Not all parents of children who have a disability of some kind obsess. Admittedly, I do. I struggle to tame the worries that invade my thoughts and I tend to hover over my daughter. (Think helicopter blades whirling furiously over head, bubble wrap dispenser on the ready.)
My child has global development delays, speech and gross motor issues, and seizures. Despite her diagnosis she has made incredible progress. For a child who doctors said may never walk or talk, she is doing both — in your face, science.
Our girl is no longer a baby. She is active and bold and curious. To deny her independence and the chance to explore would be cruel, so I hold my breath and let her go. Up the stairs by herself; higher on the swings; in the pool, close by, but liberated from her water wings.
As it is for any child, loosening their reins allows them to reach further. So despite my racing heart, I’m trying to give her space to grow.
My other child, Avery’s big brother, laughs when I remind him to chew his food. To him, grapes are juicy mouthfuls. To me they are ominous orbs of imminent choking. I’m not completely insane though — I stopped cutting his grapes in half ages ago (er, last year).
One morning not long ago I made breakfast for the kids—my son had his usually nutty granola with yogurt and fruit, while my daughter had cereal without nuts (they’re too chokey), yogurt and a banana, mashed. As they ate I quickly ran upstairs to grab a hair elastic. I was gone only a minute when I heard a quickly chair push away from the table followed by silence, then staggering footsteps.
By the time I got to the top of the stairs, Avery was on the first landing, reaching out for me. “Mom! Avery’s choking!” my son yelled from right behind her.
He grabbed her around the waist and started the Heimlich. A few pumps and he dislodged the end tip of a banana that was caught in her throat. Avery cried and said, “Banana hurt me,” while holding her neck.
Though I coarsely mashed the chunks of banana into creamy mush, a small pointy end bit remained. It didn’t occur to me that this would be a danger but it turned out to be just that, due to its size and slippery shape, it became lodged in her little throat.
Friends have let their kids, some younger than Avery, eat in front of the TV or in another room. “It’s fine,” they said. I’m sure it is, but it seems the minute I try to treat Avery like any other kid, something happens to remind me that she Is not like every other kid.
My job is to protect her, so if watching her closely at the breakfast table or following her around at the park is what I need to do, so be it. And to you lady, who rolled your eyes at me as I stood under my child on the play structure… I saw your expression change from scorn to shock when she fell and I caught her in my arms below.
I may hover, but I don’t mean to smother. I am a mom — a “Special Needs Mom”…and this is how it is.
*Um, how excellent is my son? Seriously. There are no words to express how much we love and appreciate this amazing boy.