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Watching My Kids Gain Independence

Rebecca Toal by Rebecca Toal Additional Needs

Rebecca Toal

Rebecca Toal

Blessed, busy mum to four beautiful girls, the youngest with complex special needs due to extreme prematurity. We are always looking for ways to ma...

My eldest of four daughters embarked on her secondary school journey a couple of weeks ago.

Much trepidation, anxious questions, queezy morning-tummies, new uniform woes, public transport logistics – some of you can totally relate!

I don’t know who was getting more worked up- her or me!

I tried to play it as cool and calm as possible, sharing with her encouraging tales of my own secondary experiences and joys.

But the truth was, she needed to just get out, get to her new school, and find some things out for herself.

I felt like I was suddenly letting slack on the string of the kite I’d been holding so closely.

But it has been good for her, and for me too. My 11 year old is growing up. She is entering a new phase of life and I need to nurture her where she is at.

Yes, independence leads to more risk, more uncertainty. But it is a necessary part of growing into an independent adult.

My youngest, now five, on the other hand, may never be fully independent. And that is ok. I’ll be here for her.

But I must celebrate every step she takes towards independence.

Sometimes her unique path towards independence is downright nerve-wrecking!

She has cerebral palsy and is not walking or able to stand independently for more than a few seconds.

But she is great at cruising the table, the kitchen counters, and more recently, she can pull up at a doorway and open the door!

It is hard to watch her struggle to balance on the handle, push it down, and try to pull backwards without falling over.

But we understand the need to let her try, gaining strength and co-ordination.

Anxious as we are that she is going to fall flat on her face.

We maintain a close distance to save if needed, but give her space to try.

Playing at the playground is another example of her trying to do everything.

Sometimes she even pushes us or our hands away, although without them she will fall right over.

She wants to climb, swing, slide, bounce, and DO everything!

I constantly feel that balance between protection and independence with her.

I want my children to feel enabled to grow in independence, knowing that we will always be here for them and love them unconditionally.


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