This morning, Aaron woke up, came downstairs and announced, “I’m making my own breakfast.” To avoid meddling, I disappeared and listened to a symphony of pots clanging and cupboard doors opening and closing. When I peeked in a few minutes later, Aaron was sitting at the dining room table, toasted waffles with honey and four carefully placed blackberries in front of him, as well as a piping hot cup of black coffee (with a straw). He was reading the paper.
“I’m not playing with my iPad anymore,” he said firmly. “I’m going to read the paper in the morning.” Indeed, he was busy searching the newspaper for car ads, his favourite thing.
Now, Aaron is 12 years old. But it wasn’t that long ago that he needed to be close by, within eyesight at all times. Otherwise, he’d do whacky things like fill up his dump truck with (used) cat litter or leave the premises on some adventure.
In the past few months, since we’ve moved to Vancouver, I’ve seen Aaron blossom and mature. He’s definitely a pre-teen and not a little kid anymore. He pays for purchases himself at the cashier with his own money. He orders his own Subway sandwich. He goes to the public washroom solo. He runs ahead of me after school to beat me home. He plays street hockey in the cul-de-sac with the neighbourhood kids. He takes his three wheel scooter up and down the crosswalk by himself.
I feel Aaron’s newfound maturity is worthy of mention, because a mere five years ago, when he was seven years old or so, I despaired at ever having two seconds to myself. I had to be vigilant at all times for his safety, even when I took a quick shower, or I thought he was sleeping. (When he was two, he slipped out the front door at 6 am, only to be discovered across the busy street an hour later. This horrified me and resulted in a greatly barricaded front door).
But this passed! I can envision leaving Aaron at home while I walk to the mailbox! Maybe even one day when I go for groceries! My constant hyper-awareness days are over and I can feel my shoulders relaxing a bit. Of course, everybody grows up, including kids with Down syndrome. How I wish I had known that when he was younger, and I hope the moms of younger kids know this too – although Aaron sometimes gets ‘stuck’ in stages in a plateau, he also has taken great leaps of maturity – when he is good and ready.
There’s now opportunity for freedom for all of us…including most of all – him. Although, I think one of his biggest barriers to independence is his doting mother. (Um, and that’s me). Duly noted.