Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Manning up

Last night at the pool, some kids were picking on Danny. I don't think Danny even realized they were being mean to him, but I couldn't ignore it.  It wasn't too big of a deal; I confronted the kids in an appropriate manner and it ended.

Though it was minor, this incident has been nagging at me for the last 24 hours.  I can't stop thinking about the little jerks who teased Danny; I have written letters to their mothers in my head, I've gone over the interaction, changing my words so that those kids would miraculously understand, and like, my son.  I stopped myself at least a dozen times from posting something about the incident on Facebook; as much as I craved the validation, I knew I should let it go.

But, I can't seem to, because it's not just this one incident.; there have been others, including some involving the same kid. Also, I can't stop thinking about the future;  I've been consumed by thoughts about what lies in store for my almost nine-year-old son.  Danny's autism makes him very vulnerable.  He doesn't always realize when someone is being mean to him.  

I worry that he'll be bullied.  I worry people will be mean to him; I'm terrified he'll be rejected and heartbroken by his peers.  

I'm sure you all know exactly the kind of worry I am talking about here.

No matter what I do, I just cannot seem to shake this anxiety; it has been eating away at me, coloring every interaction and relationship Danny has.

This morning, as I tried to rouse my kid from his deep sleep, I had the urge to keep him home from camp.  Though the incident did not happen at camp, I wanted to keep him close.  I wanted to know that I was shielding him from whatever might happen out there in the big, scary world. 

I know that protecting Danny from everything is not an option.  It's not even possible, and it's definitely not in his best interest.  I reminded myself of this and of the fact that Danny is tougher than he seems. But as I sat in his bed, looking at his peaceful face, I thought, I'm not cut out for this.  I can't handle it.  I cannot possibly deal with watching my son hurt or mocked or bullied.  I just can't do it.  How will I ever manage it?  It will break my heart.

 I sat there quietly crying, and that's when it hit me.

This isn't about me.  This is about Danny.  

 Sure, it hurts me when Danny is picked on, but if I focus to the point of obsession on how it makes me feel, I won't be able to help him.

 It occurred to me that I should man up, that I need to develop a thicker skin, because when Danny does come home hurt, I cannot break down. I have to stay strong for his sake, for all three of my kids, actually.

It doesn't matter how excruciatingly painful it is to watch my kids deal with challenges, I don't have the luxury of retreating to my bed and burying myself in escapism reading, though I have to admit I've been trying that method more than I should lately.  

I have to stop my self-indulgent freak-outs (and if that means I need some medicine, so be it).  I have to figure out how to let go of the anger and the fear, or at least get it down to a manageable level.

And I definitely have to quit obsessing over what might happen, because it's ruining the good moments.  

Because you know what else happened last night at the pool?  Danny showed me that he has somehow miraculously taught himself how to doggy paddle--with no lessons or instructions.  This is the kid who still cannot tie his shoes,  the kid who took forever to learn how to pedal a bike.  

Danny was so proud of himself, and I was proud, too, but instead of basking in the glory of such an amazing accomplishment, I let a couple of brats overshadow our excitement.  I let that one small incident consume me so that there was nothing left in my heart or brain to focus on how much fun we had.  I almost let those kids' actions ruin the entire night for me.

I'll be damned if I give any small-minded bullies that kind of power again.

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