I’m the kind of risk taker who packs up my belongings in a little Toyota, leaves my job, friends and family to move to the other side of the country in the pursuit of love and a wonderful life.
I’ve been thinking about this lately as I raise my children. I’ve been thinking about it specifically with my son who has autism. When we first realized our son had autism we didn’t realize how much we were compensating for him. We made so many decisions based around keeping him happy and keeping him free from hurt, frustration, overwhelm and emotional meltdowns. And frankly, we were trying to save our own skin too.
My son is now 8 years old and he is doing amazingly well. He is in a regular class room, he has friends, he gets invited to parties, he participates in extra-curricular activities but there is still a part of me that wants to keep him safe, safe from failure and hurt. I am so happy for his successes and his independence but I’m afraid to let him make choices that may end in failure.
I’m afraid to allow him the dignity of risk.
On Saturdays my son attends a science club. For the first couple of sessions I had his interventionist take him and stay with him. I reasoned that it was because I wanted him to be comfortable and have someone there who knew him. In hindsight I realize it was because “I” needed to feel comfortable and safe with him going. After a couple times his interventionist said, “He’s fine and wants to stay on his own.” Gulp. “Okay,” I said. But at the same time all of the things that could go wrong instantly ran through my mind.
What if he gets upset and no one knows how to calm him? What if another kid is unkind to him? What if he has to go to the bathroom and can’t find it?!
But next Saturday, he went on his own. And it was wonderful. And he was proud of himself. And I was proud of myself for backing off and letting him go.
Two weeks later they were going on a field trip. They were to ride the bus from science club to a nature centre. I instantly thought, maybe I would just drop him off at the nature centre so he could skip the bus ride. Again, I imagined “What if another child bothers him?” “What if he forgets his coat?” “What if he forgets his snack and gets hungry?” I asked him if he wanted to take the bus or get a ride. “Take the bus!!” he said instantly.
And so he took the bus with the rest of the kids. And it was fine. He had a blast. And once again, I realized I had to let him make these choices. The bus ride could have been a disaster. But even if it was, I still had to let him make the choice. The choice to be proud of his success or the opportunity to learn from his failures.
That is the dignity of risk. Sometimes when we are dealing with special kids with special needs we want to do everything for them, make choices for them and form a bubble around them to protect them from everything that could possibly injure their little spirit.
But a spirit can’t grow in a bubble.
Meet the Author...Lori Brienesse-Frank... is a mother warrior, has two beautiful boys, an awesome hubby and lives in Victoria, BC. She is author of the Apples to Oranges Family Friendly GFCF cookbook and is a dietary consultant for families with children on the spectrum.
Check out her website at: www.applestooranges.ca
or find her on Facebook!