I learned something about my daughter on Friday…and about myself as a parent…that I would just as soon not have known.
I was plowing through my to-do list, so I didn’t hang around during Occupational Therapy. Besides, I had promised Alex that we’d play some computer games, something we do as a once-a-week treat to start teaching him computer skills. So at the end of the hour, Kim delivered Julianna to me and reported on the day’s progress.
Julianna didn’t want to stand and walk, which I had specifically asked Kim to work on. First of all, you need to know that two years is the average walking age for kids with Down syndrome. This is why we started trying to conceive when we did; we figured this way she’d be walking before Baby came. The best-laid plans, and all that.
Well, at 2 years plus six weeks, Julianna is capable of walking, but she doesn’t want to. Every so often you’ll surprise her into taking 4 or 5 steps by herself, and she thinks it’s a hoot. But generally she wants to be carried, which these days makes me sick to my stomach. It’s just too much weight on the front of my body. And four days from now, that ship has sailed!
Anyway, that’s the background. So Friday, Kim set up two chairs with toys on them and made her walk back and forth to play. Julianna pulled out all the stops. First she whined. Then she cried—lower lip out, the whole works. Kim sat beside her and waited it out, refusing to acknowledge her, to snuggle or comfort her. About a minute later, Julianna stopped crying and looked up at her going, Wait a minute! That didn’t work! Then she decided to try charm—the smiles and giggles and the cocked head. Kim waited impassively. When Julianna had expended her whole arsenal, Kim got her up and they got back to work. There were no problems the rest of the hour.
Christian thought this story was tremendously funny. Well, OK, it is pretty funny. But it also illuminates something about us as parents. Someone recently said Julianna had both of us wrapped around her fingers. I thought it was just one of those things people say to be cute, but now I realize that she’s manipulating us!
We have always guarded against being manipulated by our children. With Alex, I think we’ve done pretty well. But parenting a child with delays makes things a lot more complicated. We endeavor to use the same discipline techniques, hold up the same expectations, even if we have to adjust the age at which we expect them. The question is, what age? In the back of my mind I’m always thinking, does she understand? Usually I default to: Even if she doesn’t get it now, there’s no other way for her to learn.
Lately, she’s been whining a lot. It’s maddening. Occasionally it’s occurred to me that she does it to get under our skin, but I hadn’t made the total connection until Kim’s Friday report. We’re having two-year-old power struggles, but without the confidence that her understanding is on par with her ability to manipulate!
So the question becomes: Now what?
Some jumbled thoughts:
- I need to spend more focused play time with Julianna, so that I’m better aware of relational imbalances.
- Right now, Alex actually gets more of my attention than Julianna—first because he has more of a routine, and second, because she gets so much adult attention already that I try to spend some of her therapy time focusing on him.
- This makes me realize that although I love both my children with equal passion, I understand Alex a lot more. No wonder he’s Mama’s boy, and no wonder Julianna is Daddy’s girl!
- I’m out of balance. I’ve got to stop bopping over to the computer to check stats or Facebook or email. Do it once or twice a day instead of every hour. My kids need me more, and really, what does it tell me, anyway?
- Why couldn’t I have thought of this farther ahead of Baby than four days?????