I just realized that Lu was 4 when I stared this blog. She is now 9. Being 9 means being officially entrenched in tweendom and all the Justin Beiber and girl wars that it encompasses. Girl wars. DON'T GET ME STARTED.
When we moved to our little town a few years ago we were so lucky to be in the school district we landed in. Our very small town has 5 elementary schools. That means that almost everyone who attends school lives within walking distance. It also means that all of our children's' friends live in walking distance. With just two classes for each grade, the kids get to know each other very well. There is a great little group of girls that Lu has been able to befriend over the years, but time works it's magic and I am starting to see factions forming. It is a tough lesson and we might be in for a few rocky years, but it is part of being a kid these days and hopefully she can learn some social skills and practice compassion and what being a true friend means.
Lauren always has been my creative kid. She loves to draw and write and over the years her scribbles have turned into books that she writes for her friends and the kids. She is working on a series of books about Fairies (her current obsession) that are actually pretty funny. She also really likes Baby Mouse and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. At school, she is a math whiz and has been really loving science. Those were not, ahem, my best subjects at school, so she is teaching me these things all over again. I actually enjoy the post dinner quiet time we get each night. We sit at the table while she works on her homework and I work on my ..... blog/peggle score/read Vanity Fair/nails. It gives us a chance to have some catch up time. Derek has started using this time to give Jacob some one on one time that he is really craving right now (more on that later).
Since this blog is both a record for my family and a possible tool for other families who might have families that are like mine (whether it is the adoption issue, the trans racial family issue, or the various special needs of our kids) so they can see what we have done and where we have both failed and succeeded, I am going to chronicle both the challenges and successes that my kids have had with each other and their specific situations.
Lauren is a typical oldest child. She is bossy and she is wildly creative. She is great at assembling the kids to do fun games (last week it was a carnival---complete with tickets and prizes a la Chuck E Cheese). I have very fond memories of my older sister doing the same thing. Most weekends the TV doesn't even come on in our house except for quiet time. She is also a typical oldest child in that she tries to mother all the other kids. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. I must tell her 100 times a day "you are not the mother". I know that when there is an oldest child, especially the oldest child of special needs kids, mom DOES need a little bit of help. One of the (many) reasons we hired a nanny is so that we could preserve Lauren's child time. She deserves to be a kid. Finding myself in a situation with three special needs kids under the age of three was a big adjustment. I have Maria to help me do the things that take more than one set of hands (and since our daddy leaves for work at 4:00 am, her help is invaluable in the mornings that she is here, she can bath the little kids and I can make breakfast, etc.. it makes the mornings so much more manageable).
I still struggle with Lauren swinging between feeling left out and feeling special that she is the "typical" one. I have worked really hard to make sure that when she is home from school (this goes for Jacob too) that I was home. I wanted to be the one that was available for them to do all the mom things. I figured that the little kids needed their basic needs met--food and safety and love. I could share that job with Maria. My big kids needed time with mom. I did this so well, my 2 year old speaks more Spanish than English and will say 'ria and made up a sign for her name, but will not say mamma or sign it. I worked to be sure that none of the therapies were during the times that the kids were home. But we deal in a world where perception is reality and the most words that Lauren flings my way the most often are "You are never here for me, you are always at therapy" I have so far labored under the premise that singing Liar Liar Pants on Fire is not a proper parenting technique. That is where we are today. I have a girl who thinks that she has had to sacrifice too much for her younger siblings.
She is also my worry kid. When she was little, she would lie awake at night and worry about her two big phobias; bears and fire (so, camping is out for us). So, this anxiety is not something new. These days her anxiety covers the basic school stuff, but has branched out to things like "am I going to have to take care of the kids when you die?" and "what is going to happen if Jacob keeps getting angry and the police come", etc. The sad part is that some of these things are not unrealistic worries. We are working with her art therapist to help her express some of these worries and figure out ways to help her not take too many of these things upon herself.
I know that the experiences that she has as part of our family will serve her well for the rest of her life. I think that being the sister of Jacob, Norah and Gracie will teach her things that, as a mother, I couldn't teach. I think she will learn skills that will help her be a better friend, a better employee and a better mother someday. I hate that it comes at the expense of her carefree days. I have deep regret that for the last few years it has taken every thing that Maria, her dad and I had to keep this boat afloat. That for the last few years we have literally had to schedule our time months in advance and juggle therapists and classes and general discouragement and fatigue. I know that some of it was at the expense of her, even though we tried very hard for it not to be. That is life. I am not one of those moms that feels guilt over lots of stuff, and I don't really have much guilt over this either. We did the best we could for the situation we were in and I think we did a pretty good job overall. But I won't say that there wasn't a trade off. And that is what make me frustrated. I just hope it balances out in the end.