Sometimes progress is so slow that you don't even realize any has been made for a very long time, and that lack of awareness can make you feel stuck in a funk so hopeless that you feel you'll never get out of it. Each tiny advance forward is followed by two giant leaps back, and you get to a place where it becomes too painful to celebrate these milestones because the crushing despair of losing them becomes unbearable. This is the life of a parent with neurological disorders so numerous and complex that nearly every moment is consumed with managing one comorbid or another. Never feeling comfortable or safe enough in the good times, always waiting for the inevitable regression. This is the cycle that we have been in for 11 years.
But this post is not about that. Because this year progress has been huge! This year we have been lucky enough to experience only one tiny step backward after a handful of leaps forward. And we have celebrated the hell out of them because hope is too important to surrender. To not dive head first into the realm of the possible is far too vital to our survival to shy away from. Because this year I no longer consider myself a helicopter parent. The terrified mom that refused to leave her child's side for fear of what might happen to him or to the children he engages with has retired. The mom that worried herself right into medication has found the solace that she never believed could come. The child who I was told would be living in a group home as an adult is showing skills of self-sufficiency that many NT kids his age don't even have. The child who still struggles with reading is doing grade-level work, studying for and passing tests that all the other children are taking, making A's and B's, and has become the calming voice of empathy and diplomacy in his social skills group. He's become the kid that encourages everyone else to forgive and let go of petty frustrations. He's become this person who is so confident in who he is that he believes with absolute self-assurance that it's okay if someone doesn't like something about you because everyone can find one thing positive about another person. He's the kid who will seek out that one positive thing and even sees the sadness and anger in kids that may bully him as something they can overcome if shown kindness and patience.
This accomplishment has been years in the making. Years of hoping, years of therapy, years of trial and error with meds, and years of being held tightly during meltdowns caused by all of the things that he now shrugs off as trivial and not worthy of his time and energy. He is no longer a child that needs me to hover over him every time we are out in public. I no longer worry that he will hit someone or fall apart and need to be rescued. He's discovered who he is, who he wants to be, and knows how to get what he needs. He seeks out the sensory stimulation he requires in his classroom, either a body sock or heavy blanket, when he's feeling overwhelmed. He can play video games with his friends and not become enraged when he loses. He'll even lose on purpose if it means his friend can share in victory. To him, everything is a tie so no one has to be sad. He has become so stable that he was able to go to a middle school dance, and I was able to drop him off at the front door with all the other kids. Though I was anxious, he was well supervised and had a great time. This was a milestone I feared would never come, but now that it has, I now believe that my child is capable of anything. Because he believes in himself more than I ever did and will work as hard as he needs to in order to accomplish his goals. And I can relax and enjoy this amazing young man that he is becoming, a person who is becoming my friend, a person who is teaching me every day how to worry a little less and hope a lot more. I can land the chopper.