Letting Go Isn't As Easy As It Sounds

There is an elevator at the pediatrician's office. As soon as you walk in the door, you take the elevator to the second floor. Micah likes to push the buttons all by himself. In fact, if someone is holding a door for us, we'll decline (if we're not running late) so that Micah can push the button to call his own elevator. Once inside, of course, he is the Pusher Of The Buttons. I like to take the stairs as often as I can. Exercise is a good thing. But Micah likes elevators. So we compromise. Sometimes we do things his way, and sometimes we do things my way.

Until recently, that is. That one day, Micah ran ahead to the elevators and pushed the button as we were leaving. But instead of just standing there waiting for his personal transporter to arrive, he pointed to the door to the stairs across from the elevators. Clearly, he wanted me to take the stairs while he took the elevator. This is where living in a small town rocks, because about 9 times out of 10 we will be the only people around wanting to ride that elevator. I was skeptical of letting Micah ride it alone, but figured nobody else was around and he was going down, not up. He knows how to get to the ground floor but doesn't always know what floor we're riding up to. Going down was the way to let him gain independence if I was going to do this.

I did it. I took the stairs. I'll admit that I nearly ran down them to be sure that I got to the bottom before Micah did. And I did, long before he got there. Taking the elevator is the slow way, apparently. That boy was glowing with pride in his newfound independence that he took the elevator all by himself. The fact that I beat him to the ground floor didn't even faze him. He rode the elevator alone because he rocks.

Micah has ridden that elevator down all by himself a handful of times now. Clearly we spend way too much time at the pediatrician's office. He beams with pride just as much now as the first time he did it. I love giving that boy independence any chance I can. But the last time he rode it, I waited forever at the ground level for him. I waited, and waited, and speculated and waited some more. Did he go up instead of down? Is he trying to figure out how to get where he needs to be and panicking a little bit that he can't find me? Did he actually get downstairs before I did and is out in the parking lot, being unmindful of oncoming cars? Do I go upstairs and look for him? If I do, would I find him, or would he be in the elevator riding up and down and pressing buttons? Is he just joy riding up and down, because he can? At what point do I start panicking? Am I already panicked because I'm so unsure of.... there he is. THANK GOODNESS.

I never head down the steps until I see the elevator doors closing. And when the doors start to close, I turn and sprint down the stairs. But this time someone had caught the door somewhere in the split second between it starting to close and my turning around to hit the stairs and the actual closing of the door. Someone got on the elevator with my boy, and the two of them rode it down to the lower floor together. It wasn't a big deal, but as a parent I didn't like being surprised by that information. I'm not sure how I feel about Micah being alone in the big world, even if it is a tiny elevator going from Floor 2 to Floor 1, and I'm waiting at the bottom.

I tell myself that I'm being overprotective. I tell myself that the boy craves independence, and things riding elevators by himself is a great way to allow him to get that. I tell myself these things, but inside I'm still the mom of a boy who is always going to need me in ways that the other kids have already outgrown. Maybe it's just me holding onto my baby. Maybe I need to let go.

So much turmoil over an elevator ride.


At Walmart that same day Micah found a large stuffed Spiderman toy. To entertain himself, he carried it with him all over the store. As I browsed in the sewing aisle (i.e., took a lot of time just looking at All The Things), Micah was in the aisle next to me wrestling with Spidey. I heard him add sound effects like punches and groans. Occasionally I'd peek over to see what he was doing, and he and Spidey were on the floor rolling around together, or he'd toss Spidey onto the floor and jump on him. (Don't judge the fact that I let Micah on the floor at Walmart. Our Walmart is cleaner than 99.7% of other Walmarts out there, and keeping that boy entertained is a full time job. We are pretty much immune to dirt, too.) (Also, I KNOW. It's gross.)

Knowing that Micah was in the aisle next to me and therefore out of my sight, I was keenly aware of who was coming and going around me. The sales associate was stocking shelves on the other side of me, and occasionally walked past Micah's aisle to get more supplies. She was harmless. A few shoppers strolled by, and most of them stopped for a second to look at the boy wrestling a super hero nearly as big as he was. But they didn't stop long, or maybe just turned their heads as they kept walking.

I was looking at the ribbon when I saw the man stop. He was in the middle of the main aisle, not exactly near Micah, but he stood there watching. He watched a bit longer than I was comfortable with, so I positioned myself so that I could stare at him out of my peripheral vision without letting on that I was eyeballing him. He was just as enthralled in watching my son as my son was in getting the upper hand on a super hero. I'm not sure if the man was a bit concerned that the little boy's parents weren't nearby, or if he was just amused by the show, but he continued to stand and stare. My mom senses were tingling with the plot of confrontation if he took a step toward Micah, but I didn't move or let on that I saw him. Or even that I was Micah's mom. I was curious what he'd do, this strange man watching my son. How safe was my boy, really? After the elevator incident, I needed to know. There are so many awful people in the world, and so many more awesome people. Is the world safe for a kid with Down syndrome to be completely independent in?

My sister heard Micah and tracked me down. (Welcome to small towns, where Walmart is the only place to shop.) "I heard Micah and knew you had to be close. I wanted to ask you..." I took that opportunity to walk over to Micah's aisle and look down it. I watched the man in the main aisle. He recognized immediately that I was the mom of the lone boy, and turned and walked away. I will fully admit that I was relieved. And yet, was he just watching out for a boy that may have been lost? Or was he hoping that the boy's mom wasn't nearby?

Parenting this small child of mine is so much more difficult than parenting the other kids. Micah just doesn't get stranger danger. He has no clue about bad people. I can't explain those concepts to him. They are simply out of his realm of understanding. To Micah, everyone is just a person, and he gets to choose whether he wants you to be his friend or not. So how far does independence go with a kid like this?

There are never going to be easy answers for things like this, are there?

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