OK, my son is in high school. As an individual on the autism spectrum, his biggest challenges are socialization. But he tries. He tries so very hard. And that does my heart good.
I was touched recently as he reached out to me and shared his fears. At 16-and-a-half, this man-child with facial hair who stands over 6 feet tall, still needs me for something.
I am no longer able to help him with homework—especially math and science. He takes care of himself so much of the time. Aside from the fact that he doesn’t drive yet, he gets by nicely without my constant intervention.
And that’s bittersweet for me, for sure.
But recently he asked for my help, and that was wonderful on several levels. Selfishly, it’s always nice to be needed. But more importantly, I am thrilled that he spoke up and asked for help. As you know, that’s not always the case with our kids. I guess the talk therapy is paying off.
Here’s the story: He joined a new club on campus and was going to his third meeting. He got to the room but his anxiety kept him from opening the door and entering. So he called me. Me! His mom! And he articulated his fears:
“Mom, I’ve passed by the room a few times, looking in, but, I’m kinda anxious. I don’t think I should go in. I don’t know what to do.”
I tried to savor that—while also acknowledging his apprehensions but offering assurances and urging him to push through his anxieties. After a brief pep talk, he said he’d give it a shot. Then he hung up.
I must confess, a teeny-tiny small part of me was hoping he’d call right back. Hey, I’m human. And I’m a mom. But a much bigger part of me was relieved when my phone did not ring. And after school his very first words to me were, “I’m so glad I went to the club meeting! It was great! I did it!”
Ahhh, sweet victory! I urged him to recognize the good, happy feeling so he could recall it the next time his anxiety crept up—and use this euphoria as an incentive to push through the angst.
Here endeth the lesson. [My movie-guru son would appreciate this line—it’s a quote from ‘The Untouchables’, the 1987 movie directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet, of course.]