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A different kind of independence

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Deane and his sister arrive for drumming class. They make a great team.

It happened by chance. I’d love to say it was a thoroughly researched, well-planned and perfectly executed piece of parenting, but it was none of those things.

As I have written many times, we have been struggling to help (or push) Deane to become more independent (Pushing recreation, Why am I doing this?). He began to assert his preferences – to stay in his room and watch TV – while he was in the hospital, but refused to do anything that would take him out of that comfort zone.

Following my own advice (Inner spark), I thought we should follow his interests and try enrolling him in a drumming group.

We went for part of a session before Christmas as a trial. We limped through it with a few tears and limited participation. The organizers said he could enroll for the winter session but would need one-on-one support and they didn’t have the necessary volunteers.

So his dad, a drummer, took him to the first class – big success. I took him to the second session. It was better than the trial, but, let’s face it, I’m not as much fun as Dad when it comes to drumming.

Week three: I had a scheduling conflict. With the rare exception, Dad can’t do events that start at 6:30. I didn’t want to give Deane the impression that staying home was an option.

I also had to figure out what I was going to do with my daughter that night. We have always tried not to put unfair burdens and expectations on our daughter about “looking after” Deane. With that in mind, I asked if she would consider going to drumming that week. As long as I took them into the class, she said she would do it.

I called the office to see if my plan would fly. I assured them I wasn’t going to be far away and could return within 10 minutes if necessary.

When the day came, I got them set up and left. When I returned, they were both smiling. The instructors were beaming.

The next week when I mentioned drumming, Deane pointed to his sister and she immediately asked if she could go. So they became a team and had a great time. The instructors were thrilled with how well my daughter fit into the group and how Deane was participating.

I recognize that going somewhere with his sister is not true independence, but it is a step in the right direction. They are having fun and it allows them to develop a sibling relationship that doesn’t involve parental interference.  

When I went to register Deane for the next term, the administrator called to say they are getting a volunteer to work with Deane. They said their volunteers have to be 16 so having his 11-year-old sister as a support person is a precedent they aren’t willing to set. She can still go, but there will be a volunteer to work with Deane. 

I get the liability issues and it is undoubtedly good for Deane to get used to working with volunteers he doesn’t know. But, I guess I want it both ways. As a parent, it’s hard to give up on something that gives your children such a special connection. 

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