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Fear Can Be A Good Thing

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Oftentimes children on the spectrum have a tendency to be fearless.  Connor has always been exceptionally curious, and once he was mobile, there was no stopping him.

Once he could walk, he wanted nothing to do with a stroller.  We were extremely vigilant when we were out in public, because he thought nothing of taking off to wander around and see the sights.

He’s done this at the crowded shopping mall.

He’s done this at the Georgia Aquarium.

He’s done this at numerous parks and playgrounds.

For several years we almost never took him out solo to a crowded place.  We tried to always make sure we could both go, because those trips required two pairs of eyes and at least one good runner.

As Connor has grown older, he’s learned to stay with us and to not behave so impulsively.  Still, he’s got that same fearless quality, never thinking ahead about the consequences of his actions.  But then something amazing happened.

I picked up Connor from camp, where I got the report that he had an excellent day.  AWESOME!!  On the way home, we ran into the pharmacy to pick up a couple of things.  Now that he’s 7, I don’t need to hold his hand throughout the store because he’s pretty good about staying right with me.  I was looking for Sprite, and he was a few feet away looking at sunglasses.  I didn’t see what I was looking for, and stepped around to the next aisle, casually calling out “I’m right over here.”

He must not have heard me.  As I scanned the shelf, I heard him calling out “Mommy!”  I called out, absent-mindedly, “over here!”

A few seconds ticked by, and he wasn’t beside me.  I stepped to the end of the aisle and peered down the wider aisle, and saw him about 6 rows down.  He had turned the wrong way.  I called out and he turned around.  I smiled and waved for him to come to me, and with each step closer his face scrunched up more and more.  By the time he reached me, he was sobbing.

This was something new, this fear.  I held onto him and patted his back, softly telling him that “I’m right here, I would never leave you, you’re all right, Mommy’s right here.”  He must have cried for about 5 solid minutes, clinging to me like he did when he was just a toddler.  No parent ever wants to see their child scared or crying, so the tiny feeling of relief, mingled with a tinge of happiness was making me uncomfortable.

Why was I alternating between concern and gratitude??

Because it was a milestone.  My child finally understood what it was to be a little afraid, and to be thinking ahead to the next possible “what if”.  He wasn’t behaving fearlessly or recklessly, he was actually thinking about the implications of the situation, and was focused on something other than his ever-changing impulses.

And that’s progress.

In the car I asked, “what were you thinking about, when you were upset and crying?”

He said, “I was thinking that I’d lost you.”

Never.  You’ll never lose me.

About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

12 responses »

  1. That IS a big milestone! It would probably be inappropriate to say “way to go” — that feeling of seeing your child scared and upset DOES suck – big time. But as a parent who also recently reached the fear milestone, I can totally emphasize with you what a big one this is.

  2. My eyes are leaking from the emotional kick to the gut. Huge, huge milestone! Envious sigh…

  3. Wow! That’s a huge accomplishment, but so scary for you both.

  4. Oh my goodness! This is really huge! I hope Toots follows in Connor’s footsteps. Those tears are good ones and that kind of awareness of danger over staying in their own world is a major accomplishment. Look how far he’s come! Awesome! Or as Toots would say, quoting Kai-Lan, “You make my heart super happy!”

  5. That is a major breakthrough, one that my son has not reached (yet). 🙂 It is a painful lesson for him, but obviously so important. Good for him.

  6. Oh, wow, this is such a great post! I love it! And it really highlights the life of a special needs mom and how we tend to appreciate milestones that others wouldn’t even notice. I like this, because it makes me grateful for the progress my son has made, and it also makes me feel better about the fact that my daughter (who is NT) is going through this strange worried phase about losing me. Maybe it’s just a normal developmental milestone.

  7. AW! Tears just sprung to my eyes feeling that moment through you. *squeeze*

  8. And now I’m crying too. Moe is a serious runner, and it scares me to death. This is wonderful.

  9. Would someone please pass me a tissue?!?

    And did you get the Sprite???

  10. That was a nice milestone to conquer…fear has so many sides, so much to be understood.

  11. Sigh. Katie has fear…of everything. Can’t there just be a happy medium?

  12. My son has always had over-the-top anxiety and fear at everything … so I know those tears all too well. You know what, even when he *cognitively* understands I’m not permanently gone, he emotionally doesn’t know that. His fear is that big. ((hugs))


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