Sharon, “Allow children independence. Let them go out and explore the world.” Tip #10
Sharon raised three children focusing on independence, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and happiness. All solid pillars in my parenting as well.
Independence was a common word in our home, and a guiding goal in most of my parenting decisions. It was like my lighthouse.
I recall my messaging, “It is my job to get you to independence. By the time you leave this house you should be running it. I will be increasing your chores and responsibilities, as you earn the right for me to do so. I will be raising your allowance and add privileges based on your achieved level of independence. Independence will come to you in fun and not-so-fun ways.”
I remember so vividly announcing, “Michael, it’s time for a new level of independence.” He would reply, “Oh God!” Never knowing if it was going to be an increase in an allowance, an extension on his curfew, or a new chore, or responsibility. All changes were under the umbrella of independence.
What kid doesn’t want independence? What Mom isn’t looking forward to freedom? Independence was, and is, his ‘currency.’
In 2008, when Michael acquired quadriplegia, it appeared as if he had lost all possibilities for independence. I recall feeling a great injustice. Michael had been working hard, and cooperating, his entire life for independence. Now at 16, it was ripped from his life, never to return!
The intensity of knowing I had so colossally failed my son was crushing! What was I thinking? What did I do to this kid?! All I’ve emphasized as important is gone! I was tortured with memories of statements such as, “Independence is everything.”
As I watched him, still in that bed, unable to scratch, with movement only in eyes, the lectures of independence bounced violently off the walls of my mind. I was fiercely tortured by messages I once thought to be brilliant. I had failed, failed miserably.
Although, those moments seemed liked years, I am happy to report they were short lived. It was true, at that time, Michael needed help with all things physical; however, more importantly, mentally he had achieved independence.
In the end, it was a gift to us all that independence had been our focus. Michael was certainly going to need independence now more than ever.
On the day of his injury Michael said, “Mom, as long as I can communicate, that’s all that matters.” How profound! How beautiful! How strong! What a welcomed and binding perspective. His ability to communicate, was his independence. As long as he could communicate, that was all that mattered!
I’ve come to learn, needing help does not make you less independent. Even having to have an entire team of people provide physical support, does not make you dependent on them.
In the face of all this change, Michael upheld complete, unwavering control and independence. He guided professionals, and all those around him, as to what he wanted and how he wanted it done. He did so with respect, grace, and laser-sharp clarity.
I still adamantly endorse a strong emphasis on independence when parenting. It’s worked for me, for Sharon, and for our kids.
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