I have a recurring nightmare in which Derek drowns.
Several autistic children have died recently because they wandered off and drowned. Yet, my nightmares started years ago--before I knew that drowning was the leading cause of death for children and adults on the spectrum.
So, you can imagine my apprehension about spending an entire week at the lake. That's what we are doing next week. Spending an entire week at a lake. I already take precautions. I make both of my children wear a life jacket at all times. (The water is murky and if they went under for even an instant--finding them again would be next to impossible. It's a big lake.) I've also had both of them in private swim lessons. My goal is to make sure that both of my children can swim. And not just swim, but swim well. Tyler is doing great in the water. Derek? Not so much. He fights. He doesn't want to put his head under water. He doesn't like having water in his mouth or eyes. He doesn't like having his hair wet. He doesn't like the insecurity he feels when he floats on his back. We are running into all sorts of problems with him.
But what else can I do???
Make Derek wear a life jacket while he sleeps?
Tether him to me so if he wakes up during the night and starts to wander, I'll know?
Put bells on the cabin door so if he leaves I'll hear him?
Yes, I realize I sound like a crazy person. But, I don't want to be a headline in next week's newspaper. I prefer to keep my children alive and well, thank you very much.
I used to be a competitive swimmer. I told my friends (before kids, of course) that my kids would be competitive swimmers too, and that I couldn't understand why/how people could let their kids grow up without teaching them such a basic life-saving skill as how to swim. Oh, if I could only go back to my former self and SLAP her. I cannot teach my child to swim to save my life...
And it scares the crap out of me.
So I've become an over-protective parent. I watch my child (both kids, actually) like a hawk. When I'm at a pool, if I'm not in the water with my kids, I'm sitting on the edge watching them play. I'm not there to lay on a lawn chair and soak up the sun. I'm there because I don't trust the lifeguards. Simple as that. (I have trust issues these days.)
But it's not just at the pool or lake that I have issues. And I don't know when these issues started. Is it because of Derek? Is it because he doesn't know what danger is and I've lost him several times? Is it because I have to hold his hand with a death grip when we cross the street or he'll try to wrangle free and end up getting hit by a car? I am on constant alert for danger. (It is a source of constant stress for me.) Even when Derek is not with me, I watch for cars and people not paying attention; I look for things that I know might trigger a meltdown. I only trust certain people that I know to babysit my kids. (A teenager can't handle Derek. No way, no how.) I still walk my kids to school. I don't let Tyler play at a friend's house until I meet the parents. I don't let my kids do a lot of things that other kids their age are allowed to do.
So maybe I'm over-protective. Maybe I need to relax a little. Maybe I'm in danger of becoming a helicopter parent. But, I'd rather people accuse me of being over-protective than accuse me of not caring at all.