Saturday, May 19, 2012


"Mama, can you tell the therapist about me today?" Calvin asked me on our way to physical therapy one morning. I might have shed tears over this little cry for attention, but we were running late and my thoughts were hurried. I don't remember how I answered him; most likely it was in the affirmative. During therapy sessions Calvin is usually kept occupied by a rousing game of Angry Birds. Despite this I know that my quiet, intuitive little boy is still aware of all that goes on around him. And while he mostly keeps it to himself, I know that sometimes he feels left out.

Siblings of children with special needs deal with a different type of rivalry: a competition for even the most basic forms of attention. The child with special needs requires more or everything: more time, more effort, more financial resources, more discussion, more concern. It is no wonder that the other sibling(s) can often feel left out.

I have a couple of ways of combating this, although I am far from perfect and I feel like I fail at it nine times out of ten. First, we're trying to be much more intentional about giving Calvin one-on-one time. We notice a huge boost in his mood when he gets this time with either of us. There is simply no substitute for this kind of quality time with his mom or dad. 

Second, I try to foster a relationship between Calvin and Juliana as best as I can. This is actually difficult as Juliana pays a lot of attention to me, to David, and to the dog, but not a lot of attention to her brother. Calvin is always affectionate and kind to Juliana and I could probably count on one hand the number of negative interactions that the two of them have had. However, they don't interact nearly as often as I would like since he's not getting a ton of feedback from her. (I would appreciate prayers for this. I am hoping that the sensory work we are doing will also give this a boost). I also try to include him in her therapy to the extent that he is interested. There are some exercises that he enjoys doing himself (bouncing on exercise ball, pulling up with a dowel). There are also some exercises that he enjoys participating in as a 'teacher' (rolling balls or cars up and down the crawling track is always fun).

Third, I try to meet his needs as best as I am able. If I run an errand with only Calvin in tow, he will ask me to carry him throughout the store. I do it. This is a request that he never makes if we're with Juliana. He asks me to take naps with him. I do this too. (Admittedly I love doing this...) When he wants to spend some time showing me how he plays Angry Birds, I oblige. I don't load any of Juliana's needs onto him. I have been careful to never say "not right now Calvin, because I am doing such-and-such with Juliana." I don't want to set up any sort of additional competition for my time. I also try to be sure to talk about him in a positive light just as I do Juliana. For instance if I tell David a story about a new thing that Juliana just learned, I try to also tell a story about what Calvin did that day. Calvin craves this kind of attention.

I've only been at this a year so I'm still learning. I think that for the most part I am not parenting in a very special fashion; the main difference is that I need to be far more intentional about it than what would be required in typical circumstances. Calvin really bottles up his feelings (I have no idea where he got that from...) and I really have to pay attention to him to see how he is doing. I know that things have gone too far when he is quieter than usual and is only looking at the floor.

Calvin was born kind and empathetic. It is truly his personality (though he certainly still has his moments). I have a very distinct memory of holding Juliana in the NICU shortly after the doctor had ordered an ultrasound on her head. She wasn't eating and one possibility was that she had suffered brain damage. I couldn't process all of the implications, so instead I just rocked her and prayed for her. I told her that if she was brain-injured, that was ok. I thought of Calvin waiting for us at home, and what would life be like with these two children? I told Juliana that I had the best big brother waiting for her and we would take her home and love her regardless. There have been many times between then and now that I have been so thankful for Calvin and his wonderful personality that is so suited for this situation.

I do believe that ultimately Calvin and Juliana will both experience huge benefits from their relationship. I hope and pray that they will both teach and encourage one another. 

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE THOSE BABIES!! And my sister OF COURSE