I love taking my kids to the library. We’ve been doing it for ages it seems, ever since they were old enough to walk. The kids would all get their books, we’d walk around and look at the waterfalls, and then get in the car and silence. Ahhh. That sound when no one is making a sound except to flip a page. The entire experience was dreamy for this tired mom.
As my kids have gotten older, my love of the library has fallen into confusion. Today I brought my daughter in to get a library card. The librarian, although not mean, had the personality of tack. If she cracked a smile, she might have split in two. I think they pay these people to frown. We got the library card and then went looking for books because the library online catalog was down, so we couldn’t search anything. That’s fine. I love a good adventure inside a government run facility, so I took my son to find some books, checked out and waited for my oldest outside the library where they have benches, waterfalls, and a little cafe.
I was listening to my son talk about his book, but at the same time, people watching. Having a daughter on the spectrum and leaving her alone in the library causes some hyper vigilance for me. Hypervigilance is something most moms with special needs kids display. According to Healthline, it is:
a state of increased alertness. If you’re in a state of hypervigilance, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings. It can make you feel like you’re alert to any hidden dangers, whether from other people or the environment. Often, though, these dangers are not real.
Apparently people with PTSD, anxiety, and schizophrenia also have it. So there’s that. But moms with kids on the spectrum have it because they are constantly surveying the land, so to speak, for potential danger. And I’m no exception. I see threats everywhere. I know it isn’t all that sane, but I can’t help it, K?
So I’m wearing my hyper vigilance cap and this strange older man comes walking past me. I’m still listening to my son discuss his new book, but eyeballing this potential threat. Then suddenly IT happened.
HIS. PANTS. FELL. DOWN.
Not only his pants, but he was wearing an adult diaper and that fell down too. I didn’t know if I should bust out in laughter or gag. It was both the most cringeworthy thing I had seen in awhile and also like watching a train wreck. I couldn’t look away. He hiked up his pull-up and sipped on his cup of coffee. Stopped to chat to some other odd looking fellows who also thought this was acceptable, then walked into the library where my daughter was and continued letting his pants fall to the floor.
My son made some comment about how gross this display was, but then went back to his book which was far less disgusting, despite the fact that it talked about pooping in an ocean.
My daughter still wasn’t out, so I started to panic.
What if he tries to talk to my daughter? Will she know to leave? Will she tell him to get away? What will she do? What if he tries to touch her or gets in her face?
Of course these questions are somewhat irrational. Because you may have guessed, she didn’t even notice him. And when I told her the story, she was probably relieved she didn’t see him.
All the waterfalls and cafe’s in the world can’t make up for the fact that our “hang” is now ruined. And a grown man pulling up a very large, saggy pull-up cannot be unseen.
Kids Are Changing – Life is Changing
The thing I’m noticing more and more as I get older is that everything is changing. My kids are growing up. I’m not the same young woman I once was. We have to change and adapt and find new things. We can’t be stuck in the old ways. It’s not always easy. Sometimes we need reminders that we must adapt and grow, or be stuck in pattern we don’t want to be in.
Here are some things I’m learning to do so hyper vigilance doesn’t ruin my life:
- Letting go of responsibilities. It’s my job to help and support my children, but it’s not my job to take on the burden of their decisions. If my kids decide not to hand in homework or skip going to work, I don’t have to swoop into save the day. They will feel the consequences of those actions. My job is to simply talk to them about what they could’ve done better and guide them to make better decisions in the future.
- Remembering that 99% of my fears are irrational. Instead of fearing the worst, I can recall times when I’ve taken a deep breath and let go of a certain fear and it turned out fine. Most times, it was better than fine. Our kids really are resilient.
- Step in when necessary. Sometimes we should step in. Maybe if our kids aren’t at a point of being able to stand up for themselves and they are being bullied, or they are struggling with a mental health issue and can’t seem to get out of bed. Those are times I do step in and treat them at the level they are in. There are times I’ve had to babysit my daughter so she’d take her pill. Sometimes you have revert back to hand holding, especially when the kid isn’t able to do it for themselves.
- Assess when you need to step back. But even in those times where I’m hand holding, I’m still always handing over trust when I can. If after months of hand holding, I feel my daughter is ready to be more of an adult, I let go. I might have to step back in if I see her falling into old patterns, but there’s always this back and forth where the goal is to give her more responsibility, not less.
- Putting Kids in Situations to Grow. If you are always protecting your kid from the world, they will not grow and become resilient. If you are always stepping in to save the day, they will not learn how to bounce back from failure. Let your kids try new things even if they will fail miserably at it. Set the bar high and then adjust.
- Remember Your Child is NOT your report card. No matter what your kids do, your child is not a reflection of how good or bad your are as a parent. Sometimes kids just struggle. We have to let them. Butterflies do not become beautiful without first going through metamorphisis. The same is true of our children. They have to come to their own understanding and adopt their own values in life, but if we as parents are blaming them for how they make us look or how they reflect on us, then we are doing more harm than good.
- Remember your child will one day be an adult. The hardest part of motherhood is letting go. Knowing that my kids are going to make decisions I don’t like, move away to places I don’t want them to, maybe marry people that I don’t approve of–that’s hard. But you can be proud that they have grown up independent, making their own choices and not being swayed by what others think. You can know you did the best job you could have under the circumstances. And in the short time you had them, you loved them the best you could. That will never leave or move away or end. It is forever.
- Talk out issues with a trained counselor. I hate that I have to say “trained counselor” here but it’s true. Not everyone who claims they counsel people is good for you. Find the right person and grow in your own understand of yourself. Because your kids will leave and you have to face who you are too. It really does help to talk things out with someone who can unravel the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel. As your kids get older, they’ll likely still come to you and you want that relationship to be good. Get help for yourself because parenting will never end. Be a good YOU by getting healthy and whole so you can face the next chapter of your life.
For me, I have to let go of my kids as they get older. I have to let go of the fact that my kids are not little humans anymore. I have to trust that my autistic daughter CAN and WILL do great things. I have to stop trying to survey the land for threats and learn to laugh instead of fear.
This is my way of expressing both. Of course, I’ll always be a protective mother. It’s what I know. But, I hope I can also grow into a less anxious one and learn to laugh at life. There’s only so many days we are given on this earth, so I’d rather find reasons to laugh than fear.
But please, for the love of all things holy, just cut off my air supply if I ever have to wear a pull-up.