The words leaped off the page, preventing me from skimming through the last few pages of the magazine I was supposed to be going through so we could get rid of it: FIRING THE BUTLER AND THE MAID, it said.
I tore through the article, and phrase after phrase made me wince:
…choosing clothing and dressing their children…doing the laundry and putting clothes away…grabbing coats and jackets for every outing and taking them to the car…pouring, stirring, cutting, opening and even getting all food items from the refrigerator or cupboards to save time…ignore when their child leaves personal items on the floor, takes off shoes and leaves them in the middle of the living room or empties out toy boxes and book shelves…
All I could think was, BUSTED.
I don’t know that Karen Kaplan was writing about me: a mother of a five-year-old with Down syndrome. But I do know that what we require of Julianna is considerably less than what we ask even of Nicholas, because she’s less cooperative. And I know also that with the younger siblings, it is ten times easier (although quite resentment-building) to do it all myself, because if I try to have them help, it takes longer and cause more messes. You practically have to bully Miss Julianna to do a job, and if you’re not on site, i.e. breathing down her neck, she’ll just quit and read a book or something. Frankly, Nicholas is also at that stage. And with a baby who needs to nurse and/or be spoon fed (which takes even longer than nursing), it would not be hard for my entire day to consist of chore supervision.
And yet I know they’ve got to learn. And I know Julianna is past mistress of manipulation. In other words, she’s capable of doing more, if I will only take the time, and put in the effort, to make her do it.
I’d rather put this job off until I can focus on her and her alone–in other words, after Nicholas reaches the independence Alex has already achieved. Only trouble is, by then it’ll be Michael’s turn to learn. Teaching her is not going to get any easier. I realize I really have no choice but to grit my teeth and dig in.
Not the most glorious motherhood moment I’ve ever been privileged to write.