It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as an autism parent.
Where Ryan is concerned, my natural instincts tend towards over-protective. The thing I’ve had to learn is my interceding to make sure his needs are met doesn’t do him any good.
I’m not saying over-protective doesn’t have his place. I would never advocate against shielding your child from potentially damaging situations in favor of “letting them figure it out for themselves.”
But common social interactions? It was always my instinct to jump in and speak on behalf of Ryan. This occurred for several reasons. It was easier. It was quicker. It was potentially less awkward. And it made sure his needs were properly communicated.
It took Ryan to remind me that I wans’t doing him any favors, and I like to thing I’ve gotten a lot better in this area.
But still, I get those twinges. I see Ryan approach and adult with a puzzled look on his face and I have to resist the urge to intercept him and play interpreter before relaying his question to the adult.
Thankfully, these days I usually am able to resist doing so.
Ryan and I both had an unsheduled day today. He wanted to play open hockey, but at a different rink from where he usually does. He was nervous that he wouldn’t know anyone, and I was proud of him for wanting to go anyway.
We got to the rink, and “open hockey” turned out to be “two kids and one coach” on an entire sheet of ice. He kept coming out of the locker room to ask if it was really going to take place. I told him it didn’t look like there would be many kids and asked if still wanted to take advantage of the ice time to work on some things. He never hesitated.
So on the ice he went. And when the coach came out (it was a youth session so an adult’s presence was required) I watched from the stands as Ryan approached him with a question.
And I felt it.
That urge to intervene and make sure whatever question he was asking made sense to the adult.
To play interpreter.
To make sure his needs were met.
Ryan doesn’t need me to do that for him anymore. And as I sit watching him work on drills by himself on an open sheet of ice, and marvel at the improvement he has made (thanks to three weeks of hockey camp this summer, with two more yet to come) I am thankful that I’ve (kind of) figured this out.
You know what’s funny? I used to write all the time about Ryan’s “progress.” Until one day, I realize that word made me uncomfortable. I felt that to use it impled there was something wrong with his timeline and he needed to make “progress” to catch up. I don’t feel that way any more. Not about Ryan, anyway.
No, the progress I celebrate these days is sometimes my own. Like learning to stay the heck out of the way when my son doesn’t need me to do things for him.