Today I took my son with me to the computer repair place to drop off his laptop. Naturally, he was all over the place during the entire process – running around the store, making all the little holiday novelty toys make noise at the same time (repeatedly), slipping behind the counter, and making loud noises.
I am used to getting thrown out of most public places (grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, churches… shall I go on?) when this type of behavior emerges, so naturally I was a bit on edge, redirecting him as much as possible. Every two seconds. The store’s owner absolutely took a liking to my son and constantly told me while this was occurring to “let him go”, “let him explore and be a boy”, and “stop being a Mother Hen”.
I could have been insulted, but you and I both know that as a mother of a child on the Autism Spectrum we are frequently forced to be Helicopter Moms. Mostly I am used to hearing the opposite words than today’s experience: “Would you please control your child”, “You need to spank him or something”, and “Why do you let him do that?” So… yes. I hover.
I do know that when our world is immersed in sensory processing, Autism, and disability daily reminders, we can honestly forget that our child is just a child and sometimes they are doing what boys do! Still, people can often make judgments or assumptions based on the behaviors they see at that moment. This gentleman saw some loud noises, mild hyperactivity, and repetitive behavior and it didn’t bother him. What he didn’t know is that my son can have tendencies to:
- Break items with impulsive movements
- Hurt himself due to sensory-seeking behaviors like crashing into things
- Make poor decisions because of the absence of a sense of danger
- Disturb other people by being a “space invader”
- Become so overloaded with sensory input that he is no longer able to hear and understand commands
- Yell inappropriate things
- Run away, sometimes into traffic
We lucked out this time. But where is that balance between being a Helicopter Mom and leaving some space for my child to show me that he can handle more than I may be letting him? Am I limiting his natural abilities to learn what’s appropriate and work things out? Or am I protecting him in the right way? Is it up to others’ reactions?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, but the good news is that I can keep asking them and tweaking our experience along the way! I am not insulted by being called a “Mother Hen”, I am actually grateful for the opportunity to take a look at the way I support my child and possibly adjust for a better outcome if I find some truth in it.
What about you? Do you balance between hovering and allowing? Has it burned you or surprised you before? I’d love to see your comments below or on the SOA Facebook page!