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In Order To Help My Son I’m Stepping Back

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
02/26/19  11:55 AM PST
help my son

The Occupational Therapist called us back for my son’s weekly appointment. As we wove our way through the halls, she asked Ben to lead us to her room. Ben took a wrong turn right out of the chute, and before his second step toward the incorrect door, I had my hand on him, to remind him that the room we needed was further down the hall.

Our OT, who had many years of experience with children and their parents, pulled me aside to give me some advice. “Let him figure it out. If you tell him, he will learn to rely on you, if he figures it out, he will learn to rely on himself.” I felt the flush of chagrin on my face and committed her words to memory.

I tucked her words into my mind, recognizing the advice as a sage nugget. At first, I was diligent to apply it, but somewhere about a half a million tries and fails later the novelty wore off and my comfortable habit of micromanaging my son continued.

Last year we moved to a house on a few acres and paths connecting to the state snowmobile trails and a neighbor’s acreage, which we have permission to use. My husband, Mike, proud of his contribution to family fun, got deals on a couple of trail snowmobiles that are well into their third decade of existence. He has ridden snowmobiles and off-road vehicles since he was barely out of diapers, and to him, it’s as natural as walking. My first experience with snowmobiles was as a paramedic, and it was a was a fatal accident — so from the outset we approach the machines differently. Not one to spoil the fun, I sat under Mike’s tutelage to learn how to operate our “new” sleds, and on Saturdays, with the family, I gave it my best shot. Mike would show me how to start it and remind me of all the functions every time we’d go, and he would take the lead, going slower than he thought necessary, but faster than my risk-averse self preferred.

This season, Mike was working downstate when the snow started flying. I needed to stop by the neighbor’s house, and the snowmobile was the logical option to get there on the beautiful winter day. I went to start it, momentarily flummoxed by the buttons and switches. I couldn’t quite remember what to do without Mike’s voice in my ear narrating the process, but I powered through. After a few mistakes, the machine roared to life. I eased down the drive, and my confidence grew as I puttered around the trails. I got stuck and got myself unstuck. I missed turns and tried again either going faster or slower to see what would happen. Before I knew it, I had been riding a couple of hours with a growing sense of accomplishment and love of snowmobiling.

My husband’s intentions were stellar, he wanted me to succeed at something he had long since mastered. He dutifully helped me every step of the way, but he didn’t know when to stop helping. And me too. In my effort to help my son succeed, I kept him from succeeding of his own volition. I’m stepping back more and more these days. Ben doesn’t always rise to the occasion (nobody does) but when he does, we both beam with pride.

inclusion on the playground

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom

Follow her on Facebook

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