“You mean helicopter mom? Let your son grow up and actually become a functioning adult. This is a mom who plans on doing everything for her child. My kids do not “need” me. That is the goal of parenthood.”
It probably meant nothing to you—just a few sentences typed into the comment box.
I imagine you didn’t even expect me to see it. After all, it wasn’t on my website. It was a repost on a larger page with a good-sized audience.
I wrote the article about a couple of years ago, after a particularly long day with my son Jack.
I wrote it to bring awareness to Forever Mothers like me—mothers who will spend the rest of our lives taking care of our child’s day-to-day financial and health care needs. We arrange appointments, oversee medical care, and manage bank accounts long into adulthood.
You see, we don’t say the words that sit firmly upon our psyche, like elephants in an elevator: guardianship, group homes, family court.
We don’t admit how much we think about what will happen when we die.
This is what we do. We isolate, and worry, and hope, and plan.
The truth us, there is another world inside of us that feels too hard to explain.
Once I started having kids, I knew I would always be a mother in one way or another. After all, motherhood doesn’t stop once your children move out of the house, or get married, or have children of their own.
When my kids became young adults, I thought I might need to give gentle advice about marital woes, or offer to babysit for the weekend.
And I’d chase the wobbly toddler or rock the sleepy baby, and think back to the days when I was overtired and unsure.
I am overtired.
I am unsure.
I am a Forever Mother.
When I saw your comment, I just wanted to keep scrolling and forget about it.
After all, I don’t need to change your mind. I don’t care what you think.
Yet at the same time, I do.
This is the push-pull of autism advocacy. As much as I don’t want to, I have to reach my fingers toward the red-hot flame of misconception.
I have to care because you might stand in line behind my son at the movie theater and think he’s dumb when he takes a while to order his popcorn.
I have to care because you could be the manager of a restaurant and if he applies as a dishwasher, you might overlook his application when you realize he doesn’t drive.
I have to tell our story. I have to make space for him in the world.
Some days I feel like I’m screaming into the wind, to be honest.
We’ve taught him how to change a lightbulb, hang Christmas lights, shake hands, order a cheeseburger, call his grandparents, fold towels, pick out gifts, answer the front door.
We worked to help him achieve the highest level of independence possible.
This might look different than most. I guess you might say our parenthood goals have shifted a bit.
I am not a Helicopter Mom.
I am a Forever Mother.
There is a difference.
This is not a choice.
Nothing about this is a choice—from obtaining guardianship to researching post-high school programs to managing medication.
Autism made the choices for us.
With all my heart, I want him to fly.
I want him to live a life full of purpose, and meaning, and joy.
It is easy to assume our story is a story about an autism diagnosis, when in fact it is much, much more.
It is the story of a tender father, coming to terms with the everlasting commitment that is raising a complicated child—a child who may never earn for himself, or understand a mortgage, or raise a family of his own.
It is the story of siblings taking care of siblings, and the looming fear of one’s own mortality.
It is the story of a world so seemingly narrow, there is no choice but to pull it apart cloud by cloud.
He’s going to function. It will just be a little differently than most.
This is okay. After all, a life lived differently is not a life less lived.
I wish you had the chance to meet him.
He would change everything you ever knew about yourself.
I root for him.
Maybe that’s what you don’t see.
I root for him, and all that is rightfully his.
I root for him—for who he is, and who he may become.
If you met him, you would too.