It’s happened again. Just when I thought I finally settled on a proper label for my parenting style another is invented, describing me to a T. Move your barstool over, helicopter mom, I am a lawnmower mom!
And let’s not forget the scarlet A asterisk, for autism that is. Imagine my horror as I conjure images of Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man (the sick as hell short story, not the lame movie). Imagine my double horror as I conjure images of myself, bloated and green with gluttony, as grotesque as King’s character (minus the penchant for murdering and dismembering). Yep, that’s me.
How is my grass (and how are my teeth) greener than the run-of-the-mill lawnmower parent? I’ll tell you! Not only do I work hard to trim the overgrowth of issues my autistic teen encounters, I chew it up and swallow it. Yeah, you’ll have to read that King story- in the daytime, and only if you’re not alone in the house. I digress, but truth be told why wouldn’t any parent want her child on a wide-open, well-manicured path to success? Every weed, grub, and occasional toad I ingest along the way means one less aggravation* for my J.R.
*I shall define J.R.’s aggravation as the state of freaking out about anything and everything he decides is aggravating him at any given moment- like the temperature, or that tonight’s America’s Funniest Home Videos episode may be a rerun. And don’t even think of touching anything he owns. Or disparage any form of sea life in his presence. You have been warned.
Let’s just say I am full.
And just last week I was reminded the higher one sits on her riding mower, the farther she falls. Oh and, I am not making this up, actual turf was involved. J.R.’s soccer practice was coming to an end, and I knew it was time to pick up all of the equipment from the field. I encouraged J.R. to help, and I did so by loudly stating “C’MON J.R., LET’S HELP (the cute) COACH CLEAN UP! CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, EVERYBODY EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!” Now that I’ve brought attention to myself, all parent eyes are on J.R.; I am sure they are full of anticipation wondering if this cutting edge scream/sing technique is the key to reaching teenagers who have autism. Forgetting for a sad second J.R. is ALL teenager, I turn to see my manchild skipping toward me holding two soccer balls side by side at his chest. Before I can throw my mower into overdrive toward his mouth, his humongous grin emits “Look mom, I’m a girl!” J.R.’s spot-on placement and skilled juggling of balls that would most definitely be measured as poorly supported F cups was not lost on his coach. We “edged” our way off of the field that afternoon.
Clearly some of the obstacles donning J.R’s “lawn” are too well rooted to try to budge, so why try? My teen thought it was funny to mimic big boobies. Good for him! And kudos to me for having the sense to target some of life’s ant piles, yet none of the fun gnomes we as humans are lucky enough to enjoy.
During the many flight hours I logged while piloting my previous label, I predicted helicoptering would just feed my son’s A-S-D E-G-O, creating an autisMONSTER. Hovering over him and praising his every move would produce a bad seed, right? Maybe not. Perhaps all that crop dusting fertilized and nurtured what nature intended for my son: a personality. J.R’s is sequoia in size, and I couldn’t love him any more for it.
As for my rehab worthy addiction to the smell of fresh cut St. Augustine, I will continue to be blessed with the job of lawn maintenance. As long as I am alive, I will aid and assist my son in pruning any of his unique challenges, at his request. However, to crave a tidy topiary version of J.R. or his life experiences would be unrealistic and unfair. Stunting his autism, nor the unique challenges people like him face, has not proven possible. Reaping the fruits of his juicy personality? Totally possible. In fact he has sown the most joyous bounty: a colorful, comedic cornucopia sure to sustain me for the rest of my days.
By the way, J.R., thanks for placing your apple directly adjacent to my tree. 🙂
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Kristi Vannatta is a mom of two stinky boys. In her spare time (bwahahaha) she runs her non-profit Puzzle Peace Now and partners with her bestie to produce an autism podcast, appropriately titled Disorderly Blondes Autism Podcast.