Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Within An Arm's Reach

Within An Arm's Reach
by Kimberly Jensen

"Go away, stop following me," Bennett said as he pulled himself out of the swimming pool and marched over to the line of children standing behind the diving board. He wiped the water from his face and stood in line, looking straight ahead, ignoring the children around him as they giggled and chatted about the next 'big dive' they were going to perform.

"I can't stop following you. I have to keep you safe." I whispered to myself as I watched my 9-year-old attempt to be independent of me, his mom, who is always just two steps behind and an arm's reach away.

I tried to stay far enough behind him so he wouldn't stand out in a crowd of children whose mothers were nowhere to be seen. They didn't need the constant mother shadow, like Bennett did. But as mothers of autistic children know, thier kids stand out anyway. Bennett brought stares and smiles as he mimicked his favorite cartoon episode, complete with sound and action at the back of the diving board line.

As we ventured through the water park that day, I noticed other special needs children splashing in the surf and playing in the sun. I scanned the area around them and within an arm's reach, was of course, their mother, carefully watching, admiring and smiling at her child who was playing alone in the water, oblivious to his mother's constant guard.

Like all mothers, we go through the natural tug-of-war between mother and child. As our children grow up, they want to pull away,we want to pull them closer. As mothers of special needs children, we know we are more than just mothers, we are their protectors, their teachers and their friend, oftentimes, their only friend.

So while other children lose their shadow mothers early, we mothers of special needs children are called to stay within an arm's reach for many more years, sometimes forever.


Marcia Mickelson said...

Thanks for your post. I feel the same way. My 8 year old son has Asperger's, and I'm always within earshot, at least. His challenge is with social interactions, and I feel like I always have to listen to what he says to other kids to make sure it's appropriate and to see what other kids say back to him. I know he gets frustrated because other moms don't do that.

Shirley Bahlmann said...

This really struck a chord, because my 42 year old little sister with Down's Syndrome still lives at home with our 82 year old mother. You wrote this account in an engaging and sensitive manner.