There are times when I'm not sure how to handle certain special-needs situations, like on Saturday, when I found out kids had been mean to Max. (Thanks again, everyone, for the support and advice). And then there are times when I'm completely confident about what I'm doing. I know, if I know anything, that I need to keep pushing Max beyond his comfort level and not give in when he wants me to do stuff for him. But then, there are two parents in this relationship. And one of us is a mushball. Hint: It's not me.
I went to Max's parent-teacher conference last week. Lots of good stuff was said: He's beginning to grasp addition, his reading skills are also developing, they're planning to use his iPad a lot more in class, his speech therapist is going to help us start programming sentences into it, the physical therapist will continue working on life skills (recent score: Max is now climbing in and out of bed!), the occupational therapist is going to help us figure out utensils and cups that will encourage independent eating, ideally in the color purple. Of course.
"Does he always eat lunch on his own?" I asked his teacher.
"Yes!" she said, looking surprised.
At home, Max still tries to get me to feed him. He points to his food and at me, and gives me this killer smile. "Max, I'm not feeding you—you can do it yourself!" I'll say, firmly. Sometimes, I will literally turn my back on him to busy myself with dishes or poke around in a cabinet; when I turn back, he's usually shoveling food into his mouth. This is not what happens with Dave. "ADDDY! ADDDY! ADDDY! ADDY!" Max will chant, knowing that Mushball Dave will cave sooner or later and feed him. And cave he does.
At the conference, we talked about potty training, too. Max will go at school, but he is not into it at home (despite the fact that at this time last year, he made a big show of going potty). This weekend, at the school nurse's recommendation, I ordered Max a purple notebook and some purple smiley face stickers, to see if the sticker system might persuade him.
"I think I might want to get his Dad a sticker system too," I told the nurse, only half joking. Dave needs motivation to not give in to Max. He's a softie with Sabrina, too. I am Mommy Hard-Ass, the one who doesn't let the kids buy the toy at the store, have chocolate milk for breakfast or get out of picking up their clothes off the floor. (Although it is tricky to enforce that last one when you are a grown-up who leaves his clothes on the floor, not that I'm mentioning any names).
With Max, it's so important that we continue to encourage him to do things on his own. It forces him to learn, to use his hands, to feel more confident in his own abilities, to develop. Dave and I have talked about this and he's gotten somewhat better but he remains Mushball Dave. Which is one of the things that first made me fall in love with him, this sweetie of a guy who was so easygoing and good-natured and eager to please. I-r-o-n-y.
Although when Max looks at me with those big eyes of his and says "ORE!"—as in, I want more chocolate ice-cream even though I've just eaten a humongous bowl of it—I can never turn him down.
OK, who's the mushball parent and who's the tough-love parent in your house? Or are you one and the same?