Parent Perspective: Building Independence and Appreciating Connection

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Dancer Eliza after this year’s danceability performances!

I have been focused on helping my daughter, Eliza, build her independence. On some level, she has been demanding it for years! Meanwhile her connection to me strengthens as she sees my commitment to helping her achieve her goals. It is interesting and valuable to me to see how helping her to move towards independence makes us closer rather than creates a barrier between us.

An additional challenge to these efforts is that Eliza has been living in a group home for 5 years. She is now 17, so she has the typical teenage challenges that come with maturity. (The decision to have Eliza move from my home to a group home was difficult, to say the least. If you would like to learn more about that journey, I invite you to read an article I wrote about that decision.

Eliza wants to volunteer working with animals, and eventually be employed. (I think the employment goal is really about getting a cell phone!) We’ve struggled finding someone willing to give Eliza that opportunity to volunteer. But she knows I haven’t given up. She has questions about what might be possible for her life. We have been having very intense conversations. I want to encourage her dreams. And I also believe that some of what Eliza wants is not going to happen. (Driving a Mustang, as her sister hopes to do, is likely out of her reach.)

The world can sometimes seem chaotic and scary when thinking about her future. She needs opportunity, guidance, skill development, support, reinforcement, stability, and confidence. I’m here for her trying to be a good guide and advocate. But this is so much easier when I know that others are committed to her too.

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Mary Beth and dancer Eliza

Danceability is one such partner. Danceability is new to her. She has only participated for two years. Eliza loves music, but singing has always been more important to her than movement. So, I wasn’t sure how she would take to the experience.

Eliza is not that dancer that is all about the dance. But she is the dancer who embraces relationships with adults and children. She’s the dancer who glows when others reinforce their pride in her and her efforts. She is the dancer who enjoys being a part of something and having the opportunity to exhibit leadership.

Danceability provides all of that and more. This is one more way for Eliza to build towards independence, whatever that eventually looks like for her.

But, I’m still her Mom, and it’s nice to feel wanted and valuable. So, at her last show when she came on stage and stood frozen for several moments, I experienced such joy when she scanned the audience intently, actually found me and made eye contact, gave me her amazing smile, and then was able to dance with her friends, feeling secure in the “embrace” of her Mom.

 

This post was written by Mary Beth Debus. Mary Beth is Eliza’s Mom and a new Board Member for danceability.

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