Scary moments and sobering reflections ASD parenting moments

Summer to my boys revolve around beach days and running around half naked a lot of the time and yesterday was one of the days we packed up and spent a few lazy hours at the lake playing and sunning and being carefree.
I specifically choose the water by how easy it is to monitor Lincoln as he is a water lover and often wanders so I like a small beach where the water is shallow and open so I can watch easily and find him quickly when I'm sitting at shore.
His brothers frolick and play in the water together and Lincoln always is close by plAying in the gentle waves or with the sandy mud from bottom of lake which has always captivated him even as a little boy.

It's easy to spot him.
So when it wasn't, dread hit me hard.
I stood and surveyed the small beach. The reeds he likes to play in, each clump of kids in the water. His hand and body motions often give him away.

Nothing.

I quickly enter water and perfunctory like call him name but know I won't get an answer. He almost never answers to his name, I chalk it up to ASD and he doesn't feel a response is required. As I move out to the deeper water my mind in nagged with guilt.
What was I doing that really was all that important? Yes he's 12 but he is still my boy and he is mine to protect. Did I fail him and now he's gone?
Each second ticked by torturously slow as I searched, questioned his brothers and willed myself to stay calm. He has done this before, not in the water but the open fields at a ball park, the forest by our house.. he is eerily quiet and stealthy when he is doing something he shouldn't.
Minutes pass.
My heart is so tight with fear I can barely breathe. I feel tears well up but I choke them back and I call out once more and the panic in my strained voice is audible.

"A few boys are way over there by the cottages following a water snake" a lady offers in response.

Instantly I am pacified.

I smile and thank her and although I cannot see her I know my boy is there and all is well.

Although many yards away, Through tree branches I catch a flash of his swimming trunks and word my call to him different to encourage a response.

"Lincoln stop following that snake and come back here!"

I see the figure tense and pause and I know it's him. I relax finally.
"Right now!" I add.

He moves out into the water and finally I can breathe.

"There's a water snake!"

I am torn between smiling from the boyhood exuberance and scolding him for scaring me. I answer with a "thats so cool! But I though I lost you. You cannot EVER go off like that again unless you tell someone first. Lincoln I thought you drown!"

And I did.

I truly searched the endless water thinking 'how will I find my boy in time' and cursing distractions that steal our attention and time even for a minute… because a minute is all it takes.

The most sobering thought though was 'am I a good mother' because it is often this battle of mom vs Amanda that is so hard to balance and perfect.
Being a Mom and still being an individual is a terribly difficult balancing act. You question yourself constantly. Allowing your children independence and stepping back to let them make decisions is a balancing act as much as releasing yourself to be a person so you don't end up with an empty nest and regrets that you gave up on you.

It is hard with an Autistic child to give independence as they are often unpredictable. At 12 I know I must empower my child to think for himself but it is so challenging, and sometimes you cannot undo choices.

I was glad to see his smiling face bob in the water with his brothers the rest of the afternoon, even is I insisted he stay a bit closer to shore.

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