"Want dried mango."
Josh and I were careening down a crowded aisle at Costco today when he spied one of his favorite treats and quickly asked for it. Although Josh is legally blind (20/200) due to an underdeveloped optic nerve, he often surprises me with how well he can use his vision when he really wants to. I was reminded of how every trip to the store can be a learning experience if I let it be. My girls were on a bike ride with their dad so we had plenty of time.
"Ok, Josh" I told him. "You get one and put it in the cart."
He did so with ease.
Usually, I speed through these visits to the store hoping to simply keep him happy and avoid a meltdown. It usually involves hitting up all of the free sample tables and keeping Josh occupied with a steady flow of snacks.
But last week, I had gone along with Josh, his aide and his orientation and mobility specialist (a therapist for visually impaired kids) as they went on a field trip to the local drugstore to teach him how to search for items, to manage a basket and to pay for those items with money from a wallet that they had put in his pocket. It was amazing to see how much he could do given patience, intentionality and plenty of time. He still has lots of skills yet to master but this was a great start. I was convicted that I need to let Josh do things on his own more if he is going to begin learning those life skills that will help him to grow up and learn to interact with the world more appropriately.
So today, for the rest of the time at Costco, I made Josh find all of the items on our list and put them in our cart himself. Then he helped me put the items onto the check out counter. When we got home, I asked him to help me carry everything into the house or into the garage. It took forever, and he dropped many items several times but we finally did it.
He was definitely more resistant to me, as his mom, than he was to his educators. I suppose this is because, as a busy mom, I usually do way too much for my kids rather than to take the time to make them do age appropriate things on their own. I realized that this is true for my girls as well when my 7 year old feigned helplessness the other morning when putting on her tights (which she totally was able to figure out by herself). Why is it so attractive to make one's Mommy do things for you? And why, is it so tempting for a parent to do things for your kids that they should be doing on their own?
For me one of the greatest barriers to fostering independence for my typical kids as well as my child with special needs is my desire to get things done quickly. On one level, it IS faster to do things for your kid. Tying their shoes for them, putting their dishes away for them, prepping their backpacks, it's so easy to just do them for my kids rather than taking the time to force them to do them for themselves.
But here's the thing. If I do things for them now, I just may have to do it for them forever. I have a feeling that they will never magically hit that moment where they just decide to take responsibility for themselves and for their stuff. SO, I have to remind myself that it is worth it to give each of my kids chances, whenever I can, to learn to do the things that I COULD do for them but that they must learn to do as well. In order to do that, I need to SLOW DOWN so we can not only get the thing done in the moment but to teach my kids to do them for a lifetime.