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Monday, May 23, 2011

Independence

I'll be the first to admit when Kayla was born I became one of those moms ... a "helicopter mom" ... yes, I hovered over her and trailed on her heels. I don't know if it was being a first-time mom, or the Down syndrome diagnosis. Likely it was a combination of both.

Kayla is impulsive and when she was younger, if given the chance, she would just wander off. She would walk around like she didn't have a care in the world and in fact didn't care if she stayed with her parents or not. It didn't phase her if she walked away from us and we didn't follow her. So I hovered. I had to make sure I kept my eyes on her at all times. She was unpredictable so I had to make sure I knew what she was doing.

When she was around 3ish we had a play date with my MOPS group. It was at the local zoo (which was very small, more like a park with animals and never crowded). There was a playground which is where we were all meeting. The moms sat down and chatted while the kids were all playing on the playground. Except me. There I was trailing after Kayla. I finally decided to give us some space; what fun was I having not interacting with the other moms? So I braved it and sat down with the moms, trying to have a conversation, while every few seconds (or so it seemed) I would turn to make sure I could still see where Kayla was. And then she wasn't there. She was out of my sight. I got up and quickly scanned the playground. I panicked. It's hard to start searching for your child when you don't even know which way they went. I finally found her (obviously) by the bear cages. That experience made me feel that we sure weren't ready for any amount of freedom!

When she started Kindergarten it was very hard for me to let go. She would be gone all day long ... how would she survive without me?! She wouldn't have me there to guide her, make sure she knew where to go, what was going on, what she should be doing, not knowing if she would make it known when she had to go to the bathroom, would she be able to independently go to the bathroom by herself (out of the classroom and in the hallway) and return directly to her classroom. It was hard not knowing what she was doing all day long and if she was able to effectively communicate.

The first week of school the parents brought their kids directly to the classroom. After that week the kids were dropped off at the playground. The Kindergarten classes were the only classes dropped off there, all the teachers were there and it was fenced in. After the first few days I seemed to be the only parent who was still walking my kid through the gate, to her back pack drop-off location and saying goodbye.  Eventually I realized I could let go a little and finally started saying goodbye at the gate. I'd stand and watch her walk right to where she needed to drop her back pack off and run off with her friends. With a twinge of sadness I realized this was the beginning of letting go, of realizing she didn't need me for everything; that there were other people who could look after her and that she could learn the routine of what she was supposed to be doing.

Then we moved to MD half-way through that Kindergarten year. She went on winter break at one school and returned from winter break starting at a different school in a different state.

The car rider line was new to us; they didn't have that at the elementary school in NM. I didn't know how I was just supposed to drop her off and expect her to walk right to her classroom, especially in a new school. It was finally explained that the special ed teachers and/or assistants also wait outside and bring them in to the classrooms.

When she started school here it felt like the same thing ... another state, another new school. New routines, teachers, students, and hallways! I dropped her off in the car rider line where there are teachers greeting each car and helping the students out. But then what? I thought. Kayla is just supposed to walk in this school and know which classroom to go to? How do these other kids know where they are going? I said to the teacher that Kayla needed to go to "Mrs. H.'s" room hoping she would realize that was the special ed teacher and Kayla needed some assistance to get to the right classroom. From then on there was one certain teacher who would keep an eye out for Kayla and always walked her in the school right to Mrs H's classroom.

Then one day in Dec I saw Kayla making her way to the doors without waiting for the lady who always walked in with her. She called Kayla's name but Kayla paid no attention. She looked like she was on a mission.

It dawned on me that maybe Kayla wanted to go to the classroom by herself like she sees all the other students doing but didn't know how to express that. But would she? Would she go directly to where she needed to start her morning, or would she fool around and just wander around to where she wanted to go?

I talked to Mrs. H about it and after winter break we decided to see how it would go letting her walk in by herself. I hadn't realized that there are teachers at each corner of the hallways ... so when she got in the school they could watch

Another area where I'm giving her some freedom and independence is in the morning leaving the house for school. She opens the door to go to the garage, pushes the garage door opener, opens the front passenger side door to put her back pack in, opens her door, gets in her seat and puts her seat belt on. She does all this while I run upstairs to get Lucas, who is usually sleeping. This seems like something so small and insignificant, but for us (her and me) it's not. I have to trust her that she's going to do all those steps and not get distracted and start playing with something in the garage or something!

Although there was an incident last month that reminded me she still can't have too much freedom! I took the kids to a kids fest-type thing on base. It was outside at the Youth Center, next to the playground. After walking around at some of the booths she was chomping at the bit to get to the playground so I finally let her go. Lucas was still playing some of the games at the booths. I tried to relax and look up at the playground every few minutes figuring she really wouldn't leave the playground. But she did. I didn't see her, didn't know which way she went, didn't know where to even look for her. Finally I found her at the food area. She was sitting at a picnic table gulping down a drink with a plate in front of her. A plate with a hot dog in the bun and a bag of chips. I don't know how she got the food and drink because I had our tickets. Thankfully she hadn't started eating yet (since she can't have wheat, not sure if she would have eaten the bun or not) and thankfully the chips weren't the Sun Chips that I saw some people eating (they contain wheat).

That was just another reminder to me of why I have and do hover over her ... I just never know what she's going to do next and 9 times out of 10 she doesn't come find me to tell me!

Learning to slowly let go though, and give her some independence isn't the easiest thing to do, but I'm trying!

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7 comments:

Runningmama said...

Thanks for sharing...this might be the only thing I really truly worry about with Emily...giving her space when she wants/needs it. I am so scared I am going to lose her somewhere and not be able to find her! It seems like Kayla is doing quite well though.

Mom24 said...

That would be so hard. I think you're doing a great job, letting go, evaluating, seeing what works, what doesn't.

Anonymous said...

whew that wore me out just reading your post.. :) you know Michelle.. I still "hover" and all of my 3 children are adults!!!!!!!!! :) love mom/grandma... it is nice tho that Kayla has the routine down in the morning with back pack, door to garage, and etc....

Not a Perfect Mom said...

I absolutely love reading your blog...it really gives me insight into my future and what Brooke will be capable of doing...
although I'm honestly not as much as a hoverer as you, but that's prob because Brooke is baby #4...I've got 3 big kids on her tail for me, ha!
you're doing a great job!!

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

I am in the same boat with Kennedy... trying to let go. She tells me ALL the time that she's "big", and really, she IS. Kass and Kam were doing more than she is at 7 and she is probably capable of doing more than I let her do. We too our testing our boundaries and I'm letting go little by little. Growing up is hard... and not just for the kids! HA!

starrlife said...

Excellent points all- love this post!

Brandie said...

I loved this post. We just fenced in part of our yard to contain Goldie (and Hank). It was something we never had to do with our other kids and left me wonder when will I ever be able to trust her. I think Kayla is really doing an amazing job!