I try and keep up with all the latest "flavors" of social media that my daughter and her friends are using. I noticed recently they are using some anonymous question site and Gabbie offered to set one up for me, so I jumped at it. There is something about anonymity via the internet that can bring out the best and the worst in people, but thought it worth a shot. I received a question that there was no way I could answer in one sentence on that site, so thought I'd bring it here. And I thought I'd open up my link to all of you who may have questions for me but don't want to bring them public - if so, and please be gentle, go to http://ask.fm/melissaw01. I may answer there directly or I may compile them, if I get any at all, and answer them here openly.
The question came in yesterday and has had me thinking ever since. I don't know if you guys noticed yet but my brain rarely takes a break. I am constantly thinking, writing in my head, making lists, checking lists - the hamster never stops running on the wheel!! This anonymous person asked "Is it hard to be a special needs mom and have a fully functioning child?" Seriously great question. I think about this often but don't really have venue or opportunity to talk about it.
Comparing children is a slippery slope whatever their location on the "functionality chart". Doing anything where your intentions aren't crystal clear when you have a special needs child is dangerous territory. I, however, am pretty blunt and to the point. It takes alot to offend me, and I do mean alot, and I tend to speak my mind. Just a precursor to this article, and all my writing. If you are easily offended, I am not the person you should be reading!
So Gabbie and Will, Will and Gabbie. So alike and so different all at the same time. I titled this "Six of One, Half Dozen of Another" because that is really how it is. There are times raising Gabbie feels easier and times raising Will feels easier. To start, girls are more dramatic and Gabbie had a very different temperament from day one than Will. Gabbie was never a child who could entertain herself or be by herself for any stretch of time. Always had to be engaged, entertained, interacting. Will, on the other hand, was content with his toys, his shows, his exersaucer and being able to look around. I believe this difference is and was a combination of personality and, obviously, the syndrome.
Neither of my children are or were sleepers. Gabbie is becoming a sleeper as she nears her teen years (at least late morning sleeper after being up late on her iPod with friends) and Will is in a recent jag of sleeping more (although I probably just jinxed that!). In this respect they are both the same. I have heard parents say their children go to bed at 7:00 and sleep until 7:00. I still don't know that I believe them but I nod, smile and say "wow - what a GREAT sleeper!" When asked when my kids go to bed I mumble "somewhere around 7:00" - a.m. that is!
So far the toddler years aren't that far off. Gabbie had awful ear infections and ended up with her tonsils and adenoids out and tubes in at 4 years old. She has been healthy ever since. Will and his lungs are the bain of our existence right now. Everything this kid gets goes to his lungs. He is what the medical world calls "hypotonic, head to toe". In other words, he has low muscle tone in his entire body and that affects his body's ability to move gunk out of his lungs creating a "weak point" for attack when he gets sick. My kitchen cupboard and bedroom closet look like a pharmacy for upper respiratory issues. But they both gave me teething issues, ear infections, rotovirus, the joys of milestones (one on point, the other in his own time). I think the hardest part here was around the 6-12 month mark. I knew they were very different children but they were really polar opposite and it did bother me. Again, not something I discussed openly but it was a little voice in my head regularly. Gabbie was amazingly sharp and early in many skill developments. She walked at 8 months, ran at 9 months and was talking at 10 months. That is not a brag, I have video to prove it! By three her conversations were insane. Yes, she had that "baby cartoon figure" thing with her voice which made her sometimes hard to understand if you didn't know her, but she could hold her own in conversation with adults. Her agility when she became mobile was so neat to watch. She never really "toddled" - she walked with intent. She would walk across the room to a toy she wanted, stop, bend at the waist to pick it up and keep going. I'm 38 and it isn't always easy for me to do that. So at 10 months when I realized Will wasn't hitting milestones, the hardest for me was he wasn't even crawling. Gabbie was a holy running terror at this point. Will didn't crawl up on all fours until Christmas 2010.
So, to answer the question, it isn't hard to have one special needs child and one fully functioning. It *is*, however, hard to be a single mom to two kids, whatever their ability. It is hard to watch my daughter go through the same things I did and see she has the same hard head and has to learn for herself. It is hard to see my son revel in the simple things in life (his cats soft fur, for example) and know it will probably never be that simple for Gabbie. It is hard to see Gabbie take part in rec sports and know my sweet boy will probably not likely do that. (Note - I did not say never, but I'm a realist). It is hard to see her with her friends and know, again, it will all be very different for Will.
Having a child with special needs and a very fully functioning child makes you see the good points in every area of life, really. Will brings to the table things I never thought about as does Gabbie. There is a yin/yang balance with the two of them in my life. I never saw our family with Will in it, he was my great surprise, but I know now he was the missing piece of my puzzle and has completed my heart and my life. I can't remember life before him and can't imagine life without him, although I believe sleep and book reading were heavily involved! The same can be said for Gabbie. We are where we were meant to be, at least for now, seems none of us are too content with status quo for too long!