The big one? That she doesn't always want me around. That shocked me when it happened. For so many years, it wasn't just that I had to be near Janey for safety, but that she wanted me near her. I couldn't really picture her wanting it otherwise. It wasn't that she was particularly clingy, but just that she didn't seem to have a concept of me as someone separate from her. I helped her do what she wanted to do. I was just sort of part of the scenery. But now...
This week is school vacation here. Yesterday, we didn't have much to do. We went to the store in the morning, we did a little time outside as it was nice out, but mainly, Janey wanted to watch videos. And she wanted to watch them without me in the room. The phrase I heard the most often yesterday was "Want to go away?" Slight variations at times---"Want to go in that room?" or the non-verbal push out of the room. I got the message. She didn't want me there cramping her style.
It's hard for Janey, I am sure, as she isn't usually quite able to put on the shows she wants herself. I've tried very hard to teach her to use the Amazon Fire TV remote. That is where most of her shows are, in their interface, which is a fairly complex mix of various streaming services and also shows we have purchased for her to watch on demand. I think Janey could learn it, though. She uses the iPad with such ease it's amazing. She knows how to move around programs and minimize them and start thing with gestures that I don't know at all. But we aren't quite there yet with the TV. So Janey needs to ask me constantly to put on the shows she wants. We use an improvised sign language to pick episodes---I scroll and she points in the direction she wants me to scroll, and then points to herself when the episode she wants comes up. There are pictures with episodes, but I do think there's a little reading going on too. So even though Janey wants to be alone, she needs to come get me often to put shows on, as she likes to change shows constantly.
Yesterday she tried hard to be independent by watching VHS tapes. She knows how to put those in and take them out, and she is remarkable at finding the one she wants from the huge box we have. We've long ago lost all the covers, but she can tell which is which, from symbols or fonts or sometimes, it has to be, just plain reading. However, she has not grasped rewinding. She hates rewinding. Most of the tapes are at the ends, because it's only if she REALLY wants a show she will tolerate me rewinding the tape. Usually, after about 10 seconds, she stops me and hopes somehow the rewinding has happened extra fast. But even with those challenges, I could see how happy she was puttering around finding tapes and putting them in.
Of course, even when Janey tells me to go away, I can't go far. She needs me often to come back, and she really can't be left alone. I go into the next room, and keep a sharp ear open. I jump up if I sense there's anything I need to see---food being strewn around, a need for toileting help, anything like that. But I'm out of direct sight, and that makes Janey very happy.
In some ways, it would be easier if Janey was not developing the typical teenage need for parents to not always be in her face. The problem is that I can't see a future where she can have much independence except as we do it now---in the next room. There are little, little things we can do. We hold her hand less now---she is not a runner and she stays close to us, so that's possible. In stores, we keep her in close sight but do sometimes let her walk away from us down an aisle to get what she wants---something she loves to do. As long as we can see her, it's okay. And she goes to school, of course---and she is horrified if I mention something her teacher told me happened at school. She likes it to be her own world.
How do I respect Janey's need to grow up, to be her own person? How does that work when it's just not ever going to be safe for her to really spread her wings? I hope we can find a way to sometimes do what she so firmly asks us for---"Want to go away?"