According to Urban Dictionary: A Helicopter Parent is a parent who hovers over their child, is controlling and extremely over-protective.
Well yes, I guess that term is very fitting when applied to a parent who is unwilling to cut the apron strings from their typically developing child and let them discover life on their own BUT, in my opinion…..this term should not EVER be applied to parents of children with special needs.
For most of us – it is definitely NOT a choice but instead – a necessity.
I would LOVE to be able to just drop my child off at school in the mornings and go about my business but you see….this is a pipe dream for me. I don’t hover because I don’t trust the teaching staff or the school…..I hover for MY SON’S sake…..NOT mine.
And that my friends, is where I believe the difference lies.
When God blessed the parents of spectrum kids with these children, he also gave us enough grace to deal with the massive responsibilities that come as part of the autism package.
The simple fact is that with autism spectrum disorders- part of the diagnostic criteria is that the child has impairments in socialising, communicating and has restrictive or repetitive behaviours.
And in essence, what that means is that throwing your child in the deep end and letting them dog paddle their way through is not only stupid but very very cruel!
I have a very emotional story to tell now and I need all of my autism mother friends to wrap their virtual arms around my shoulder as I write because I’m particularly fragile this morning.
I sent Harley to school today with both of his hands bandaged up because he has let his anxiety overwhelm him again.
He has licked, sucked and literally chewed his knuckles again until they bled. They are red raw, weeping, bleeding and really majorly gross to look at. He is in dreadful pain and was whimpering as I gently bathed and dressed his wounds this morning and it broke my heart to see him like this.
He looks like a little teddy bear with his paws all wrapped up and as a result, is unable to perform simple tasks like cleaning his teeth and getting dressed unassisted.
I went up to school just before recess to drop off his blazer that he had forgotten and signed in and went down to his classroom to change the dressings on his hands.
The beautiful office ladies would have done this for me but I knew that Harley wouldn’t have responded well to someone else touching his sore hands so I opted to go in myself. (yes, that’s right…..hover, hover, hover).
He was SO excited to see me and Lucas. He ran over to us giving us both HUGE cuddles and announced loudly that his Mummy was here and telling all his friends how much he loves me! (I developed a speck of dust in my eye as you could imagine!)
I hugged him back, took him aside and re-dressed his hands and helped him to get his blazer on. He went back to his desk and sat down and arranged his books in front of himself proudly.
I told him that it was time for me to leave now and that Mummy would see him in a few short hours. He nodded and said his goodbyes to us.
I walked over to the teacher to say goodbye and she started chatting with me about the great progress that she’s noticed in him lately and I beamed with pride.
All the while, Lucas was tugging on my leg so eventually I followed his pointed finger with my eyes and then I saw it.
Harley was leaning forward with his head down, staring at his work. He had his pencil awkwardly grasped in his bandaged hand with tears streaming down his little face. He was TRYING SO DARN HARD to be brave but the tears kept flowing. I watched him wipe some of them away with his little white paw and I could tell how much strength this required on his part.
I walked over to him, crouched down and put my arm around his shoulder and asked him what was wrong.
“I can’t do what everyone else does Mummy” he answered.
“What do you mean honey?” I replied.
“I can’t even hold my pencil, I can’t read and I can’t stinkin write, I’m so stupid” he sobbed.
“YOU ARE NOT STUPID” I practically yelled, LIVID that my boy’s anxiety was consuming him and I started to wonder if coming into the classroom was such a good idea after all.
His gorgeous teacher stepped in and assured me that she would look after him so I thanked her and gradually made my exit once I knew he was ok.
I DO trust that his teacher can deal with this. I DO trust that she has only his best interests at heart but I want everyone reading this to know:
My kid ALSO needs me.
Call me whatever you want. A helicopter parent, a smother mother, a freak, WHATEVER, but when my child is in this much pain just from a task as simple as “being” in a classroom full of kids who can naturally do all the things that he struggles with….. I will not back down and leave him to his own devices.
It’s not a simple case of parental separation anxiety here.
I am not trying to control the school, the teachers or the environment.
I just want to parent my child responsibly and effectively and for ASD kids – that means hovering, asking questions, making requests and sometimes….being a pain in the butt.
I WON’T apologise for being my child’s biggest and loudest advocate. I do not want to look back in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years time full of regret that I didn’t do more to help him navigate this frightening and overwhelming world that we live in.
And I will ALWAYS be the parent that you see waiting patiently by the classroom door to “have a quick chat” with his teacher.
I don’t want to know if he aced his spelling test, or ate his sandwich or got all his sight words correct….I couldn’t care less about these things…..I just want to know if my little boy managed to simply survive!
So if you’ll now please excuse me ….this helicopter needs to go and re-fuel – tank is getting empty : )