This isn’t going to be a long post. It’s not going to be filled with true wisdom or even my pretend wisdom. It’s not going to even have a story, because the narrative wouldn’t be mine but Schuyler’s, and she’s old enough to decide which of her stories get told. Honestly, I didn’t even ask this time, because I feel pretty certain she wouldn’t want me to tell it. She’s earned that right; honestly, she probably had it all along.
It’s enough to know we stumbled, both of us.
I’ll simply say this. We had an incident over the weekend, one that involved Schuyler taking off on her own in a very chaotic and crowded environment, and my twenty minutes of sheer panic as I looked for her. I was actually on my way to find a police officer when I finally found her. It was horrible. It was terrifying and frustrating, and the worst part of it was afterwards, she couldn’t really explain what happened. She made several attempts, but none were convincing.
In the aftermath of yesterday’s incident, I’m left feeling deflated. Not because she did what she did. Kids her age (whatever that is, chronologically or developmentally or something in between) sometimes do boneheaded things. They play at independence but get in over their heads quickly. They act like little assholes because at some point, they’ve got to find out what that feels like and if it fits for the person they hope to become one day. No, it hit me hard for a number of reasons, including just feeling hurt (it’s no exaggeration to say that the incident pretty much ruined the day) like the big baby that I am. Most, though, I’m just at a loss. That’s nothing new, but this time it felt like a sucker punch.
How do you discipline a kid for whom her own actions are as inexplicable to her as they are to you? How do you move forward when the lessons built into the situation haven’t been learned, by any of the parties involved? How do you face a future where your kid’s independence is due to be recognized by the law far earlier than is appropriate, or even feasible? And how far should you go to take pieces of that legal independence away from them? You can tell yourself it’s for their own good, and you can even mean it and be completely correct, but that doesn’t diminish the feeling that you’re taking something precious away and stealing from them the thing that they, and you, have always valued and dreamed of the most.
Like I said, I don’t have any of the answers. Not a one. All I know is that in raising a kid with special needs, sometimes the best you can do is hope that the number of steps forward aren’t exceeded by the number you take in reverse.
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