Sunday, 17 August 2014
When kids get to their teenage years us fretting parents know that its time to teach them life skills and let them spread their wings. However, when you have a child with special needs this is a little bit more difficult. FD is now 16 years old and as she is getting older she is getting braver about trying new things and desperately wanting to break away from the constraints that her special needs puts on her. She wants to be like every other teenager but fear and lack of understanding and certain skills, limits her in achieving what she wants.
For quite a while now I have been trying to help her overcome some fears and learn new skills. I often push her when she doesn't want to be pushed and I am sometimes forced to be cruel to be kind. Its not easy. Well why then when I am pushing and pushing so that the end result is for FD to be more independent, do I want to go crawl under a rock when we have finally reached success?
FD has a best friend who is 3 years older than she is. In special needs terms, this age difference isn't really much of a difference at all. Her friend is quite independent and does have a little bit more understanding about things than FD does. They have been friends for a number of years and FD really looks up to her ( despite FD being about 2 foot taller than her friend)! Well today, FD seemed a little bit more thoughtful than usual. A little bit more worried. When I asked her what was bothering her she explained that her friend has invited her out for lunch. Just the two of them! My first instinct was to tell FD that I didn't think it was a good idea. I wanted to go and lock her in a room and keep her safe. Instead, choking back tears I asked her what she thought of the idea. What FD said next brought a lump to my throat...........' I just want to do big girl stuff like everyone else.'
I think its so easy to assume that our special kids have no awareness of what everyone else in the world is doing. We assume that despite their limitations and lack of understanding in some areas, they actually have quite good insight into their own wants, goals, desires and needs. They won't remain little children forever despite their brains being wired a little bit differently. But, its the natural instinct of any parent to want to keep them that way in order to keep them safe. Sometimes I look at FD and see a caterpillar who is so desperate to become that beautiful butterfly but is trapped in her cocoon and I often wonder if my actions are what keeps her captive. Do my own fears hinder her? I sometimes forget that she has the heart of a lion. She has overcome so many difficulties and achieved so much!
A recent health scare made me realise that I won't always be around for FD and that I really need to stop dragging my heels in the quest to help her become more independent. Thankfully the health scare all turned out ok but what if it hadn't? What if I had failed her by not teaching her anything and then was not here to fix that? So, it is with trepidation that I am pulling my Superwoman knickers up to my armpits and letting FD meet her friend for lunch next week. It is to be a lunch date in a local shopping centre and I will remain close by in some of the shops just in case she needs me. Baby steps.............for me, more than her! I'm learning too!
Posted by JB JOHNSTON at Sunday, August 17, 2014