I first noticed this sometime ago. It’s natural to feel this way. After all, our children are different. They think differently, act differently, and play differently. We may sugar coat it sometimes, but they are not your normal children. Some may get upset with that statement, but deep down it’s true. This is why we tend to hover over them, or at least Jen and I do.
I’ve noticed this several times, but I really began to pay attention a couple weeks ago after a trip to the park. I had taken Konner to his occupational therapy and Jen walked over to the park with Kruz. When we were done we went to pick them up and she began to talk about how the other parents were not like her. She explained that she made sure Kruz was within catching distance at all times while the other parents just sat on benches and let their kids go anywhere they wanted.
This is when I really realized that we may be a little overprotective. However, I blame this on Konner. Well, not him exactly, but the fact that we have to watch him closer than most.
Again, maybe this is just us. Maybe we’re just hovering parents by nature, but we’ve never wanted to let Konner too far away for several different reasons. This has spilled over to Kruz. These are things that I’ve talked about in past columns, but I think they are worth revisiting.
Parenting a child who is on the spectrum is scary at times. An example of this is from yesterday (Saturday). When we reached the beach after a day-long drive, we took a few minutes to relax, but the ocean was calling. So, we got the kids ready and headed over. Now as I’ve said before Konner is fearless, as are most children with autism. He wasn’t afraid of the large waves crashing into the sand dunes where we were. He saw the water and just darted straight into it. These were large enough and powerful enough to knock me over. He wouldn’t have stopped, but Jen caught up and grabbed him as he was about to be pummeled. They did knock him over a couple times and we were afraid that the outgoing tide would take him out farther. I just began to put myself between him and the rest of the ocean.
In contrast, Kruz was excited to run right out into it too, but when he get knocked over a couple times you could tell he was a little scared and backed off some.
Kids on the spectrum are fearless. They don’t fully understand danger. They will do things without thinking about, or fully understanding, consequences. I’ve read and heard horror stories about children who wandered off and the end result was bad.
I think of a child I know on the spectrum who loves water. She is a more classic autistic child and when she wanders she heads toward pools, ponds, etc. This is scary, but I know that her parents are very protective and so are the people around her. I only use this as an example of why it is a great idea to be more protective.
This is also why our front door looks like Fort Knox. I’m not trying to lock people out as much as I’m trying to keep Konner in.
When I’m setting around with family or friends, every once in a while I tend to shout, “Where’s Konner!” in a panicked voice. They usually laugh and say, “He’s fine, let him play.” I can’t just let him play. I have to know where he is at all times. If he gets quiet then I start to get frightened.
We tend to judge parents when these things happen. We ask, “What were they doing?” I don’t blame or judge those parents. I don’t know the story. I do know that I try my best to keep an eye on my child, and at times that is tough. These kids are curious by nature and like to take investigative strolls. This is when they disappear quietly and you go into freak out mode.
I also know that it is exhausting caring for any child, but especially a child on the spectrum. You get wore out, both physically and mentally. You take a minute break and it could turn out bad, but sometimes it happens.
This is why I don’t apologize for keeping a short leash on my children. I know that because of Konner, Kruz also is overprotected. That’s just fine. I’ll deal with the consequences of that later in life.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at email@example.com. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.