Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What do *You* See?

What do you see in the photo below?

Most likely, you see 4 children, at dusk, running joyously, carefree, across an open field. 

Perhaps, if you're the parents of a child with special needs like I am, already experienced in the ups and downs of the educational system and of life in the community in general, you see the magic word, **INCLUSION**, like a beacon of light, a starburst, replete with chirping birds and rainbows and hearts and flowers and...well...you get the picture... 

But I actually see something different.


I see anxiety, worry, fear of rejection, over-protectiveness.

I see myself and my husband standing closely by, watching like hawks, making sure she doesn't get too close to the road or the big, camouflaged dip in the terrain where she might twist her ankle, or, heaven forbid, fall down...

I see myself listening to their conversations, making sure nobody says a word against my baby, prepared to translate if quizical looks arise from the object of Samantha's dialogue, jumping in to explain the rules of freeze tag to her so the other kids don't think she's strange for not playing properly.

I see myself wishing these were her classmates, the children that play with her every day and know her, know her quirks and foibles, accept her for who she is, rather than complete strangers, the children of my co-workers, who may not be quite sure how to take her...

I see myself regretting the fact that we can't just let her play, can't go and stand with the other parents as they chat, relaxed, prepared to allow their children to enjoy the evening as long as they like, their shrieks and laughter echoing off the trees as the sky gradually changes, the world, their world, descending gently into the dark.

At what point do we allow ourselves to let go just a little?  I hear the neighbor kids playing outside in the summer, their parents inside the house doing whatever it is that parents do, calling out to them from time to time to remind them to come in for dinner, or bedtime, and I wonder, when

When can we let a child, our child, just be a kid

The world isn't safe.  Her world even less so. 

Right?



In a few short weeks, she'll be 7.  When I was 7, I was a latch-key child, walking two blocks home from the bus stop, across a busy intersection, to let myself in using the key we kept hidden beneath the heavy metal cellar door, and wait until my mother returned from work a few hours later.  Sure, I know it was a different time in the 70s.  But those are happy memories of independence. 

What happy childhood memories will Samantha have?  Will they involve playing with friends?  Will they include those dusky, hot summer evenings of friends and neighbors? 

Have I exposed her to enough?  Have I made enough effort to allow her to play with her peers?  I don't think I have.  The wall of protection is high and strong around us, but it needs to be chipped back a bit.  Playdates need to be scheduled, the neighborhood explored together, opportunities created.  Then, and only then, can I begin to learn to let go. 

Just a little... 
 

 

 

 

 

12 comments:

Leah said...

OH man. This made me cry. I was thinking similar thoughts following Cora around the toddler play structure at the park yesterday, wondering when I will feel comfortable to let go a little too. Even just letting her go on the slide without holding her hand seems hard. I can barely imagine beginning to do this with her peers. From my perspective (and I know as a blog reader it's certainly not going to be your whole picture) it looks like you're doing a lot. But a mother really can never feel like it's enough, I guess.

Stephanie said...

Powerful post and so true! I feel exactly the same way and I know that Owen is only four right now but this is pretty much how I'm going to feel for a long time. I want him to have those fun experiences too without me always having to negotiate and navigate it.

Lisa said...

I complete understand. Saturday night I took Cate to a girl scout sleep over with no intention of letting her stay the night. I really didn't think she'd want too do it but when it came time to leave at 10 pm , she really did want to stay. The leader encouraged me to leave her, a couple kids asked if she could stay but I just couldn't do it. I'm not ready to leave her to a group of girls who's emotions can change on a dime from loving helping Cate out to turning away from her. I promised her next year she could stay and she was fine with that in the end because she may be ready to take on the world but as much as I love her being included I am terrified to let her deal with it independantly. So I'll try to open cracks in our walls too.

Anna said...

Becca, thank you for this. After reading it I just couldn't find words. Lil G will be 8 in the Fall. Part of me wonders how she feels, does she want to be treated like an 8 year old? Does she feel the differences? I've been taking her to church activities on Wednesday nights and she even falls short with the preschool students. 3-4 yo. But we continue because we have to start somewhere. Thank you for sharing, I never would have thought you felt this way because Sammi is doing so well. ^ I don't feel so alone after reading these comments too!

Lisa said...

Yep. Finn is only 4-almost-5, but I've recently started really seeing how much we shelter him, and wondering how to start letting go a little.

Becca said...

I wanted to say in the post that the running in the road thing scares me the most. Not like she's done it, and not like she shouldn't understand by now not to do it, but in the heat of the chase, who knows how quickly one step off the grass could happen? The other kids were running right up to the road and then back down the grass. And, in Samantha's defense, when I told her, she said, "I know, I know! Not in the road!" But I still worry. And this is my problem. When can I be *sure* that she *gets* it??? She's my only child, so I don't have the parenting experience to know some things. And she's a bit impulsive, too, which makes her that much more unpredictable.

Dottie said...

I am just one of your blog readers and have been for a long time. Believe when I say that your worries are shared by parents everywhere....not just in the special needs world. When is it ok to let kids be kids in today's society? I am 70 years old, mother to 2 and grandmother to 4. They are my whole world. Two of my grandkids are being raised by super protective parents and 2 are being raised pretty much by the "go with the flow" attitude. Which of my children are doing the correct thing by my grandkids? They both are....because it is all done with love. Always trust yourself and don't worry so much about "what might be" because things always work out just right as long as the child knows he/she is loved beyond measure. Truly Samantha is loved beyond measure. Her happiness shines. You are doing a great job----just keep on keeping on!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Just thank you. *from another over-protective parent trying to keep my eloper from head-on flinging himself into busy traffic every minute of every day*

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this. I have a 3.5 year old Samantha as well and as I was outside with her I was thinking the same thing as I heard older neighborhood kids laughing and having a great time .,I hover and am overprotective and I don't know if I can ever change. She's our only as well :)

Laura

Jenny said...

Oh man, I am still like this with my teenagers! I get scared and nervous when they go to town to hang out with their friends. I get anxious when the girls want to ride their bikes to the store. *sigh*...It's a parenting thing. And with each new situation you will learn to let go a little more...One step at a time.
Russell is not really at the age where I have to start learning to let go just yet...But I know when that time comes it will be a little different than it was with the other kids. There will be more fear and anxiety over him...So I understand this post and what you are saying. Letting go is tough. You can only do it one small step at a time. You'll get there :)

Kerri Ames said...

It is so hard. I was at a party a couple of weeks ago. Allie was outside playing running with the kids. The other parents kept telling me to just let Boo go and play. She would be fine. I succumbed to peer pressure. What happens? Allie brings her back and says the kids screaming and running is scaring her.

My point is, you know Samantha better than anyone. Sure you are protective, but you let her become as independent as possible at her own pace.

my family said...

thank you
you know i truly feel like our life is no different than any other family however the other night at the ball field I found myself wiping away a few tears as I wondered if I would ever (or when )would I be comfortable to allow william to play freely at the playground (just yards from the fields) without me worrying about someone hurting him, saying something mean or him running off. Wishing I could sit on the stands with the other parents and enjoy the other kids games without fretting when I have william out of sight. I know this day will come but I totally understand where you are coming from and thank you for your post. so thankful my girls are such big helps so it not like Mommy is always hoovering

happy mothers day