In a previous post I made a comment about how there has been this sort of "evolution" in our lives, in our home. I guess that really is the best word I can use to describe this change. I like it because the world is always evolving and as we are a part of it, we are not exempt to this evolution. And in our home, from what I have been able understand, this evolution has been a shift in parenting style. Sounds drastic and probably dramatic but I assure you it is not.
I have been thinking a lot about why our attitudes and demeanour seem different - the girls as well as myself. Sometimes you can't get the best perspective when you are on the inside, so it's taken me a while to really hone in on what has been happening. Why all the change? I also want to point out that the change is good, great, even. The girls are content, they seem zen almost. I am content. I feel like a good mother even on most days.
To the best of my ability, after a great deal of thought, I have come to the realization that,
I am Hazel's mother. THAT'S ALL.
I had a baby with special needs and I had to figure out what being a mother was going to look like for us. Never having done the "mother" thing before and never having done the "special needs" thing before, you can imagine we were sort of making it up as we went along. I felt I had to be a mom, a nurse, any one of three therapists, a teacher etc. If Hazel didn't get her OT and PT at least 4 times a week I was in a panic about how she needed MORE. She was never going to learn, never going to reach her full potential.
So pre-Nola (it's like a scientifically charted time period - Pre-Mesozoic, B.C. and Pre-Nola) I had a certain parenting philosophy and style. Hazel was it. The one and only tiny human who I devoted my entire heart and soul to. She happened to have Down Syndrome which as you all know, kinda made me change my entire perspective on life, let alone parenting. So she got all of me (John Legend style), every ounce. I made sure she got all her therapies in almost every single day. I made sure she ate a balanced diet (cause those were the good old days she ate whatever I gave her). I made sure I gave her my full undivided attention just being a mommy. I took her to all her therapy appointments religiously. Anyway, you get the point.
Then I had Nola.
Hazel had to share me with another and only got 50% of what she was getting before. BUT really needing 150% of me because of all the additional help she needed with everything (or so my mommy guilt was screaming at me). It became that Hazel was lucky to get any of her 3 therapies at home. We sort of cut back on therapy appointments. She became a picky eater and I had no energy to fight it. Again, you get my point. I was feeling extremely guilty that Hazel wasn't getting all the attention and special care that I felt she needed anymore. I was feeling like a horrible mother. I was feeling like Hazel was suffering, like she would never progress, like she wan't getting the support she needed to become her best self and reach her full potential. Time was passing and nothing was changing.
Or so I thought...
All of a sudden Hazel had a huge developmental burst. She seemed to just be a bigger girl all of a sudden, like she matured in a way. She started communicating more. It was a miracle. How could this have happened? I'll tell you how...
I started treating her like I would treat any other child.
I know right?!!! Brilliant.
Except for I didn't know how I would treat any other child UNTIL I HAD ANOTHER CHILD. Enter Nola. Nola who is a typically developing child. Why is that important? Well because it is. I had no idea what kind of a mother I would be to a typical child, I only ever knew parenting a child with special needs. For nearly 2 years all I knew was that I had a child that I had to treat a certain way, act a certain way, feed a certain way, mother a certain way. It was my job to make sure that Hazel's needs were being met. I don't believe I was ever really able to separate and see Hazel as a child first and Down syndrome just being a part of her. I never even realized I was doing it. It was all I knew.
Nola helped me to see that parenting all by itself is enough for Hazel. It's enough for both of them. So...being Hazel's mother and "THAT'S ALL" is enough.
She doesn't need a live in therapist. She needs a mother that spends time with her. That plays with her. She doesn't need to be forced into doing activities that she has zero interest in while she is so young. She needs a sister to play with, talk to and interact with. She doesn't need to get on her tricycle because she needs to strengthen her quads (even though she kinda does). She needs to ride a tricycle cause that's what kids do in the summer time - THEY RIDE BIKES!!!
Hazel is a child. A child with Down syndrome and yes some things have to be different for her because of that. What doesn't have to be different is her mother. I do not have to focus on the DS, I have to focus on her. What she needs because she's a child. I can let her actual therapists focus on the specifics. We can work as a team.
What I have come to realize after being on this path with Hazel for almost 4 years now, is that it is just that. A path with twists and turns (I am almost positive I've used this analogy before). It's a path with forks in the road and little hills to climb up. One minute you are sure of your course and the next you've walked right into a dead end and the only way onward is to turn around and revisit the path you just walked. I think I see that now more clearly than I have seen it before. The difference now is, I don't think that I ever accepted MY OWN ABILITY to get lost on the path. I am walking in unmapped territory and I feel that my sense of direction has been skewed. Skewed by society, the environment, the newness of being a mom. I mean, I'm only 3.5 years into this Mommy thing. That's nothing. I think there's a certain confidence and knowledge that comes from being a tenured mama. You mamas just seem to know that things work themselves out. I feel I am making progress but still, I have a lot left to learn.
Moving forward, I am going to try this brand new concept that's never been thought of before by any mother ever...
I'm going to spend time playing with my kids. That's all.
If I can manage to be present, available and somewhat engaging to both of my children, I think they will both turn out just fine. Teaching fine motor, manners, and building confidence as I go is hopefully going to be a side effect of just spending time with my kids. Some days it's definitely harder than others, with all the yelling and throwing things, but I try. Maybe I try for 5 minutes and maybe I try all day but it's something. I will never be a expert therapist or nurse but I can be an expert in my kids. I think I finally trust that that is enough.