|Janey running down the driveway|
Last night, after a car ride with Daddy, I went outside and sat on the steps by the driveway to keep an eye on Janey as she played. After a few minutes, she came over to me and said "Want to snuggle on Mama's bed?" I took that to mean what it usually does---that she wanted to go in and have us both get on her bed for a snuggle (the bed is Janey's, but it seems to be named "Mama's Bed") I started in and waited for her to follow, but she didn't. I said "Come on in, Janey" and she then said what set me back "Want to go away?"
Janey says "Want to go away?" a lot now, but until now, always inside. She often wants me to go in the next room, to get out of her sight a bit. I try to do just that, whenever I can. She has a right to time to herself. Of course, I'm always keeping my ears open, and every few minutes, taking a peek to make sure she's okay. She almost always is, or if she's doing anything that I need to stop, it's things like fixing herself a bowl of salad dressing like one would have soup, or trying to re-arrange the cats when they don't want to be re-arranged.
Up until yesterday, though, Janey had never asked me to leave her alone outside. And, of course, I can't. I can't leave her alone outside, ever.
I tripped over my words in answering her. I wasn't expecting the request. I said something along the lines of "Mama has to stay out here with you. You're not big enough to be outside by yourself. I need to be here to take care of you".
Of course, Janey is old enough that if she were typically developing, she could certainly be outside by herself. She's 13. When I was 13, almost every day after school I walked through a little woods across from our house and spent hours at the shore, exploring the rocky banks of the St. George River in Maine. I love being alone. I always have. I crave that time alone. I'm not sure if Janey notices, but if she does, she's probably seen plenty of girls her age without parents, walking down the sidewalk or in stores or the like. But she can't be those girls.
We live on a very busy street, one almost like a highway. Janey has never run into the street, but I live in fear of it. There is also lots of foot traffic on the sidewalk, people I don't know and obviously can't leave a mostly non-verbal child with no understanding of the dangers people can pose alone outside. If none of those were a danger, there is the fact Janey sometimes eats non-food items, that she might decide to push aside a stray cat or dog, that she just simply doesn't have the skills or knowledge to take care of herself alone.
Janey gave me a long, hard look after I said no. She didn't cry, or repeat her request. She just looked at me. I was almost crying. I couldn't say something like "not right now" or "when you're older". The truth is---it's very unlikely, pretty much completely unlikely, that Janey will ever, ever be able to be on her own in public.
After a few minutes, Janey headed to the door and we went in. She seemed to be over my "no". But I thought about it for hours. I can't imagine a life where I would always have to be watched, supervised, taken care of. Maybe Janey doesn't feel that way. I don't really know. I guess I hope, I hoped, she didn't. It's easier to hope that, to hope she doesn't see how her life is limited. As she gets older, as she gets to ages I can so vividly remember being, as I look at her and see a beautiful teenager, sometimes my heart breaks for what her life can't be.