Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this raising independent children series will be a five-part series, because, yep, I have five kids – five very unique, one-of-a-kind kids. You can read parts one (Derek), two (Kyle) and three (Kira) for more perspective. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the first three it’s that each child has their own pace of maturing, their own needs, and their own specific areas of support that make raising independent children a different adventure each time.

Parker is my first baby, which means he was the victim of all my new-mom neuroses. I’ll never know if he is more rigid about his schedule because I was or because it’s just his personality. What I do know is that even as a small child, he always needed to do it his own way, learn it his own way, and discover it for himself. So what’s a parent to do? Do we force him to fit a mold and say “We know best. Do it this way”? Or do we let him discover his own path?

Let Them Find Their Way

Parker is only 18, so really, we’re not quite done with the baking process yet. He’s out of high school, has realized college isn’t the right place, is working and living at home while studying online. He’s not sure what his career path will be or where he’ll be in two years. He knows more about what he doesn’t want than about what he does want. Right now, we just want him to take this time to explore and discover. Being pushed into a career or college path when you’re not ready is a waste of time and money.

Independence Takes Many Forms

Parker, in many ways, is more independent than any of our children. He does his own laundry, knows how to cook a few things and can follow a recipe, manages his own finances, and contributes to our household. He’s incredibly patient with children and is a great uncle to his niece and nephew. He knows his own mind and has clear ideas about how things should be – in his world and in the world at large.

By all measures, he is a fiercely independent and capable person. But he also has medical challenges (seizures, blindness in one eye, etc.) that make it impossible for him to drive – which means in our rural area with no public transportation, he’s also wholly reliant on others to get around. It can be very frustrating for him, and ultimately, he will choose a large city with reliable public transportation to make his home so that he can achieve a higher level of independence.

Let Them Become

Throughout Parker’s life, we have let him be the guide. He was passionate about music, so we fed the passion. That meant drums – first bongos, then a real drum kit. Eventually it was a keyboard and a guitar. And putting out his own album. He’s written hundreds of songs. As he became interested in filmmaking, we supported that, even buying him a video camera so that he could make his own short films. We don’t try to cram our kids into pre-defined boxes, nor do we expect them to just do what everyone else does. We are truly raising individuals, and that means letting them experiment and experience and decide for themselves what makes them happy and what passions they want to pursue and then supporting them.

Each of our children is unique, but the one common theme in raising independent children is that we let them be who they are. It’s amazing what happens when you do.