When we purchased our new home, there was a birds nest right outside the kitchen window. We often pondered if a bird actually lived there since we had yet to see one and then one day…a robin appeared. I appropriately named her Robin and from that day forward she was always in her nest. As was suspected, she was laying eggs and sure enough her eggs hatched a few weeks ago. I can’t quite put my finger on the attachment I had over these birds, but I was much like a mama bird myself. I would annoyingly ask Rob questions about the size of the nest, if he thought the birds would fall out (yes, I even put a cushion down in case they fell) and so on. It was remarkable to see them go from babies to toddlers to teens in just a couple of weeks. I was there the first time one attempted to fly down from the nest and I sadly watched when the runt of the group was pushed out of the nest too soon. I was able to see the parents guide them, teach them and protect them. And then one day…every last robin (parents and babies) were nowhere to be found. They had moved on.
You are probably wondering why I’ve went into such elaborate detail about these birds, but oddly enough, I saw that their lives were easily translated into my own…with Lola.
Rob and I have had the come to Jesus that perhaps we aren’t pushing Lola out of the nest enough. Now don’t get me wrong, sister does not have it easy. But when your first born has special needs…well…the dynamic of raising your child changes. When Lola was a newborn, I thought my parenting style was going to be how to best shape her into an individual who would blossom in society (and yes, I too, thought success was measured by honor roll, college, marriage and grandbaby…shame on me). And I honestly thought that the minor nuances would be a major contribution. I wondered if giving her a pacifier would somehow make her not able to cope on her own. I never wanted her to cry it out (not even for one minute) for fear that she would think her mother doesn’t listen to her. I just had myself convinced that every decision I made would somehow have some lasting effect on her. And then she started having seizures. And all of those minute details were thrown out the window because at that point, I just wanted her to be OK. Nevermind the Montessori method or what Dr. Sears suggested should be done. I realized very quickly that I was too stuck on the small stuff and I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. I wasn’t seeing that Lola would be who she was meant. I can help guide her, but I can’t control her.
So now here we are with an almost 2 1/2 year old and I’m still trying to control her environment for her. And for what? Because since the very first day she had those seizures, I have tried my best to create this protective barrier around her. For the longest time, I thought what I was doing was simply instinctual and natural for me as a special needs parent yet what I’m realizing is that maybe it’s time to start to nudging Lola out of the nest. Rob and I always say our job in taking care of Lola is helping her achieve an independent life. Yet I’m afraid perhaps we’ve been inhibiting her independence. Sure there are some things that she simply is not able to do on her own yet. We spoon feed her because she thinks a spoon is a perfect drumstick therefore she would not eat. We carry her most everywhere when out and about because she is not able to walk yet. But there have been a few instances in the last few weeks that we have sort of stood back and watched how quick we are to help Lola. She’ll fuss and throw a fit, but eventually she’ll figure the task out. And you can imagine the amount of pride we feel when we watch her overcome the challenge all by herself.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one can tell you how to raise your special needs child. There are no manuals, no way to prepare, no cliffs notes. You just go by instinct and clearly my instincts have been to protect Lola, but how will she ever protect herself if she isn’t given the chance?
It’s pretty amazing that I learned all of this through birds. I am always a believer that signs are out there if you are open to seeing them. I’m lucky to have had this sign right outside my kitchen window.