Learning to Achieve Independence

One college student takes baby steps away from her parents' safety net and strives toward more adult freedom.


Filed Under: ADHD and College
disorganized ADHD teen is trying to learn independence

My parents are my scaffolding and safety net, preventing me from falling, or cushioning the blow when I do.

Christine Brady, college student

I woke up this morning to the sound of a ringing telephone. It was my father. "Make sure you write that ADDitude article today," he said. "You know, the one about becoming more independent." I assured him that I hadn't forgotten, then hung up. Of course, I had forgotten. As usual.

I trudged into the bathroom and opened my seven-day pill organizer, which my mom has been arranging for me since I was in grade school. I took the medication from today's slot and made a mental note to ask her to assemble another week's worth of pills. In the kitchen, I glanced at the to-do list that my mom typed up for me to post on my fridge, as always. I noticed that I have a doctor's appointment next week. It goes without saying that I would forget anything not on the list.

The phone rang again. It was my dad. This time, he was calling to say he was bringing the groceries I asked him to pick up for me. I wondered if he had remembered the Easy Mac. He forgot it last week, and, you know, college is hard enough without running out of Easy Mac. When my dad arrived, I put away the groceries and asked him for some money. Sure, he gave me money Wednesday, but it was gone by Thursday, and I ended up borrowing from a friend. It's hard to budget, you know.

After my dad left, I sat down in front of the computer and tried to think of something to say about independence. By now, you might have ascertained that I'm not much of an authority on the subject. For as long as I can remember, my parents have been my scaffolding and safety net, preventing me from falling, or cushioning the blow when I do.

They help me meet my responsibilities (like writing this article) and avoid disaster (like forgetting to take my meds or running out of Easy Mac). With their help, I graduated from a rigorous Catholic girls' high school and won a scholarship to college, where I am doing reasonably well (again, thanks to their help).

My parents schedule my doctor appointments. They remind me about people I need to call, and tell me when to call them. They even deliver cash and groceries right to my dorm room. If I depended on my parents to tell me when to breathe, I'd be in real trouble - they might slip up one day, and I'd be on the floor like a guppy, gasping for air.

Obviously, this state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. My parents are getting older, their aging surely accelerated by the burdens that come with having me for a daughter. Someday, I know, they'll have to cut off their support. I am excited about this, but I'm also worried that I - and my parents - won't get around to this independence thing till I'm about, say, 40 years old.

I know I need to strike out on my own. Maybe I should inquire again about that job at the college library, the one I turned down because they needed me at 7 a.m. (Okay, Christine, you can stop shuddering now.) Maybe I need to crew a boat, climb a mountain, or jump out of a plane and ride the air currents before deploying the parachute. Maybe I need to travel, see the world a bit before taking my place in so-called "normal" society. Or maybe I should just accept that I am as God made me, and resolve to reach for a little more freedom and power each year until I arrive as master of my destiny.

Something tells me I better get started on this independence thing. I wonder if my dad has any ideas. He always seems to know exactly what to do in situations like this...

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