So, I did something the other day that I thought I might not ever be able to do. It may seem like a small thing to some people, but for those in the autism world, WE KNOW. We know that what might seem small is really HUGE. Today was huge.
My small/huge thing? I parked in the pick up line with all the other parents picking up their kids from school. (The area in which I live doesn’t have busing for the majority of kids.) I did NOT park my car. I did NOT walk to the door and wait for my 12 year old daughter. I did NOT walk with her back to my car. I did NOT do all the things I have done for the past nine years she’s been going to school. I sat in my car, in the line, with all the other parents – and waited for her to come to me.
This was no spur of the moment decision. We’d been thinking about it since she started at her new school last month. But it still wasn’t easy to actually DO. Not for me. I’m a bit hovering. I get very anxious when she’s out of my sight or the sight of her teachers/aides. She got lost once at the beach when she was five years old, and that experience scarred me for life. She is not one to wander, thank God. But when she has gotten separated from a group (or me), her tendency is to walk around looking, but not ask for help, even though we’ve tried to work on it with her again and again. Anyway, as a result, I hover. I can’t help it. And letting go, letting HER go, is hard.
So this was a major step for her, and for me. When I brought up the idea to her she was immediately excited. “Yes mommy! Let’s do it!” She has watched her older sister and younger brother do this, so I bet that was part of her excitement – doing something she sees her siblings and all the other kids doing.
She is capable. She knows what my car looks like. The ongoing plan is for me to get to the school early enough every day so I can park directly in front of the school building. She just has to walk out of school by herself and walk down the sidewalk and hop in the car when she sees me. Easy peasy right? Well, not so much. Not when you’re a “hover-er.” Even a “hover-er” conscious about the need to stop and let go a little.
My heart was racing the first day. The reality is always a bit different than the planning. I ended up having to park near the end of the building, so she had to walk almost its entire length to get to me. Would she see me? Would she get confused if she didn’t see me right away? Would she get distracted by something or someone? I didn’t have a sight line to the school door, so I didn’t see her until she was relatively close by. When I did finally see her after what seemed like an eternity after school let out, she was walking confidently, with an immense smile on her face. SO PROUD of herself. Walking alone to her mom’s car, with all the other kids at school. One of them.
I don’t know how long it will take until the butterflies leave my belly when the school bell rings, and the kids stream out, but as I said in part 1 of “letting her fly,” I just have to GET OVER MYSELF. I need to find the balance between being appropriately protective and hovering. But as I’ve found even with parenting my other “typical” children, this is easier said than done. For now though I celebrate this new little bit of independence my daughter has accomplished. I am SO proud.