Independence has become a challenging proposition for our family.  The boy is nearing eleven years and is starting to crave the opportunity to have some independence, and we want nothing more for him to have this.  The question is, how does someone who is dependent on others for nearly everything, gain independence?  What does independence look like to him?  For him? 

His first taste of a form of independence came when he started pre-school.  He didn’t have the anxiety about mom leaving him somewhere.  He welcomed it.  After three years of nothing but mom, he was ready to test his skills with out me.  He quickly learned that most of his basic needs could be met with the assistance of other trusted people.  Other people could, and would, take care of his personal needs.  Could learn to feed him.  And could take him around the pre-school classroom and play yard and facilitate his play and learning.  In the early years, the four hours of pre-school were enough time to be away from me.  He was happy to be back with me for the afternoon.  

Once he started elementary school, where the hours were slightly longer, he again was satisfied with the amount of time, and experiences, away from me.  I started working part time when he was in 1st grade and hesitantly tried the aftercare program the school offered.  Turns out he loved that nearly as much as he loved school, and the growing hours on his own (i.e. without support of his parents) was exactly what he craved. 

I understand and appreciate that he needs to have independent experiences and life outside of our family.  I want him to have that.  I wish that he could share it with me though, through telling me about his day or his thoughts about particular things.  That’s where it becomes difficult for me.  There are so many things, even simple exchanges with friends, that I know nothing about, that I’ll never know about.  Things that other children can share with their parents if they choose to.  Things that perhaps I should know about. 

The new independence that faces us is how to allow him to have experiences with friends that don’t require a parent to be the only parent in the swimmig pool, or in the playroom, or at the birthday party.  He needs someone, an adult, to be with him to support his needs, but he absolutely does not want one to be there.  We’re experimenting tonight at swimming/bbq event.  We’re bringing one of his paras (para-professionals are the twenty somethings who provide support at school), to the party with us to swim and do kids stuff with him and the other children.  We’re hopeful that it will feel less invasive to all if it’s not a parent.  If it works, perhaps that will be the new wave of independence.  Someone cooler, hipper, younger, than parents can take him to parties, and fun…but still be able to handle the needs aspect of his day. 

I can’t begin to imagine how it must feel to want something so badly and to know that it’s something you can never really have.  It breaks my heart…

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