Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Would You Have Done?

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.


My Little Wonders said...

Though I have no answer for your question, I want to thank you for putting it out there for those of us new on this journey. Katie is on a specialized diet (like the rest of us here). I imagine she'll live with us or one of the boys all her life, but I can imagine sometime in there, a similar issue will arise (I want to eat what my friends are eating, for instance).

Nan said...

Just what you would have done! And then, on another day, maybe something different. THIS part (the part you describe) is just THE hardest part of it all and Dan and I spend countless weekends debating, discussing, changing our minds. Where is the line? Which line? When? Would you let her cross the street if a car was coming? Give her money to a stranger? Not bathe for a week? Spend all her money on a guitar? Leave the house without eating breakfast? Some yes, some no. Some yes one day, and on others ... actually, we are working out way through it for jess ...but it is taking a long time. We have a growing list on the white board in the family room, a kind of brainstorming thing. WHICH helps/tools/reminders/interventions help her be more independent, which are just plain nagging, which are things that might be typical for a same-age (sort of) peer ... etc... Okay. I'm rambling. I think I will post about this on the weekend. I just drove in from Montreal, having gone down with Jess for lunch today ... But GOOD POST. Good points. I'm a gonna think on them and get back to you ...

Caz said...

I think you're constantly acting in Beth's best interest Cindy, and as Nan says, that means different decisions from day to day. Today it means giving the information that supports Beth to make her own decision, tomorrow with the same scenario it may mean more intervention, or less. It feels like a huge question, disguised in the everyday stuff of life. Hard to find balance, I imagine.

ckbrylliant said...

I think you keep allowing her to make decisions but keep reinforcing the WHY behind not eating the cookie. by talking about nutrition and the impact of poor nutrition and sedentary choices. IF you are going to eat the cookie THEN you need to make healthy choices tomorrow. I think this question is much broader than this one cookie. Yes, you will constantly have to keep TEACHING Beth and educating her to the point she makes good choices. So hard and we have only just begun, but at age 3 Bridgie stands at the freezer and screams for popsicles and well alot of times I cave and she has a popsicle for breakfast....:(

Becca said...

Oh, excellent post!! Hmmmmm... I'm glad Nan piped in on this. I'll be interested in what she comes up with. I have no clue here, but see shades of the issue now with Samantha (me: "Samantha, please *don't* do ...whatever..." Samantha: "But I HAVE to!"). She's compulsive, even when she knows full well that what she's doing is wrong.

My name is Sarah said...

We have handled the snack issue by allowing Sarah to have the two snacks she likes in the house and teaching her appropriate ratios - chocolate chip cookies = two per day and gold fish = 1/4 cup for which she has her own measuring cup. That way I am not always the bad guy.

On others things it is not very clear. Day to day, by the seat of my pants, decision making.

Unknown said...

Not sure this will help but...We keep a chart of the fridge and Alex is responsible for filling it in each day with what she ate and the number of calories. She does have the incentive that she has to be in shape for Special Olympics. As far as other bad is a day to day thing. I try to figure out why this bad choice happened..i.e fight with her brother, boredom etc,, and attack it from that perspective...and is Alex wants to go to her room and slam the door and listen to music really loudly because we busted her...that is fine with me. Bottom line I guess - if we give her an inch she will take a mile - because just like her siblings they are manipulative little you know whats...haha - good luck!