Over the last several weeks I’ve had the realization I’ve been unfair to my son; because I doing my best to treat him as his calendar age (almost 20) rather than meet him where he is emotionally (early teens’ish). This has resulted in some serious soul-searching (and guilt); how do we know where our disabled child is when they are not equipped themselves to know or communicate it?
I stand by my belief we, as parents, need to encourage our children and help them become as independent of us as possible – the sooner the better. I’m not suggesting we pull the rug from under them, offering absolutely no support. However I do believe our children are much more capable than we are comfortable admitting, and I think we need to acknowledge our fear while at the same time allowing them a little more slack.
In my case I gave too much slack, and now I’m working to adjust the balance without my son feeling I’m taking anything away from him. He wants to be independent, and has been much more vocal about self-advocating for himself – a move I applaud and want to encourage.
However he’s not yet ready to be a “roommate” (and may never be there); despite what I had been telling myself and others. So I’m making sure I insert myself (as unobtrusively as possible), taking up slack I had let out while doing my best to continue encouraging him.
I think this is a juggling act every parent goes through, whether their child has disabilities or not; and as we get older, some of us face similar challenges with aging parents or loved ones. The trick, as I see it, is being okay with needing to adjust your approach. Don’t (as I originally did) allow ego to get in your way – the proverbial throw good money after bad.
Rather check in every few months or so, see how things are progressing. Get outside perspectives (it’s what opened my eyes); and, perhaps most importantly, take their opinions seriously. Try not to get defensive, if you’ve asked friends or trusted professionals you know they are not “attacking” you as a person. Taking a few steps back does NOT mean the journey has been a waste or that you should just stop.