Apartment Ready: Yesterday our daughter worked at the Ridgefield Library straightening out the books. She also went swimming with her job coach at the Ridgefield Park and Recreation. All is proceeding beautifully. They then had a brown bag lunch (my daughter makes her bologna sandwich the night before) and came back to the family home. I need to call our house that because in four days she will be living in her new home. And it is time. Old behaviors are cropping up. Everything I request of her is responded to with an “I’m tired.” So I picked out the bedroom lamps because she was too tired to go with me. And last night my hubby and I stretched the water-resistant liner across the queen size mattress, zippered it up and stuffed the duvet cover with the down comforter. I purchased lavender hangers to match with her sheet pattern, and a hanging shoe caddy for her closet, in purple of course. The ABD staff worked on the apartment yesterday as well, purchasing the basic victuals for the young ladies’ initial feedings, stocking up with household cleaners and the like, and arranging the pots, pans and other provisions that the two moms had supplied for the kitchen. Still no ice trays though.
The Developmental No: When in graduate school and later in my psychoanalytic training much stock was put on understanding the importance of the two-year old stage of development, when the child begins to mark out his/her separate existence from the parent with the introduction of the word NO. No means I am me, not you. We are living that stage once again. And in fact, adolescence is marked by a reintroduction of the battle for separateness from parents, individuation and solidification of identity, begun at two, and hopefully healthily resolved by high school graduation, though in fact, the process lasts a lifetime. However our daughter has been stuck on the NO most of her life and with a real separation looming, and my increasing pressure on her to get things done, she is NO-ing me to death. So put it this way, we made her bed, now please sleep in it, soon.
Sphere Drop Off And Pick Up Without Mom: Thursday night is her Sphere group and I drove her there. They made papier-mâché heads and hers was that of a dog, naturally, ears and all. The soggy heads were drying on the table in the church hall where they hold the program when I came in. Chipper and totally transformed from the girl who told me a couple of hours earlier that “I’m not going, I’m too tired,” she chatted happily. As we were leaving, I waved goodbye to the group leader saying, “We will see you next week.” And then I stopped. Nope, I won’t see them next week. Our daughter and her apartment-mate will be taken to the Sphere art class by their ABD staff. And for just a moment I thought how will I know how it went? Do I really need to know? After all, she has spent five years attending all kinds of activities at her boarding school, and I never picked her up. Nosy person that I am, it was still a relief to remember that there is a boundary here and I am left out of it. Whew!
Separation, Individuation, Solidification of Identity: We parents are constantly going through it, too. Separating, individuating from our kids. When I am with our daughter, in part because of her challenges, there is a bit of fusion going on. I find myself saying, “We have to clean up your room,” or “We have to shave those legs.” With our “typical children” we forgo the “we” around the time they are in elementary school. But with special needs children, the “we” lingers alongside the sense of their vulnerability, cognitive challenges and sheer dependency. Though many of those issues remain, it is imperative that I remember that “we” is she, not me. And she is moving to her own bed, duvet cover and all, on Monday. And the me of me, the single separate soul, has plenty to keep herself busy for the rest of her life without the we. I fuse with her in the service of getting things done. I have had to do it because for much of her life so much was dependent on my moving her along. But hopefully that purpose is past. And frankly, she never could stand it. Once others stepped in to move her on, we both grew.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011