Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Declarations of independence

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." - U.S. Declaration of Independence, 1776

I was browsing the CDC website today and discovered a checklist of developmental milestones for “Middle Childhood," which they define as 6–8 years. I don't typically spend much time with developmental checklists. In fact, I pretty much stopped looking at them when Bud was an infant - he was already doing his own thing in his own way, and I discovered that even a cursory glance through What to Expect the First Year made my blood pressure start to climb.

But today I threw caution to the wind and took a look at what the fine folks at the CDC had to offer. They write (italics and embedded links my own):

Middle childhood brings many changes to a child’s life. (True enough.) By this time, children can dress themselves (Pretty much, except for the snapping and buttoning, but I’ll call that a check), catch a ball more easily with only their hands (More easily – yes, sure. Check.), and tie their shoes (Nope - but, in fairness to Bud, we usually go with Velcro.). Developing independence from family becomes more important now (Check). Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important. Physical, social, and mental skills develop rapidly at this time. This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as through friends, schoolwork, and sports. (Check, check, check.)

I have to say: for a child with developmental delays, Bud seems to be startlingly on target.

His quest for independence is especially striking. And for Bud, it’s not just about doing things without assistance. It’s also about doing things on his own – about striking out as a free agent – about establishing himself as an individual person, unique and separate from his parents.

Last Friday was “Wacky Hair Day” at Bud’s school. It was Wacky Hair Day, that is, for the other children at Bud’s school. Bud made his needs quite clear in the days leading up to the event: For Bud, Friday would be Brown Hair Day.

Dark Brown Hair Day.

Regular Dark Brown Hair Day.

At the end of Wacky Or Regular Dark Brown Hair Day, Bud’s class was scheduled to gather for a rousing rendition of the Chicken Dance. When I dropped Bud off in the morning, Ms. Parker invited me to join them for the Chicken Dancing. She said she’d watch out the window for me and would open the back door when they were ready to begin.

I arrived on time, fifteen minutes before the end of the school day, but the back door to the classroom remained closed. I sat in my car and waited as the minutes ticked by and, eventually, dismissal time arrived. Ms. Parker emerged with Bud, and explained that he’d decided not to have me join them for the Chicken Dance. Bud himself offered no explanation, but hugged me when he saw me, then happily climbed into the car.

I didn’t bring it up again with him, but on Sunday, privately, at home, when the two of us were on our own, Bud invited me to do the Chicken Dance with him. We stood together in front of the full-sized bathroom mirror, clucking with our chicken-beak hands, flapping our chicken-wing arms, shaking our tails feathers down to the floor, and laughing, laughing, laughing. Bud didn’t talk about it directly, but I understood his meaning: “It’s not you, Mom; it’s me. I love you, Mom. I have fun with you. But there are some things I need to do on my own.”

It was good preparation for me, actually, because it eased me into the conversation that Bud and I had this week when he came home with a flyer about an upcoming first-grade field trip to see a children’s play. Parents are welcome, the flyer said, but get your tickets soon!

I read the flyer out loud to Bud and asked if he’d like to have me come along on the field trip.

“Just me and the other kids,” he answered quickly. “And Ms. Parker.”

“Some of the other moms and dads will be there, Bud.”


“So maybe I could come, too?”

“No. You can wait in the car. At school. You can wait and pick me up when it’s over. Okay?”

"Okay, Bud."

And it is okay, Bud. You’re growing up. You’re stepping out. You’re moving on.

It’s hard for me. But it’s good.

It’s really good.

And we hold that truth to be self-evident.


Anonymous said...

I think the hardest thing I have ever done as a parent was to allow my children their independence and freedom. It took me so long to have each of them, I didn't want to let them out of my sight. But, just as Bud has, they expressed their desires or even more appropriately their need to do things on their own. I am but a call away, but they are on their own.
Now, wait until May when Daughter goes to Africa...I'll have to be tied to a chair so I can't follow her.
What a wonderful thing for Bud. To be able to share his need for independence and bravo to you for encouraging it.

Maddy said...

Indeed 'we' Americans have learned our constitution too, but I don't know that I'll be able to follow through as graciously as you have [if I'm lucky enough to have them get there!]
Best wishes

kristina said...

This is indeed a cause to embrace and rally round (or in the car) for!

Anonymous said...

Again I say, all we are give Bud a chance...

gretchen said...

I need to work on the letting go thing because this post made me cry. (Not in a "yay for Bud" way, but in a "hope that doesn't happen to me" way.)

I attend Thomas' gymnastics class with him. When he moves up to the next age level, I will just sit in the viewing area and watch. That will be a sad day.

Anonymous said...

Bravo for Bud and for you. Just last week, I sent my 14 year old son with Asperger's on an eighth grade science trip to Florida--without me! Three of his teachers, who are all well-versed in AS and my son's manifestation of AS, were chaperones on the trip, so I put my anxiety aside and let him go. He had a great time--not without rough patches--but it was HIS time to shine.


mumkeepingsane said...

Yay for Bud and for you! Independance is tough for us moms.

Patrick started beavers and I've hired a worker to go with him. I just had a feeling it would be better if I didn't go EVERYWHERE with him.

*hanging my head in shame* The beaver leader had to tell me to GET OUT. I did eventually go sit with the other moms and, of course, he did fine.

Anonymous said...

Yeah for Bud!

And for you :)

As a teacher, I'm also impressed with the way that Bud's teacher and aide are able to make accommodations and modifications as needed. It seems that they do a great job working with Bud's comfort level. How does his classroom situation look for next school year (or is it too soon to tell)?


My daughter is 6 and taking 'baby steps' to be independent and already I am finding it difficult.

MOM-NOS said...

Anonymous, no decisions have been made yet about Bud's classroom placement for next year (or, at least, none have been announced.) I've been spying on the second grade classrooms at drop-off time, and there's one that continually calls out to me. Really, though, I always get nervous at this time of year thinking that Bud's NEXT teacher can't possibly be as good a fit as Bud's CURRENT teacher. But it's clear to me that the placement folks know Bud and understand his needs and keep finding teachers who are just the right fit for him.

Another interesting thing - I think that the placement of other children in his class is as important as (perhaps more important than) who the teacher is. Bud's peers have been instrumental in his learning this year - as he has been in theirs.

Anonymous said...

You're right about the peers. When I have worked with the administration to choose the next teacher for my kids, I always make sure there are key peers included. They do more to support the change and insecurity than the staff does. Somehow, things are okay if Billy has John, Sue and Mitch to seek out and work with. New peers come aboard very quickly and the transition is easier. Peers rock....everyone needs a rock!

Anonymous said...

i've never seen those 'middle years' check list and it's good, for us, that i stay away, for now.

but bud! that bud! he is such a star, such an inspiration. i love his independence; i love his declarations! i love how well he knows himself!

Mad said...

Ooooo, my heart lurched at his bold independence but I can understand why you are happy with it all.