For a long time, I believed the children needed me, which came with a long list of requirements that gave them the space and time they needed to be their best version of themselves. But, on reflection, it was me who needed them!
When Alfie was younger, my mum often had him while I was at work. If I knew my mother was leaving for the day, for example, to go shopping in another town, I would call in sick because the thought of him being too far away from me was too unbearable to me. I do not remember doing that with Harvey. Everything was always so organic with him, although life seemed to stand still when he was younger.
I suspect that Alfie being poorly contributed to my worries and fears. Now that I think about it, I realise I was projecting those childhood fears onto Alfie. Alfie struggles with leaving the house; he withdraws from society but loves being home, so we do not push him too hard to go out. A few weeks ago, I asked him if he wanted to stay home to be with me; he said yes. Alfie has been through some traumatic hospitalisations, which have left their mark on him and me.
Over the jubilee weekend, Teddie, Gareth and I joined our friends and their children for a music night in our village park. Teddie and many other children played at the skate park while the adults danced and talked. Teddie was playing happily; however, I could not see him because there was a fire engine in the way (that was supposed to be there). So I walked over and told Teddie not to go off, even if the other kids did, and to stay in the skate park or return to where we were sitting. I realised immediately that I had scared him, which meant he did not want to be left without Gareth or me. I was annoyed with myself because I tried so hard to relax and give Teddie the space to thrive with the other children, but I worried him.
Over the years, I have found it harder and harder to let go. A new milestone was getting used to the idea that Harvey was old enough to go drinking whenever he pleased. The first few times, I sat up like a nervous wreck and kept texting him like a crazy person. Now I still worry, but when Gareth and I go to bed, we barely hear him come home.
With Teddie, I wonder if part of my worry and fear of letting go is because he has autism? For a long time, I felt he was vulnerable, If Teddie was still non-verbal, I would constantly be worrying, but he can confidently tell someone his name address and our full names so I feel it has less to do with his autism. Teddie is extremely emotional, which can be both positive and a negitive. Emotions are an essential form of communication, but one must recognise the cause of these emotions. We strongly encourage Teddie to express himself through emotions and words. This way we can work together to find out what is troubling him. Wherever possible, we want to reduce dysregulation, but this is not always possible and not always ideal.
Repetition is common in autism, in Teddie’s case he is not governed by a strict agenda like in earlier years, but I have noticed how easy it is to create familiarity without being aware of what you are doing. For example, I am always at the school five to ten minutes before Ted’s comes out. I always stand in the same spot in the playground, so he knows where I am, and I always collect his scooter for him. With this in mind, I wonder if I have caused the unnecessary anxiety by keeping things familiar to Teddie. On reflection, I come to school early so Teddie sees I am there, and if there’s any issues I am on hand to observe and help, but do I have to? I panic at the idea of Teddie panicking, which in turn means I project my worries and concerns onto him. This afternoon I deliberately moved to a different spot in the playground and did not get the scooter out of the bike shed, Teddie skipped out of school without questioning my new location.
If like me, you suspect you may be projecting your own worries and fears onto your child, take a step back and honestly evaluate what is happening as in the long run it will only cause further anxieties for you and your children.