Did we squash my son’s light to save my daughter’s?
As most of you know, I’m SLPMommyofApraxia – referring to the fact that I’m an SLP and mom to a child with apraxia. I’m also a mom to a typical developing, smart, energetic, and curious 3 year old, little J.
I have my own private blog for J, because somewhere along the way I decided I like to document my kids’ lives through my own written words. No one can tell their story like me, and I hope one day they will enjoy reading their story through their mother’s eyes.
However, today I’m writing about J here because my husband and I realized something the other day. In the midst of our worry about A and our exhaustive daily struggles to help her master the simplest of daily living tasks, J was meeting and surpassing them daily. Of course we were proud, but we had some unspoken, never said aloud agreement, that we wouldn’t praise J too loudly so as not to hurt our daughter who has literally worked years to not yet master some things J can now do.
However, in the process, I started to notice J seemed to be acting out so much more. Yes, he is two and just turned three, but it seemed so much more than the typical terrible twos and horrible threes.
One night our kids were getting ready for bed. A was struggling to put her clothes on, and J whizzed through quickly and had his jammy tops and bottoms on in no time. My husband then instructed him to put on his socks and he protested. As I watched this, I realized on the rare occasion A can completely dress herself without help, we praise her to high heaven. Here my son did it, and we were barking at him to now get his socks on. He threw a tantrum, he got in trouble, the night ended on a bad note.
The next night found us again in the same scenario. A was putting her pull-up on backwards (yes she is still in a night pull-up because her global apraxia issues along with SPD make it impossible for her to even know she wet herself at night), missing the wrong leg hole, etc etc…..and J had whipped on his clothes. He was again instructed to put on his socks. He did unlike the previous night without protest, and instead of praise, he was met with…now get in and brush your teeth…tantrum ensued.
And that’s when it hit me. My poor little dude needs praise. If he were our first child, we would be singing his achievements for all to hear! We would be so proud and be telling everyone who would listen. We would probably be posting facebook updates on our prodigy and the newest thing he learned.
But we weren’t. So scared to discourage A, we remained silent….and me…knowing the pain other moms of special needs kids feel when someone posts about their typical developing child doing typical or extraordinary things, I remained silent, only keeping a private blog so that he knew one day just how proud I really am of him.
What is one to do? I talked to my husband and told him he never praises J. He admitted all the same things I felt. I expect more of him. I know he can do it. I don’t have to worry about him.
I said again he never praises J, and in that moment we both were solemn. He said he didn’t want to hurt A. In the process though, were we hurting our son? Every child wants their parent to feel proud of them. The cards our daughtger were dealt aren’t fair, but does that mean our son has to suffer too?
He is made to tag along waiting in the waiting room while A goes to school, to speech, to O/T, and private swim lessons. As a baby I was just trying to keep him busy, but as he has grown into a toddler he has began protesting that he too wanted to go: to school, to speech, to O/T, to private swim. The day we told him he could go to private swim if he pooped in the potty, he pooped and kept saying over and over “I pooped in the potty! Now I can go to swimming with Josh! (the swim teacher’s name).” When he went, he was miserable and cold, but he never complained. He tried his best, he looked for…..praise.
I decided to start a sticker chart for both of them. Anytime they did something that made me proud, they earned a sticker. When it was filled up, they got a prize of their choice. I already see a change in Jace. His face lights up when he hears he has made us proud. He kisses me more. I used to say he was my snuggle bear, and I have my snuggle bear back. He’s such a little lovey…and you know what? A is not crushed. We should have known. That girl is incredible. She cheers for him too and tells him good job. Tonight, they declared at the dinner table together,
“We love each other.”
And we do. We have so much love here, and I don’t want to hide any of it anymore because it might hurt someone’s feelings. We all have different strengths and talents, and if we don’t have a strength or talent someone else possesses, we shouldn’t be jealous. In turn, if we have a talent or strength someone else doesn’t have, we should be allowed to proud, because that is what makes us all unique.
We should be cheering each other on and praising each other’s successes, making sure we let them know just how proud we are of them and of each other….. just like A does, despite all her challenges. I have so much to learn from her.