Monday, December 5, 2016

On not being that helicopter mom


Saturday night, we left Ben at my sister's house and went off to celebrate the bat mitzvah of Sadie, one of my best friend's daughters. It was a memorable evening for many reasons, which included an important reminder about letting your kids do their thing.

After a breathless discussion about Sadie's gorgeous dress—lately, Sabrina is all for conversations centered around clothing—she wandered off. (That's Sadie in pink, above. Hi, Sadie!) Sabrina didn't know any other girls besides Sadie and her two sisters, and she can be a bit on the shy side. Soon, I found her and we danced together. Then I noticed a friendly-looking group of girls standing nearby.

"Hi! This is Sabrina, she's eleven!" I announced, officially sealing my title as Most Embarrassing Mom Ever. Sabrina rolled her eyes at me and chatted with them a bit. Later in the evening, I would rack up major mom points because I was her Coke and Pepsi partner. It's a game in which kids have to run to the other side of the room, walk like zombies, freeze and do other assorted challenges. We made it pretty far along before the DJ eliminated us.

"Mommy, now you can play with me at other parties!" Sabrina told me, which is high praise coming from her. I thought it was a win that she was even willing to let me be her partner, given that only kids were playing, although I do run pretty fast and come to think of it, I do still resemble a teenager (if you squint your eyes really tightly).

Meanwhile, Max was having the time of his life. Almost immediately, he wanted to get on the stage like other kids there, and I helped him up. Sadie had done something super-sweet for Max when he was onstage at her big sister's bat mitzvah in April 2015, a moment I will never forget.

Max wandered around by himself, a notable thing; usually, he wants to be near Dave at events like this. Then I spotted him standing on the crowded dance floor, alone, and my heart twinged. I walked up to him to draw him into dancing. Only he wasn't interested. It didn't seem like he was embarrassed to be with his mom. He was just perfectly content being by himself. 

"You want to be by yourself?" I verified.

"Yes!" he said, and he walked away.

One key thing you learn as a parent—especially of a child with special needs—is not to project your feelings onto your child. I have a tendency to worry about Max feeling left out when he's with a crowd of kids. My concerns are not unfounded, as this does happen. But the thing is, Max is not at all self-conscious about it, nor does it bother him when it's happened.

Sometimes, he is happy to join in when people stretch out a hand to him, as Sadie, her little sister, Sylvie, and my friend Wendy all did on the dance floor. But he is all perfectly content to stand there as people swirl by and take it all in, and there's no reason for me or anyone to feel sorry for him. Because he's just a boy being himself, and having a good time.


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