And no, that was not a good thing….
Kristina, our second born was healthy, smart, helpful, and compliant. She was often there to help our son Joey (3 years older than her) when he needed his shoes tied, face washed, or teeth brushed. The problem was – she was somewhere around the 5-7 year age range.
Joey’s special needs made it such that he needed a lot of help for us just to “get out the door” and often, she was very willing to help. But one particular day, I had asked her to do a number of things, right in a row, and not with much chance to comprehend it all. That was when she said, “Mom, I feel like CINDERELLA. Not the pretty one, but the one who had to do all the work.” Ouch.
That comment was the “reality mirror” for me. I became keenly aware of the fact that she needed to be a kid. I never expected her to “take over” my job of caring for Joey, but I was happy for her help, and at that moment I could see I was asking too much.
I immediately made some changes – perhaps they will be helpful for you with your children, and also with your extended family, friends, and others in your life:
- Don’t bark orders and expect others to jump.
- Each child needs attention – one on one as often as you can. Invest in each child.
- Allow your children to “understand” that you must take time (and often more time) with the child with special needs, but find things they like to do and purpose to do it with them.
- Have family meetings. Talk about the “work load” and if they feel you are expecting too much of them. You might not like what you’ll hear, but the open communication serves well for now and when they become adults.
- Don’t beat yourself up when your children are honest with you. Let them share.
- Show appreciation in words and actions for those who lend you a hand.
- Don’t make others feel stuck helping you. Ask first.
- Don’t expect others to know what you need. If others offer to help, tell them what is helpful.
- YOU make caring for your loved one look easy because you do it all the time. Others will need to be trained to help you. Take the time.
- When asking other children in the family to babysit/care for/look after the one with special needs, treat them like you would someone coming in to help. Ask them to set the day aside for you and confirm it with them – like you would with a babysitter. Pay them like you would a babysitter. Ask them how things went and if there is a way that would make life easier for them when they are helping you.
- If someone offers to help, ask them what they most enjoy doing. Make and keep a list so you can call on them. The longer your list, the less often you’ll have to call on and rely upon one or two people.
- Be sure to do things your typically developing children want to do – even if it means finding someone to stay home with the one with special needs.
- Have fun. Life is better that way.
- Make sure you get your daughter a pretty prom dress when her time comes – so she knows how the pretty CINDERELLA felt!