As parents we want to shield and protect our children, especially when they have special needs. How much is too much?
My son is 14. I've always set the stage where he is free to learn in his own way and grow in a safe, loving, nurturing environment. To me, this is a parent's dream. Am I raising him too free?
I pride myself on giving to my son what I myself did not have. In my childhood home there were few freedoms. I was not allowed to explore the world around me much. Everything was deliberately designed or pre-determined. On Saturdays I'd sit on the front steps and watch neighborhood children roam from house to house visiting friends. To some degree I understand my confinement, after all, I was different and needed looking after. My world was literally an 8 x 10ft room, school, and a chair at the dinning table. When outdoors I was allowed to sit on the front stairs or remain in a fenced in back yard. So I mastered my confinement and learned to appreciate its designated spaces hoping someday to break down the walls.
I have managed to managed to break away from some confinements. It's a matter of comfort and safety because confinement is what I know best. I supposed that is why I raise my son to be a free spirit. I fear what the world may be like for my free spirited son, but I refuse to raise him in a bubble. Why would I ever want to stagnate his spectrumlicious way of seeing the world around him? With the help of community workers, my son's able to see more of the world than I can show him myself. As for what I teach him...I teach him academics, but more importantly I teach him that making mistakes is not all bad. When he make mistakes he learns from those mistakes. When he falls down, he can get up again. I have taught my son that he won't always have what he wants and things will not always be the way he wants them to be, but he can still make the best of it. He's learned that sometimes his most prized possessions break and yet he can manage to live without them. He cherishes his relationships and his belongings and he values his personal space. He knows that he is somebody special and he has no doubt that he is loved. He embraces his responsibilities and thrives in them. He knows that making good decisions has its rewards and making bad decisions comes with its consequences. And he has even teaching me to graciously accept the fact that he is growing up. I am forever grateful for being blessed to give my child what I did not have. I long to be free like him one day. In the meantime, I continue teaching him all I can. I am learning how to let go and let him grow, always encouraging him to stretch and test his wings. I trust God will be there to catch him if and when he falls.
The reason I share this story with you is because I want you to think beyond of your child's immediate world and realized that he/she will grow up someday and will have to function outside of what they've learned in your presence. I know it's a scary thought, but it is a reality that will have to face. I don't know what your child's capabilities are or will be in the future, but I do know, like it is for all of us, they will learn as they go. Be mindful of the things you choose to teach them and remember that we can't teach them everything, even though we may make every effort. There are things that they can only learn by living their lives. They will have to experience the joys and the trials on their own terms. We as parents are to be there as advocates, guides and supporters, but not crutches. Give them freedom as much as they are able to tolerate. Allow them space to make mistakes as they learn how to make decisions. If your child is nonverbal recognized that they still have a voice that needs to be heard. Monitor your child, but do so in a way where they don't always know it. Let them develop a since of self.
One of the hardest things in life for a parent is to see your child hurt. One of the best things a parent can do is to allow that child to feel the hurt, help them up, brush off them and encourage them to keep going.