I’ve always known that I have a very special, yet different, bond with each of my children. While neither of them share my deep love of Once Upon a Time or the Outlander book series (YET!), we have connected on other levels where we’ve found common ground. For my youngest, it’s his spot as the second child; a spot that I hold myself. Lately, with my oldest, it has shifted to being all about loosening up on the leash.
Motherhood isn’t always easy.
My sense of motherhood is deeply wrapped up in my relationship with my oldest, the strongest basis for our connection, because she was the one who made me a mother. As such, we’ve celebrated a great many firsts together. My first sleepless night, spent wondering if I was doing it all wrong. My first feeling of motherhood pride and amazement as she started to crawl.
And now it’s time for another first together. A first that is difficult for me yet necessary for her; loosening up on the leash as she begins to independently stretch her legs. It started small with her wanting to go to the mailbox when we lived in our condo building. She went straight there and straight back; mastering the task with ease. I stood anxiously on the other side of the door listening with bated breath for every second until she went the 30 feet and back.
Her independent streak is pushing new boundaries. As a homeschooled child, her opportunities to socialize are different than what she used to experience in school. But having experienced recess, she loves to go to the park across the street after school when the neighbourhood kids are out. Knowing better than to ask me, she asked her father if she could ride her bike over to the park while he was outside working. When Dad said yes, and she gradually flexed her nerves with a few bikes runs, her next question was, “Dad, can I play at the park with the other kids?” Again the answer was yes, and off she went.
Why not ask me?
Because the answer would’ve been, without a doubt, no. And it would’ve come straight from a place of fear. My fear. She’s not old enough. What if the other kids tease her or won’t play with her? What if she can’t get up the courage to ask to play and ends up just standing? What if the other kids talk her into doing things she shouldn’t? And so on.
With my husband urging me to let her try, I realized that these weren’t just my fears talking. These were my own limiting beliefs about her abilities as an autistic person who struggles with social interactions. They were my way of putting her in a box, and, even scarier, what if she started to believe that she belonged in that box? What if she bought into those limiting beliefs?
No. That couldn’t happen.
And so, while she was recounting this experience to me after the fact, I set my mind to keep these thoughts to myself and ignore the anxious knot that was forming in my stomach. Because at the end of the day, my discomfort is not what’s important.
What’s important is that we empower her to take these steps while her sense of childhood wonder gives her the courage to explore. She will have many adversities in life that will challenge her – both as an autistic person and as a woman. In order to best prepare her to tackle those moments, it’s time to let her have a little more slack in the leash to explore and put herself out there.
Don’t tell my husband, but I guess he was right.