My daughter Arden is 10 years old now, and I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader. There sure is a lot of murkiness when navigating the waters of parenthood. A couple years back, the book Your Eight Year Old helped me steer myself back on course. It was really helpful to learn about how an eight-year-old thinks and what they need from me. At ten, I felt that I needed a refresher course, so I hoofed it to the bookstore to see what titles they had, so I could later download an accessible version. I found the right section though it had moved since the last time I checked. I pulled out books one at a time, squinting at the titles, not really knowing what I was looking for.
I used my index finger to angle out books randomly until I came across Parenting Without Power Struggles. Bingo!!! I felt like the light bulb came on and the Kmart blue light special was flashing wildly. I’ll remember that title. I found it on Bookshare and promptly started reading it using my Read2Go app when I returned home.
The author, Susan Stiffelman, talks about the necessity of the parent being the captain of the ship, the one steering the course. The key is not to control the crew, but to guide and understand each situation from their vantage point.
Last summer, I took four girls to a climbing wall 30 miles away. We had to take three buses to get there. The next week, my daughter learned that two of those friends returned with their Dad, zipping easily up the highway in the family car, and headed directly to their destination the very next day. It suddenly hit Arden like a ton of bricks – the constraints of having a driverless mother. Tears flowing, “They can go to the climbing wall anytime they want!” It is in those moments that you just have to let them feel their sorrow. You can’t fix the fact that you don’t drive.
That same feeling still surfaces for Arden once in a while but I face it by saying, “Yea it would be nice if we could drive there”, then I move on, which seems to soften the blow. I stated that in 2020, I might be behind the wheel of a driverless car. Arden responded by saying, “But I’ll be driving by then.” To which I replied, “Yes, but you don’t want to just drive me all over the place do you?” “Not really”
There is an upside to being creative when it comes to transportation and mobility (there are quite a few options out there): she is turning out to be a great traveler, and very safety conscious. I see her crossing the road responsibly, unlike some of her peers who don’t seem to take it very seriously. I can see her being the competent traveling college student, causing less worry for not only her parents but for her traveling friends and their parents as well; this is comforting.
I am also comforted by how Arden is growing with my disability. She offers to read stuff for me and she fills out many of those wretched activity and sports forms that used to drive me insane. Good thing because it’s soccer season! Though I usually can’t tell where she is on the field, sometimes I snap a photo and get lucky. Someone on our team recently took a somersault spill reaching for the ball and I snapped a picture. “Was that Arden?” “Yes”, another parent replied.
Not only are the other parents helpful and understanding of my visual limitations, but it’s really heartening to see my daughter’s friends chime in. The other day, I was waiting outside the school for Arden. As kids were pouring out, I called a child the wrong name. They match in size and hair color, you know? Realizing I got it wrong when she gave me a funny look, I banged the palm of my hand against my forehead and exclaimed, “Why do I do that? I should just not say hi to anyone!” She smiled and Arden’s friend, who was standing nearby said empathetically, “It’s OK, it’s not your fault!!!” Ah, maybe I’m coaching them well.