Monday, September 28, 2009

Babying our kids vs. giving them independence

It's a line Dave and I walk all the time with Max.

In some ways, Max still needs to be treated much younger than his six years of age and yet, we're so eager to encourage him to do things by himself. Lately, he's been chomping at that bit.

—He needs help being fed, yet he really wants to do it and gets THE biggest grin on his face when he finishes a bowl of food on his own. Especially if it's a bowl of chocolate ice-cream.

—He needs to be helped up the jungle gym at the park, but insists on roaming the platform there alone.

—He needs help lifting up his heavier trucks, but wants to arrange them on his own. He has this thing about keeping them all lined up. Now, if only I could get him to keep my files in order.

—He needs help blowing bubbles—he hasn't yet mastered breathing out—but snorts through his nose and makes it work.

This weekend, we went to the beach. There was an indoor pool with a hot tub at the place where we were staying, and Max was having a blast scooping up the foam from the hot tub and dumping it into the pool. I was letting him do his thing, and turned away literally for two seconds. When I turned back, I watched, horrified, as he leaned a little too far over and fell right into the deep end of the pool. In an instant I was at the edge, leaning over to grab him as the lifeguard jumped in. Max was under water for maybe four seconds.

He came out cracking up; I was weak-kneed. And horrified that I'd done what you're never supposed to do, turn your back on a kid at a pool. Let alone a kid who lacks the judgment not to lean too far over the edge or balance himself or even understand what it means to fall into the deep end.

Max needs his independence. I want to give him that independence. But I can't let my yearnings to let him roam free imperil his safety, especially in situations like this.


  1. OMG! I had the scariest dream last night. I dreamt that I was at a public pool and Austin was sitting near me in a life jacket. As another kid tripped and fell I turned to help them. Just as I turned back I saw Austin slip right into the pool and float face down. A kid with a Trach! I just about died right there. I was awake for hours afterward worried sick. And it was just a nightmare, I can imagine how scared you were to have that happen in real life.

  2. I had a similar heart-in-my-throat moment yesterday. Orion was trying to climb up onto a climbing frame at the park using one of those curved ladders if you know what I mean. He can manage the smaller one, but the big one is too difficult for him as he doesn't have the strength or co-ordination to manage it.

    Regardless, I let him try it... and he got to the top and slipped between the rungs. Another child's dad was standing by the ladder and caught him. Orion was just laughing but I'd seen how close he'd come to knocking himself out on the ladder rung as he fell, and I have to admit as he fell I'd shouted a very rude word in the middle of the playground full of children. ;oP

    It's a fine line between letting him do the things he wants to try to do, and protecting him when I know he could injure himself trying to do them!

  3. Keep walking the line the best you can--that's all you really can do.

    Trust your instincts...they're what made you turn around IN TIME when Max fell in the pool.

    Time for Max to take swimming lessons, I think! He isn't afraid of the water, and that's a good thing.

  4. I am a freak when it comes to water. Both of my kids are good swimmers, but I won't let them out of my sight when they're in the water. So scary. Glad that he's ok.

  5. Oh NO, Ellen. I think I would have died! Thank the LORD that you had the presence of mind to act and not think! Thank MRS. Adreniline for that. I am so glad he is ok. Max, don't scare your mother like that!!!

  6. It's such a fine line, and you let the rope have some slack from time to time and then suddenly something happens like this and you probably find yourself holding it more tightly the next time for sure.

    I'd have pooped myself, at least you went right in after him.

  7. My knees were shaking just reading that! You're right that we walk a fine line between letting our kids be independent and protecting/helping them when they truly need it. It's great that Max wants to be independent, though. Some kids, special needs or not, are just content to have everything done for them. I'll bet that his natural curiosity and determination have helped him get as far as he's come.
    Daniel is a pretty good swimmer (age and diagnosis considered), but I always hover near him in the water. By that, I mean that I'm never more than two feet away. I'm always afraid that his left arm will get tired and clench up while he's swimming, so I just don't want to take the chance.
    When I brought up the protecting vs. independence situation with Daniel's pediatrician, he half jokingly told me to just keep Daniel in his hockey helmet at all times so I could let him try new things worry - free. Maybe Max would benefit from a 24/7 hockey helmet - and a pair of water wings. =)

  8. You are like the people at the circus walking the tight rope, exhibiting balance in perfection. Don't you worry, girl, Max is SO lucky to have a mom who is aware of what a delicate balance he requires. YOU. ARE. AMAZING!

  9. Graham went into the deep end this summer, and like you I was hauling him out within seconds. He was TERRIFIED of the water after that. But, I felt I had to be mean and drag his screaming self back in until he was ok again, and he was... with a healthy fear of the deep end to boot.

  10. Do you know how many incidents I am to blame for? Puleeeeze! It's impossible to anticipate with our kids because they seem so steady and safe and BOOM down they go. It sounds like you were doing the same thing we all do -- it's just another thing to put on your list of "things I might be blamed for one day when my kid goes into psychotherapy!"

  11. Oh, darlin'. It's not your fault. I know it scares you to a place you'd rather not visit when things like that happen (been there, done that)... but they happen to all kids.

    Glad he was out quickly - and that he got a good laugh out of it, even if your heart is still pounding at the thought.


  12. hmm this is a bard topic as a teenager I say independce as long as it is 100 percent safe

  13. Elizabeth has been pulled out from the bottom of the pool a couple of times and usually comes up with a big beaming smile and asks if she can do it again.
    Elizabeth is getting a bit of an independant streak as well and is choosing a snack when she wakes, this morning she chose crackers and cheez wiz (a great pre-breakfast snack). Unlike my husband I was ecstatic that she grabbed her own snack, she went downstairs to the pantry on her own and brought up a fairly decent snack.

  14. Protecting your kids is fine... over protecting your kids is wrong... all you need do is read my blog, and you will understand this... it's why I am just now taking advanced orientation and mobility... These are skills I SHOULD have learned in Middle School and High school, but because of over protective parents I didn't...

    But hey, I made it all the way from my house to Market Street Station in Philly, and mom was not there to make sure I didn't fall on the tracks... I'm still alive! :)

    And to quote my grandmother "You can't walk around with a pillow to toss under his ass all the time when he falls"...

    As for pool safety see :

  15. Sorry try this:

  16. You know, I think that could happen to anyone. Charlie thinks he can swim and I have to watch him ALL the time. I think that kind of stuff just happens.

  17. That is SO scary. So glad that he was OK and that he thought it was funny (at least it didn't scare him to death). I bet you were calm even thought you were weak in the knees. I probably would have cried my eyes out and thrown up. I am really good in stressful situations like that.


Thanks for sharing!

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