Monday, December 4, 2017

Sometimes, what's holding back our children is us

The school bus showed up the other week as Ben was having a meltdown. Typically, our sitter, Dave or I have walked Max out to the bus in the mornings. From our house to the curb is not far, maybe 50 feet or so. This is the way it's been for years: We walk Max to the bus.

Only on this day, out of necessity, I decided Max was going to do that walk alone. I carried his rolling backpack down the stairs for him. And then, I told him to head to the bus by himself. He flashed me a big grin.

Carefully, he held onto the porch railing and walked down the four steps. Then he grabbed the handle of the backpack and headed over to the bus. The aide helped him get his backpack up. He grabbed the handle on the bus's steps and got himself up there. Then he turned around and gave me a little wave.

First thought: He did it!

Second thought: What took us so long to let him go it alone?

Routines are usually a good thing for Max—it's comforting for him to know what's happening and when. But they're bad in that we all get used to the status quo, and I neglect to encourage independence. It's typically not something Max seeks; we usually have to suggest it. Once we do, though, he's eager.

I've been doing my best to break out. A couple of months ago, I encouraged Max to open the car door and scoot onto the seat. We're still working on fastening his seat belt, and opening the car door handle to get out. During the summer, he walked to a lemonade stand on the next block alone. When his friend Avi comes over to hang out, the two of them go for walks by themselves. 

Over the years, Dave and I have admittedly been slow to stop doing stuff for Max—not because we were reluctant to, but because it was part of our routine and we were on auto-pilot. Feeding Max, holding cups for him, brushing his hair: We had to force ourselves to let go.

I need to keep setting my mind to this, and busting out of the same-old routines. I'm betting Max will start leading the way. This weekend, he wanted to pack for his Las Vegas boys' trip on Thursday. The carry-on luggage was already in his room.

"I'll be there in a few minutes, Max, I just need to get a few things done," I told him.

A couple minutes later, I heard banging. Max was trying to lift the suitcase onto his bed, and succeeded just as I walked in. We zipped it open, hand over hand. He grabbed the pile of clothing that's been sitting on his chest for months now (because he needed to be prepared!) and dumped it all into the suitcase, a technique he inherited from his dad. We zipped it closed together.

I likely would have packed for him otherwise. But Max showed me the way.


  1. Replies
    1. This Las Vegas trip is VERY motivating! I should think of other ways to take advantage of it!

  2. My father helped me dress every morning until I was halfway through high school. Turns out there was no real need for this. I pretty quickly figured out my own ways of getting a shirt over my head and my legs in the right places in a pair of pants ... all without falling over. I think you're right that routines are powerful. In my father's case, I also think he enjoyed helping me. It was a way of being close to me and helping me in a simple and uncomplicated way. For me, the good thing about becoming more independent with dressing was 1. being independent is better than not, and 2. it helped me envision a near future when I would be on my own in more profound ways. The second was definitely most important of all for me.

    1. Yes, I still like being able to give Max a hand, especially during our bedtime routine—although in general, with a toddler around, I also appreciate when he is able to do things on his own! So heartening to hear how independence inspired more of the same for you, I think that will hold true for Max as well as he does more by himself. We are still working on ways to enable dressing, it's a real toughie for Max.

  3. I am thinking about the same thing with all three of my kids, neuro-typical or not. Which things do they really still need help doing, and which things can they do on their own for the right bribe, er, I mean, intrinsic reward of satisfaction on a job well done?

  4. WTG Max!
    :))) I hear you! My son has always required more ‘help’. But as he’s progressed into his teens he’s also wanted to have more independence and autonomy. Developmental and physical challenges have sometimes trained us to be more likely to hover...
    Recently, he has started using a wheel chair full time while out in the community. (Previously was only used for long distances like amusement parks or airports.) We’ve had to learn to NOT push it/him-AND guess what... he’s way more independent under his own steam in the chair. Pops wheelies and does doughnuts when he’s trying to look cool in front of his peers or in front of pretty girls-and is now wayyyy more independant at school.
    I have to keep saying in my head
    ‘back off mom!’ :)))

  5. I've been thinking about this so much over the last few weeks. Our daughter does not have a corpus collasum, along with other parts of her brain. Her condition is terminal, and what the doctors said she would do at birth was pretty minimal. She's already outlived her life expectancy, but in the last few weeks at the age of three she has learned to crawl, pull to stand, count to 15, and learn her colors and some shapes. I've often thought, how much more would she be learning if my husband and I sat down and worked on things with her. Most of these recent milestones have come as a result of her starting the special needs preschool this fall, but I wonder if my husband and I were the ones really holding her back based off of what doctors told us she would and would not do, and like you mentioned, the ease and routines that we'd set for doing things for her. It's all such a hard learning curve to figure out.



Thanks for sharing!

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