I guess it's one of the most important jobs parents have, to make ourselves obsolete. For parents of kids with disabilities, that's a complicated project. We get used to our children needing us to a more intense degree than most, and resign ourselves to being overinvolved. Still, there are moments when we may be surprised by the fact that a need that used to be overwhelming has quietly diminished. I had one of those revelations a couple of weeks ago at, of all things, a funeral parlor.
The mother of my son's one-on-one paraprofessional had passed away, and I brought my boy to pay his respects. I was in full-on damage-control mode, ready to pull him out if he got rambunctions, shush him if he got loud, amuse him if he got bored. This is what I do; I'm a seasoned boy-wrangler. I remembered the wakes for his grandparents, at which I found an unused room and set it up with his cars as a way to keep him out of mourners' hair. I remembered other wakes where a couch outside the main room would be his haunt. Easier to keep him contained than risk offending people; "change the environment" is a motto that works in all sorts of public settings. In this case, I figured we'd just go in, talk to his aide for a few minutes, and make a quick exit.
But that's not the way it played at all. He chatted with his aide, who was very happy to see him. She introduced him to family members, and he shook hands and exchanged greetings. After that, he found other people he knew, teachers and paraprofessionals, some he sees every day in high school and some he hadn't seen for years, and chatted pleasantly with them, voice well-modulated to the occasion. No need for damage control, no one shooting looks that said Where Is This Boy's Mother and Why Can't She Control Him? Just a handsome, well-liked young man working the room. I was left standing off to the side holding jackets, utterly superfluous. It was wonderful.
Perhaps I should have seen if there was an empty room off to the side somewhere for me, a couch in the hall for the chauffeur to wait until it's time to see the young man home.
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 an 18-year-old with FASD, both adopted from Russia in 1994.