In order for Mia to reach her full potential she only needs a few minor accommodations.
It wasn’t long ago that Roger and I did everything for Mia. We washed and combed her hair. We clothed and unclothed her. We brushed her teeth, put on her shoes and socks, zippered up her jacket, carried her dishes from point A to point B, and buckled her seat belt for her. We even continued to spoon feed her the more difficult, messy foods like cereal, yogurt, or ice cream.
We did all of these things for a number of reasons. The first being that Mia had needed our help with these daily functions for longer than your average child. These tasks were, at one point in time, the minor accommodations that our daughter needed, so we readily did them. But somewhere along the line these tasks changed from being accommodations needed to responsibilities done for her. Somewhere along the line Mia needed less help, less accommodations. And it wasn’t that we didn’t realize this, we did. We chose to ignore the fact that our daughter no longer needed us to solely do these tasks for her, but instead she only needed us to help her accomplish these tasks; she only needed our guiding hands to teach her to do these things so that one day she could do them for herself.
Why did we choose to ignore the fact that the accommodations Mia needed had changed? Because it was easier. It was quicker, it was cleaner – for us. But it was also prohibiting and harmful – to her.
It’s not easy for me to admit that for awhile I fed my six year old daughter her dinner because it was easier than cleaning the mess she would inevitably create. It’s not easy for me to admit that some mornings I pushed aside her eager hands and zipped her coat for her because it was quicker. Nor is it easy for me to admit that I blatantly prohibited my daughter from learning much needed self help skills in a pathetic attempt to save time. It’s not easy for me to admit that I did all of these things to benefit myself, not my child; I am guilty of infantilization. It’s not easy for me to say it, but it is the truth.
In the last six months or so I finally realized the error in my ways. I finally started allowing my child the room she needed to learn and grow. The room she needed to flourish and thrive. And, thankfully, this is now also the truth: Mia has either mastered, or is in the process of mastering, all of the above listed tasks that we once so over-zealously did for her. Some of the harder tasks she still needs a great deal of help with, like brushing her teeth (something she avoids at all costs and something she haphazardly does, often times missing whole rows). But she can now confidently zipper or button her jacket, put her shoes on the right feet (with 95% accuracy), pull her pants up, pull a shirt over her head, and put her socks on (just so). She can also wash and rinse her hair (with minimal help), help me pick out her clothing for each day, buckle her own seat belt, carry her own plate, and throw away her own garbage (with frequent reminders). She puts her backpack, her coat, and her shoes away when we get home. And, over the weekend, she even showed me that she is capable of cutting her own hair, although quite unevenly.
It was not easy for me to reprogram my mind. It was not easy for me to let go and allow my child the room she needed to grow. It is still absolutely not easy for me to busy my hands when all I want to do is reach out and finish buttoning up her jacket for her when her fumbling fingers just can’t seem to do it. But this is not about me; this is not about what is easiest for me. It should have never been about me, or about what is easiest. It’s about Mia. It’s about what is best for Mia. It’s about helping Mia reach her full potential. It’s about helping Mia thrive.
Minor accommodations, that is all she needs. And they come in the form of little nudge now and then to remind her to brush her teeth thoroughly, or, the slight support of her arm when she is rinsing her hair to protect her eyes from the soapy water, or, gently helping her to straighten out her jacket when she is having trouble zippering it up. Minor accommodations are simple, slight, little things, done to help my daughter learn, grow, and thrive.