Being the age that I am, I have plenty of friends and family who also have children around the same age as the Monster.
One of my cousins posted a link to a blog post on a Patch site today regarding a parent who is sitting back at a reasonable distance to let her children explore the playground, but moreover is asking that other parents don’t step in to help her children either. It does, on reading it (and the copious comments, both pro and con), make me wonder what other parents think when the Monster’s on the playground.
I’m sure that a lot of them think that I’m a “helicopter parent”.
I’m hardly hovering, though, if you asked my thoughts on it.
Generally, when the Monster’s loose on the playground – even the one that’s around the corner from our house – I tend to be within about 15 feet of him at all times. I don’t, per se, help him climb the structures or whatnot, but I do spot him as he does so. I encourage him to take different routes. I try to keep him from sitting there to play with the wood chips or pebbles, and at the very least not destructively interfere with other children’s playing. And, yes, I’m tending to guide him until he’s made a decision as to what he’s going to do, and follow him around the structure until there’s another interaction point.
It’s not the same thing as in the blog post, to be certain. The Monster’s able to climb things, slide down things, scale a lot of structures – he’s aware that he can do it, in the vast majority of circumstances, or just needs to be coaxed into it the first time when we know that he’s capable. He is, like a lot of children with Autism, prone to repeat something over and over again without someone giving him gentle pushes in this direction or that. He’s also prone to not pay attention to how he puts himself in danger – he’s gone on kamikaze runs behind the swings when children are going full-tilt, he’s fallen off slides, and he’s gotten stuck – not quite literally yet, thank goodness – in play structures that have eluded him on how to get free, requiring a parent to climb up and get him down.
Of course, I’d love for him to learn that he’s capable of it without the guidance. But that’s not where he is at this stage, and I’m more interested in him exploring the world and experiencing rather than the easy route of him shutting down and going with what he already knows. It all really comes down to what’s best for our children, being honest about what are their strengths and weaknesses, knowing how to help build the former and compensate for the latter, but also recognizing that what works for your child may not (probably does not) work for another.
Now, I get the impression that this blogger gets this last point. I’m not quite sure her commenters all do. The comments below are a flurry of critiques and defenses of her style of parenting, which descends quickly into parents picking on each others’ comments and juvenile name-calling. Now, if this what folks say when they’re invited to comment, I wonder what they’re thinking when they’re watching how I chase the Monster and can keep their thoughts private…