It happened slowly, it seemed. One day last year I was thinking, “I’m going to go crazy playing another game of school,” which was in essence, recreating Michael’s school day with his stuffed animals and figurines, including all the ups and downs, misbehavior of kids etc. And, due to the fact that he likes repetitive activities, it was played the same way every day for months. This game, and many others stopped in the summer time, with the introduction of summer camp and other activities that kept Michael busy, such as mother’s helpers who would play with him to give me a break. Then the fall came, and boom, interest in playing with me pretty much disappeared. There are the odd times we’ll sit down to a board game, but usually that is with Dad. The other day when I asked him to play a game with me, as he seemed all over the place and hyper, he stopped jumping, looked at me and responded, “I don’t want to play with you anymore Mommy. I want to play with my friends.” Yeah and ouch at the same time. I was so proud that he had reached this milestone, but felt a little hurt too, as the child who had depended on me for almost eight years, was now ready to move away. I also felt rejected.
This made me think of how important having your independence is from your parents and family. Every child goes through this phase, and it is normal to detach. We can’t become healthy adults without it. I thought back to when I started preferring the company of my peers to my mother and brother, and how that helped in my development. Today too as an adult woman, I realize how important it is that I am learning about who I am, who I really am. Last spring when I was talking to a friend and mentioning my healing from the burnout episode I had, my meditation and yoga practice, and a new fiction character and story, she looked at me and asked “Wow, Joanne. Who are you?” She was impressed with the work I was doing to figure things out, to heal, to grow. I looked at her and said. “I’m in the process of figuring that out.” Because though I have always known I was a writer, a dreamer, and a little on the quirky side, the other things that I have learned have happened away from my comfort zone of familiar people and things, just as Michael is doing now.
Don’t be afraid to encourage your Exceptional Children to explore and move away from you. It’s a scary first step, and may hurt a little at first for you, but it’s necessary for theirs and your survival. Growing up for all of us means leaving the comforts of the familiar behind, and trying on different hats as we find out who we really are. It’s all part of the journey of life. Until next time.