"One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong..."
Remember that from the old "Sesame Street" days? Or was is it "Electric Company"? Regardless, it was one of those shows on Channel 12, the only kid's channel we had growing up. We not only didn't have a remote, we had to turn the channel with pliers. It was a different time. But back to my point.
I am writing this from our family vacation...one of those fun, family times with lots of cousins and sunshine. I don't see my nieces and nephews very often. Not by choice, but by geography. When we all get together, all the kids have to acclimate themselves again to being together and each child works to establish his or her role in the family dynamic. It's funny to watch last year's goofy tween show up as this summer's sullen teen. So many changes, in such a short a time. One nephew that couldn't get enough hugs and kisses at Christmas, is embarrassed that you even look at him on 4th of July. That's how it goes with kids.
Tonight, I am watching 7 kids - my two plus five others - while the grown-ups attend a graduation. When I made dinner I was channeling my inner Kate Gosselin, but with better hair and a sweeter disposition.
The reason I am home is by choice. There was the option of a teen babysitter, but with my oldest son, a strange babysitter in a strange town in a strange house is a recipe for a very familiar disaster. Rolling with the punches has never been his forte'. So, instead I offer to stay behind to try and prevent any disasters from occurring that could disrupt the family fun.
It’s interesting to watch my son navigate the social scene of a family gathering. Among the cousins, there is a healthy blend of competitiveness, camaraderie and good-natured ribbing. Watching John is like watching a clumsy American attend a formal state dinner in a foreign country: Well intentioned, overly eager to please... but totally sticking out like a sore thumb.
Nothing about conversation, chiding and banter come naturally to him. He will start talking to a fellow 7 year old about the electromagnetic field and how fascinating it is and totally fail to notice that the kid is glazed over, bored and confused by the Jr. Scientist before him. He will bring up a similar topic to older cousins and I will watch as the tween girls exchange smirks and giggle at his nerdiness, his oddness, his scientific approach to life.
And I, as his mother, want to run over, grab him away from all of them and scream “STOP MAKING FUN OF HIM!!!” But I don’t. I sit, and watch, and die a thousand times inside. All moms want to protect their children, but not protecting them is what we have to do. We have to let them suffer through it, fight their own battles and God willing learn from their mistakes.
There is a term currently in vogue called "Helicopter Parenting"... and usually it's the poor Mom that gets hit with the even more charming name "Helicopter Mom". Helicopter Moms are moms that sort of hover over over their children and become overly involved in their lives. I am a card carrying Helicopter Mom. I don't want to be, but if I am to be honest with myself, I can't deny it. I suspect I am the only person that watched "Boy in the Plastic Bubble" with 70's John Travolta and thought "Damn, his mom is lucky, that kid is SAFE."
Here is the reason (excuse) I helicopter: I can't stand the thought of people making fun of my kid. And. They do. Whenever I observe my son in public, and people don't know I am hovering nearby (nyuk nyuk), I see it, I hear it. It's there and I hate it. So, I hover and prevent it when I can. I'm old fashioned, I prefer people make fun of us behind our backs.
Here's the beauty of autism. My son is blissfully unaware that people are making fun of him most of the time. Because he doesn't understand nuance, sarcasm and non-verbal responses - he usually just drones on & on in cerebral bliss while the poor listener rolls their eyes and yawns.
So, maybe I hover to protect my own heartache. I am, after all, incredibly & ridiculously soft-hearted. I once overheard a 6 year old at the YMCA call my kid a "weirdo" and I cried all the way home. I am embarrassed to even admit that. But that's how I roll. Maybe I hover because I am a little bossy and mico-managing. ha ha I can hear my husband agreeing from here.
Whatever the reason, I really need to probably cut it out.
And I am going to.
Now, where the hell is my landing pad?