I try to treat Beth the same way I treat my other daughters. But let's face it, Beth isn't like my other daughters. Here's what happened:
We came home from church last night and I made hot tea for everyone. I took Beth's downstairs and saw a large cookie that she had bought at the coffee stand. I checked the nutrition label and it was packed with calories and sugar. I told her that she shouldn't eat it, that it was very unhealthy but that she was an adult. She was smart enough to make her own choice about it and that I wasn't going to tell her what to do. I put the cookie down and went back upstairs.
Our middle daughter is married with a daughter of her own. I certainly don't tell her what she can and can't eat. Our youngest will be 22 next month and I don't tell her what she can and can't eat. But Beth isn't like my other daughters.
Beth has Down Syndrome and it can impair her judgement. It can cause confusion about right and wrong. The 'I want it' urge is sometimes much stronger than the 'what is healthier for me'. The 'I'm an adult and can do what I want' sometimes beats out the, 'I need to make better choices for my life'.
But my other daughters make poor decisions. As much as I want to tell them, "DON'T DO IT!!" I have to allow them to learn from their choices, good or bad. As all moms know, we sometimes bite our tongues, we look the other way. We have to, in order for our kids to grow up to be independent and contributing members of society.
But Beth isn't like my other daughters. That little extra sometimes keeps her from seeing the consequences of her actions. So do I keep 'teaching, instructing, deciding for Beth? Is that what I signed up for when we brought her home from the hospital? Do we, for the rest of her life, tell her what to eat, what not to eat, what to wear, what not to wear, what to do, what not to do?
But Beth is 28. When do I let her make poor choices? What do I do when she doesn't understand the consequences of those choices?
You'd think that after all these years I'd have it all figured out. But I don't.
After the cookie situation last night, I crawled into bed and wondered if I had done the right thing. Should I have just taken it away? Should I have just said, "No you're not eating this?" She's 28! If my other daughters eat things that aren't healthy, I don't say anything. If they do something that might risk their health, I don't say anything.
But Beth isn't like my other daughters.