There’s yardage between us…

One of my goals for J has been helping him develop more independence walking from the bus to me…and I’ve managed to put about 20 yards between his drop-off point and my waiting-spot.  The ultimate goal by the end of summer is to have J walk from the bus to the management office, a distance of about 50 yards.  By the end of NEXT summer, I’m hoping to have the ability to wait 200 yards away.  That’s approximately 182 meters.  I’m not holding my breath waiting for this to happen, but…I’m hopeful.

The walk is up a gentle slope, and there is traffic going both ways.  J is dropped off on one side of the street and, without crossing into traffic (which is, by the way, virtually non-existent at that time of day) he can make it to where I wait in a matter of seconds.  The main issues are that I have to make it obvious that I’m standing there so that he will see me with little nudging or reminding from the bus aide, and that -should there be any cars on the road- they will hopefully be patient with the big kid sauntering over to where his mom is standing with her fingers (and toes) crossed while praying to any and all powers in the Universe that this works out.  One honk out of a single car and things would get too interesting for my taste.

You’d think that, yes, people would KNOW that a burly individual who requires his mom to wait for him isn’t quite up to par with the other kids, but…  I am tempted to design a t-shirt that reads “don’t honk at my kid.  He’s still learning.”  I don’t think that would help, though, people tend to get distracted by the reading and don’t pay attention to the fact of what is going on around them.

So…

Back to the plan: we will be moving to the new townhouse in late August.  This will be around the same time that J starts school for the fall semester.  The distance between that townhouse and the bus drop-off is a little longer than the distance between our current townhouse and the corner.  The advantage is that we will no longer have to navigate any slope other than the one in the neighborhood’s driveway.  The rest of the way is a straight shot from the office to home.  As of today, I am waiting for J at the top of the driveway’s slope.  By the end of July, I hope to add another thirty yards, but I have to do it ever so gently…the spot where I hope to complete this part of the goal will be a blind spot for J.  That is: he will have to act on faith that I wait for him day-in, day-out without fail.  Once I get him to do this, I will work -over the course of a year- on making the distance greater until I am waiting at the entrance of our street (still close enough to RUN LIKE THE WIND!!!! if he needs me) and then walk home with him from there.  The cell phone, of course, will play an important role in all this: the aide can call me and let J hear that I am THERE and WAITING before he walks towards me.

It’s been a very long time since I realized that J and I have this relationship where, no matter how old he gets, I will have to wait for him when he gets home, just like he has to be walked to the corner to wait for the bus in the morning.  I’m perfectly fine with our routine and with the circumstances that bind me to this dependence of his.  I know that I will never see him open the front door with his own set of keys, drop his backpack in the middle of the foyer and yell MAAAAAAA, I’M HOME AND I’M HUUUUUNGRY!!!!!  The two-hundred yards, modest a goal though they may seem to the mother of a neurotypical child, seem like a rather long distance to me.  In fact, it’s almost like I’m sending the kid to do the Indy 500, and I am riddled with guilt, anxiety and anticipation all at the same time.

This has been a week of turmoil for me.  That sounds worse than intended.  I am not conflicted, depressed, sad…it’s just that, once in a while, the outside world sort of roils around the comfort of our adjusted view of the world.  On Monday I got two pre-recorded calls from J’s school reminding me that college admission tests would be on Tuesday.  Not one call, mind you, but TWO.  “Remember to get plenty of rest and bring two No. 2 pencils!!!”  On Wednesday I checked the mail to find a rather elaborate reminder of Career Day for J’s parents.  “Come talk to representatives from different universities…”  The National Guard wanted him last week…they offered him “alternatives to finance your college education.”  Tongue-in-cheek responses are readily available in this household, but it’s not always easy to chew on the tough gristle of “what could have been.”

As I stand there, visible from the corner but enough of a distance away to make it a challenge for J to reach me, I think of how this wouldn’t have been like this if …  And that’s when I say if WHAT?  I am suddenly reminded that I don’t have time to deal with the alternate life that we might have had; I don’t have time to ponder about how nice or bad or weird or complicated or easy or whatever it could have been.  I stand there, at the top of that slope in the driveway, and I am forty-eight years old, and my eighteen year-old is finally starting to walk towards me rather than with me.

When babies reach a certain point in their development, we encourage them to take their first steps.  We stand close enough that we can catch them, but to them it seems leagues away.  We put our arms out and wiggle our fingers, calling out in an encouraging and affectionate way.  TGG did it.  I remember  (forty-seven years ago though it may have been) doing it.  J did it…a little later than expected, but he learned to walk.  And now…

He emerges from the bus.  He is finally dressing in his shorts (new ones…plaid…quite a handsome pair) and sandals and he’s not wearing his hat…and he walks briskly towards me, a big smile on his face.  He swings his backpack over his shoulder like any other kid would, and there’s cheering from the bus because the aide and the driver love him and want to see this happen, and I’m reacting like he just won the Olympic Decathlon.  I notice he only looks over his shoulder when I ask him to walk a distance AWAY from me…

I’m cool with that…I can work on that, too.  Eventually…

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