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When I'm Judged for Encouraging My Son With Down Syndrome to Be Independent

Some days, I get tired of being judged.

Some days, I get tired of people looking at me like I should jump in to help my child.

I can see in people’s eyes that they think I’m a bad mom.

I can see that it would be easier for them if I stepped in and took over.

I can see that they are watching my child and me, and judging us.

When my child with Down syndrome was a baby, people would say to me, “Aren’t you so worried about his future?” I would say, “I’m also worried about my other children as well. But I’m not going to let my fear of the future control today. And I try to take things in stride.”

When my child went to elementary school, I stood up for him and his educational needs. Other parents would say to me, “Are you not worried about the teachers getting mad or upset with you?” I would say, “I am my child’s voice. I need to stand strong for him.”

In junior high school, people would say, “Aren’t you worried about your child getting bullied or having a hard time?” I would say, “This is the real world and kids need to find their place and belong. The other students need to learn from him too! They will learn patience and kindness, and how everyone is more alike than different.”

In high school, people would say, “Why isn’t your child doing life skills?” I would say, “That’s my job as a parent. We do chores, laundry, and cooking at home. School is for education, sports, and growing strengths and talents.”

Now as my child is becoming more independent, I need to let him go and try new things. There are people in the neighborhood who look at me like I’m too lenient, allowing my young adult to walk to the store by himself on a regular basis. But the thing is: young adults with disabilities will be walking around the high school campus by themselves. They will be walking around a college campus by themselves. They will be at a job by themselves. They should be out in this world walking around by themselves, just like everyone else!

They deserve to be thought of as a valued part of society. And they need to try new things!

We know that there will be failures.

We know that some days will be harder than others.

But we’ve got to keep trying.

I can’t be a helicopter parent, hovering over my child all the time, doing everything for him, and then expecting him to succeed without me. I can’t expect to do everything for my child, and then expect them to be able to do it by themselves.

I have to let him go alone if I expect him to have a job.

I have to let him cook if I expect him to cook at his apartment.

I have to let him stay home alone if I expect him to live independently.

I need to let go in a safe place.

I need to let him have the dignity of risk, and to try and make mistakes.

I need to let him fail and help him grow from his life lessons.

Some days it is hard being judged and watched — but it’s worth it!

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