I see the looks when I help my grown daughter figure out seemingly straightforward tasks. I sometimes catch the phrase “helicopter parent” or “overbearing” from strangers who know nothing about me or my child. Many times things are said directly to me, and I have to make a quick decision to give a brief explanation, or say something snarky and keep it moving. Most times, I resort to the latter.
When my daughter decided to start college, I had hoped we would be past the snide comments from well meaning administration. “She’s going to have to learn to do this herself” and my favorite, “step back mom, she has to do this alone.”
I understand needing independence and teaching it. I understand that my child is as tall as I am, and looks as if she should be able to answer everything someone needs to know on her own...and she can. It just may not be today. She’s getting there. What I need from other adults who think they know what’s best for other people’s children, is to mind their own children.
My daughter was diagnosed with ASD at 13. People with High Functioning Autism are typically diagnosed later. They do a fairly good job a “blending” when they’re young. It’s not until middle school that parents and teachers notice the big social gaps. Finding out she was on the spectrum changed the way I approached things. I recognized that she was socially behind the curve. It took me a while to pinpoint how many years behind she was socially, but I gathered about 3.
As she got older the transitions got more difficult. The social things were more glaring. The gap between her numerical age and her social/emotional age started slapping me in the face. I had to slow down and re-evaluate once again.
The help she needs now is minimal. She is an extremely smart, kind, logical and responsible. She also needs black and white choices. She procrastinates, and doesn’t do well without some sort of structure. She’s extremely talented and hopes to be a storyboard artist or animator for one of the big cartoon giants one day and I believe she will. I am determined to help her reach her goals, and not limit her on what her options are.
"unnamed character" by my daughter.
Here’s what I do. I help her register for classes. I help her navigate financial aid. I help her remember assignments. I advocate for the things she wants, but can’t say. I push her to pursue her dreams and remind her when her actions aren’t matching the dream she’s chasing. I make her go outside of her comfort zone while I stand behind her holding my breath. I give her the words to say when she’s too flustered “adulting” to speak with someone on the phone.
This is what I don’t do. I don’t coddle her. I don’t let her use her diagnosis as a crutch. I don’t allow anyone to put her in a box. I don’t listen to people who know nothing about me or her. I don’t let her get out of learning to “adult.”
What I have done that has helped both of us. I set boundaries and expectations. I keep my mouth shut on her decisions, even if I think it’s going to end with her feelings being hurt. I remind her how wonderful and capable she is. I encourage her to swallow the moon. I tell her to jump into her passion with both feet and never look down. I advocate for her.
So, no. I’m not overbearing. I’m helping my daughter enter adulthood at the pace her brain needs. Please, mind your own children.
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