If I told you I walk my son to school because he has to cross a busy road, you probably wouldn't think anything of it ... unless I also mentioned that he's a junior in high school, about a week short of eighteen years old. Then the thup-thup-thup sound of helicopter parenting would begin to beat in your ears, and you might feel silent pity for the teenage boy whose mother just won't let go, the adolescent with disabilities whose mother won't give him wings, the young man who never has a chance to fit in because his dang mother is too busy fluttering around him, removing all challenges, limiting him with her smothering concern.
And I will tell you that yes, my son may be mompecked and overprotected, but that's better than being a wet spot in the road.
My guy has that lovely combination of poor cause-and-effect thinking and poor impulse control that puts so many young people with his diagnosis of FASD in danger of becoming roadkill. At this time, I have three worries about his road-crossing abilities: 1) He will dart into the road without checking for oncoming cars; 2) He will concentrate so hard on checking for oncoming cars that he will forget to cross the road and be late for class; 3) He will enter the roadway when it is safe but become distracted by something on the ground and bend down to examine it, making himself an unseeable target for someone in an enormous SUV.
My son has those worries too, I think, because he's been very eager for me to walk with him, across the road, up the hill, almost all the way to the entrance. But within the past week or so, that's started to change. Spring is when he often makes developmental leaps, and maybe this year he's catching up in the area of "not needing your mom." I've faded back little by little, too far to cross the street with him but close enough to yell, "Okay, NOW!" He's learning that he can follow other kids as they cross (and I pray that they know what they're doing). On Friday, he had to go to school very early, well before the start of traffic, and he did it all by himself. I suspect he's going to want to do that again.
He can keep me from holding his hand, from grabbing his arm, from walking all the way; he can dismiss me with an "I don't need you!" and I'll go, hoping he doesn't. But he can't keep me from watching from our back window, which conveniently overlooks the crossing-over point. I'll bet if I open the window and shout through the screen, he can hear me saying "Go!" or "STOP!"
Terri Mauro blogs at About.com Parenting Special Needs and Parenting Isn't Pretty. She has two terrific kids, a 20-year-old with learning and language disabilities and a 17-year-old with FASD, both adopted from Russia in 1994.