Thursday, July 13, 2017

This wasn't just a walk to a lemonade stand, it was steps toward independence

Max spotted the lemonade stand when we drove by in the car. Back at the house, he said he wanted to go get some. 

"Max, do you want to get lemonade by yourself?" I asked.

"Yeah!" he said. 

"You sure you're OK going alone?" I asked.

"YEAH!" he said. 

The kids had set up shop about half a block from our home. To get there, Max would have to cross a wide street. Our neighborhood is low-traffic but still: Big street? Walking alone? Yikes.

I shook off my concerns: Max needs more independence, and I need to free myself of the anxieties that can hold him back.

I handed him a dollar and walked him onto the porch. He carefully headed down the stairs. On the sidewalk, he turned to give me a big smile as if to say "Chill mom, I'll be fine!" Then he walked out of my sight, and my heart tightened.

I am not generally overprotective with Sabrina or Ben. I let Sabrina go to sleepaway camp, at her request, at age 9. I have no problem with her walking to town with friends or cruising the mall. I let Ben jump on the couch, ride his toddler mobile wherever (OK, so I'm trotting behind him) and otherwise explore the world. With Max, though, I am more cautious. He's a strong boy with his wits about him, but still, I worry about him being on his own. He has never before walked around our neighborhood alone. 

I willed myself to go inside—I didn't want to be on the porch when Max returned, so he wouldn't feel watched. I busied myself with cleaning up the kitchen. About five minutes later, I heard a knock on the door. A dad was standing outside with a cup of lemonade and a beaming Max.

I knew what had happened: Max would have bought the lemonade, then had some trouble taking the cup the girl handed him. Max is capable of holding one—it just takes him a bit to wrap his fingers, which tend to be stiff, around it and grasp it firmly. So the father gave him a hand, and an escort home. And wouldn't you know it, I had mixed feelings about that. I appreciated the help but at the same time I'd wished Max had done it all himself, even if he'd spilled some lemonade. 

That's the thing about Max: It's not just me who wants to be there for him. Other people do, too. They see a teen with disabilities and assume he cannot do stuff. Years ago, I had to teach Max to speak the words "I need help!" And now, I realized, I have to teach him to say "I'm OK, thanks!" and "I've got this," and program this words into his speech app—and his psyche. Real independence starts with feeling secure that you can do things on your own, not just cause your mom nudges you to. 

These are all steps toward independence—for Max and for me. 


  1. Way to go Max! and way to go Mom! It is so hard. I just wrote about letting go today too. It can be so hard!

  2. Ellen, this is wonderful! Max is growing so much.

    1. In so many ways! Thanks, Michele. Hope all is well!

  3. Awesome!! Go Max!! Just an idea. I don't know how Max would feel about this, but maybe consider letting him take a sturdier cup from home on his next lemonade stand adventure if he'd be okay with that? That way, he could be even more successful.

    1. I think BYOC is a great idea, and if he's up for it next time I will suggest that. Thank you!

  4. Good job, Fireman Max! Ellen, I get why you were slightly sorry that the dad walked Max home, but Max is still a kid and I'm a strong believer that it takes a village to raise a kid. So, the fact that you have a supportive village that looks out for Max when you are not there is exactly what will enable Max to be an independent part of his community (meaning independent from you). Right now, I'm away at a resort where there are a million kids going in a million directions and it's nice to know that the parents are looking out for all the kids - not just their own. Good for Max that he felt comfortable and happy to go off on his own and it's great that his neighbors are happy to lend him a hand when needed. As time goes on, Max will get more and more independent and the neighbors will eventually get a handle on when he needs assistance and when he doesn't. But sounds like the lemonade excursion was a big step in the right direction!

    1. That is an excellent point, Wen. Because he was so gung-ho to go on his own, and then I let him, I had my heart set on that. But yes, it takes a village, and it really was a big step for him.

    2. Hmm...does it make you feel better if I point out that Max DID walk TO the lemonade stand on his own? Okay, granted, he had an escort BACK but he did walk there in the first place.

      Also, you might want to program something like 'Yep, I'm *sure* that I've got it" into his app.

      Because there's a common pattern that goes like this

      Bystander-wishing-to-be-helpful: Hey, kiddo. You need any help?

      Kiddo: Nope, I'm fine.

      Well-meaning Bystander: *is unsure whether kiddo will be fine* "You sure?"

      Kiddo: Yep, sure!

      Bystander *wanders off to do other stuff/see if they can be of assistance elsewhere.*


Thanks for sharing!

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