Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Passing Me Up

Most of my relatives are pretty tall.  My brother, sister and father all stand over 6 feet, and my mother is just under that.  I am only 5'6", and I say "only" in comparison to my family.  I know that I am of average height for a woman, but I actually had to stand on a box in our family portrait.  It should be no surprise to me that my daughters are showing every sign of passing me up in height.  My oldest daughter looks me right in the eye, and Katie is not far behind her.  I think I am only an inch or so taller, but since she has been growing over an inch every few months, my reign as the tallest female in the house is almost over. 

I am an overprotective mother, I will admit.  Especially when it comes to Katie.  If we are crossing the street, or walking across a parking lot, I hold her hand.  It is not that I don't trust her, or think she is a baby.  But she lacks a certain sense of safety.  She lacks a ceratin awareness of her surroundings.  She would be the one to walk right in front of a car, not even paying attention or looking both ways.  So there we go, holding hands, and now we are almost the same height.  Do we look goofy?  Probably.  I could care less what people think when they see a teenager holding hands with her mother.  My main concern is how Katie sees herself.  I do not want to embarrass her or undermind her quest to be a teenager.  Once again I walk the fine line between protecting her and letting her be as normal as she can. 

Fostering inderpendance in a child that has a disablity is a double edged sword.  Obviously I want Katie to be able to take complete care of herself physically.  It would be so much easier if I could just tell her to go get ready for school, and she was able to do it all, and do it right.  But Katie has poor fine motor coordination, as well as somewhat limited control over her gross motor (so her body is all over the place).  The results are clothes inside out and backward, pants not buttoned or zipped, and crazy hair.  It takes 5 times as long from letting her do everything herself and then fixing it, to just plain doing everything for her.  I am sure you can see the dilema.  When mornings are hurried, like almost every one is, I want to take over and get the job done.  But, at the end of it all, who am I really helping?

I don't think this problem is exclusive to parents of children with special needs.  I think there is a point in every parent's life when they have to decide to pull back.  To let their child spread their wings.  Sometimes we would like to chase after them, carrying a safety net to catch them if they fall.  But you better not let them see you.  Half the importance of letting them go is to instill in them the confidence and sense of accomplishment.  Letting them learn from their mistakes, letting them test the waters of life.  But at the same time we are holding our breathe, poised to spring into action if they need us, waiting on that call.  One of the best feelings in life is to be needed by your child.  But we have to put that aside, and wish them to grow up and find their own way.  Growing up is a different process for Katie though.  She is way behind other girls her age when it comes to maturity and independance.  I try to create situations where she feels grown up and like a teenager, but still has the supervision that she needs.

One day in the near future, she will finally pass me up.  Then she will be the one reaching down to me, leading me along.  There is not a guide book or a manual for raising a child with Autism.  There is no "set time" that you let them go.  Each child is different in their challenges and their strengths.  I have to learn to trust my instincts when it comes to these things.  Learn to hide behind the bushes when she walks down the street, call her friends house to check up on her without her knowing that I am.  Our Adventures in Autism won't end when Katie is taller than me,.

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