you wish for!
You'll always be different but you don't have to be disabled. You can emerge from disability.
~John Elder Robison