Independence is a sneaky thing.
For so long you dote and mind, and watch oh-so-carefully, you hold hands and cut food into tiny pieces so tender mouths don't burn, you carry and lift, find and recover, read, build, dress and put away.
And then one day...when you least expect it...you realize that don't really have to.
One day, when you sit still, reading your own book, sitting in your own room, by yourself, you listen...
And you hear...
Your child, in another room, perhaps on another floor of the house, reading their own book, making their own bed (albeit not very well...), turning on and setting up the TV to their own shows, brushing their own teeth... Things that all crept up on you so gradually that you almost (*gasp!*) took them for granted, something you swore you'd never do, never be able to do. Take things for granted.
This morning I awoke before the child, who had earlier crept into my bed at the crack of dawn to curl up and fall back asleep, snuggled close to me. Carefully, so as not to wake her, I crawled out of bed, went downstairs, made my coffee and a bowl of cereal, and sat on the couch to eat and watch the news on TV. Hearing no footsteps upstairs, but knowing she could have come down and joined me if she'd wanted, I ate leisurely, then cleaned up, then returned upstairs to get her up and ready for summer school. She was awake, sitting in my bed, under the covers, watching one of her shows on DVR, after having used the remote control to scroll through the myriad of options to find the program and episode she wanted.
I pulled an outfit from her drawer that I thought would be cute today. Tossing it at her, I said, "Hey, girlie, please get dressed then come downstairs for breakfast." Her response? "In a minute. I'm busy watching TV..." I reminded her of what I needed her to do, then went downstairs on my own, knowing...scratch that...hoping that she would come along shortly. Dressed.
And, fully dressed, she did.
After she ate her own breakfast that I set on the table in front of her, she returned upstairs, to the bathroom, where I had set out her toothbrush with a dab of toothpaste on it, and a washcloth. While I went to my own room to get dressed for work, she used the toilet on her own, washed her own hands, brushed her own teeth, washed her own face, and, beaming, came to me for inspection. Beautiful, I said, smiling back and kissing her lightly on the forehead.
It's not always seamless, not without its issues, setbacks and resistances, not perfect, but it's an incredible thing. And it wasn't until this morning that I truly stopped to marvel at its mere existence in my life. The independence. The ability. The ordinariness of the day-to-day.
I don't have a kid with a disability.
I just have a kid.