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.