Within the mindset that what we do for others, we are working on in ourselves, I see the actions I am taking to help someone grow are the things that are my struggle to grow with as well.
My son and I have been a tight pair since he was born. He was not an easy boy to raise after vaccinations caused developmental regression at an important stage of life.
School, Aspergers, socialization, therapy: we had our roles: I was his cheerleader and advocate, tried to anticipate issues, ease him into trying new things –
and dust myself off when well-meaning experiments sometimes went south.
I loved him. I wanted to protect him, but over time, I came to realize that some of these well-meaning efforts ‘bubble-wrapped’ him against the work he needed to do to stand on his own feet…
Steps he needed to take himself.
I realize to be an advocate of his independence in this new stage of life, I needed to step back and let him
make his own decisions,
set new expectations,
disagree with me,
fix his own dinner,
handle his finances,
figure out his own schedules,
make his own mistakes.
Old habits die hard, and being a ‘helicopter mom’ was second nature for twenty years. It’s still hard sometimes not to take the wheel for him when he is working things out.
But this is the work towards a measure of independence that we both have to do in our own lives.
It has taken longer in time than some young adults need, but that is what it took. It takes different types of strategies and preparations, and some hand-holding, but that is what it takes as well.
And with extra time, reassurance and ‘figure it out yourself’,
I see that he is more assured, trying his wings, making short flights.
One thing, though never changes.
I have a little ritual in the mornings, where I watch him walking to work in the crowds, as far as I can see him, until he is out of sight.
And then, saying ‘thank you’ in tears of gratitude
for the marvel of a young man walking down the street to work –
a vision that looks so everyday and ordinary,
but is evidence of beautiful, positive growth that has happened in ours.
Dorothy Perry is a Chicago portrait photographer specializing in custom family portraits, modern headshots, & personal branding for women and executives.