A couple years ago, when my kids and I were grocery shopping, my 7-year-old daughter began loading the groceries on the conveyer belt. A well-intentioned lady smiled admiringly at Elizabeth and said how sweet she was. A very kind comment, but what she said next bothered me, “My 13-year-old would never do that!” It made me think, “why not?”
Just because my children have a mom with a disability doesn’t mean that it’s the only reason they help out. As I see it, helping out is just part of belonging to a family. We do a great disservice to our children when we do everything for them.
I realize my children faced independence at a younger age than children of able-bodied parents usually do. As babies, both of my kids grabbed my clothing or hair when I held them. They listened when I told them not to squirm when I changed their diapers and as soon as they were able to crawl I made them follow me around the house.
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If they wanted to be lifted up, they knew they had to hold onto me. It was always funny to watch them become “dead-weights” when other people held them.
The way they interacted with me was different than with anybody else. It was if at a young age they knew they had to help out.
I have always I insisted they carry their own coats or crafts from school. It is not to say I never did these things for them, it is just that most times it was a lot easier to have them do it.
When some parent exclaims “I don’t have ten arms!” I kind of laugh because I literally have none.
I really didn’t notice how independent they were becoming until play dates started happening and my kids’ little friends would try to pass off their backpacks, coats and crafts. I simply apologized that I wasn’t a mom that did that and that they could do it themselves. And the fact is, a lot of the time kids can.
It’s so easy to get into the habit of doing things for our kids because when they were helpless infants, they needed us so much.
Doing things for our children is also a huge time-saver. I am certainly guilty of not slowing down and allowing my children the opportunity of accomplishing something by themselves, but it is important that we allow our children to test and grow their abilities.
In this respect I am so thankful for my disability because it often forces me to teach my children something new. My circumstances have provided them with more opportunities to earn their independence. I certainly don’t want them to grow up too fast.
They are still kids and need to experience the joys and freedoms of childhood, but there is nothing wrong with them learning how to pack groceries, pick out good produce or be responsible for carting their stuff around.
I have to confess I often feel guilty about the things I ask my children to do. Not very many people have asked their child to push a grocery cart other than for fun, nor have they balanced their children on their knee and asked them to reach something off a high shelf.
I worry that the things I ask of my kids are robbing them of their care-free childhood, but I can’t think of it this way. Instead I can thank them for their kindness and help.
I can point out to my son how sweet it is that when we go for a walk in the winter, he warns me of ice ahead and looks back to make sure I didn’t slip. I can tell my daughter how much I appreciate her carrying the groceries into the house or lifting down something I can’t reach. I can praise them for their independence and hope the positives of their childhood outweigh the negatives.
Although my children didn’t choose to have a mom with a disability, I believe our way of doing things has given them the gift of independence. This is a lesson any parent can give to a child. Take time to slow down and give your children the opportunity to let their independence shine. One day they will turn into independent and confident adults and they will thank you for it.