It's the nature of special-needs parenting, I think, to dream of and strive for real-world goals for your child, only to realize, when those goals are attained, that you were perhaps not quite ready. The child you worked so hard to get on his feet can suddenly get into everything. The child you worked so hard to get talking just will not shut up. Potty training means that now you have to worry about your toddler touching things in public restrooms and putting his fingers in his mouth. That inclusion class you fought for comes with social expectations for moms that you were happily oblivious of in the cozy self-contained classroom.
And so it was that my son went to his junior prom last month, a day that I and the moms of two of his special-ed friends worked hard to make happen, planned for, made phone calls, discussed endlessly, strategized about. We sent my son to school with a whole bunch of cash to buy tickets -- something that, right there, I thought I would never do. We figured out their outfits, bought flowers, talked to them about what it would be like, made sure there were suitable chaperones. But unlike school dances that we'd gang-chaperoned in the past, this was one we couldn't go along for. We thought they could do it. But could we?
Going to our homes afterward to wait from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in our own private worry was out of the question. So the three helicopter moms went together to drive the three prom-goers to the prom site. One mom ran in with them to make sure they found the right room, got an eyeful of how much more dressed up the other kids were than ours, and added another worry to our supply. From there, in our heightened state of trepidation, we had a mom's dinner out and a stroll of the mall, checking our phones compulsively for calls from the kids, wondering together what they were doing and how they were doing. Were they in less of a tizzy than us?
The call finally came around 9:30, a flurry of calls to multiple phones. After two-and-half hours, they were ready to go; the eating part was finished, and all that was left was the deafening music and crowded dancefloor. As my son's friend called on her cell phone, he could be heard in the background yelling "Rescue us!" That call was followed by one from a chaperone, saying essentially the same thing. And so, we did. We pulled up in the minivan, the same mom ran in to fetch them, and they returned to our care with sore feet and full stomachs and ringing ears. We decided that two-and-a-half hours of such a grown-up affair was a success, and went home very happy to have survived the evening, all of us.
The senior year ahead is going to be fraught with this kind of stuff -- events that we want our kids to be ready for, things we're not sure they are, things we know we aren't. We'll pick the ones that have the greatest opportunity for success, cross our fingers, huddle together to pool our worries. It's important to give them their wings, it's wonderful that they've come so far, it's inspiring that they're finding their little inroads of inclusion. But secretly, you know, some small part of me can't help but think back nostalgically to those times when I could safely strap him in a stroller and always know where he was.
Terri Mauro blogs at About.com Parenting Special Needs and Parenting Isn't Pretty. She has two terrific kids, a 21-year-old with learning and language disabilities and an 18-year-old with FASD, both adopted from Russia in 1994.