Monday, May 18, 2015

My other kid's special needs

Max literally did a happy dance in our kitchen yesterday morning, because he and Dave had a joy trip planned to New York City that included a train ride, eating sushi, bowling, eating some more and generally roaming around. Max ran over and threw his arms around me.

"Oh, Max," I said. Hugging is still a relatively new thing; for years, it wasn't a movement in his repertoire. Even now that he can move his arms that way, he still doesn't instinctively do it a lot.

Sabrina cocked her head and said, whining, "You never talk to me like that!"

In some ways, she wasn't wrong. I do have this special tender, coddling Max voice I use when he's done something new or particularly wonderful. It's a voice that comes from years of hoping, the roots of which remain embedded in the gloomy future the doctors in the NICU predicted for Max.

But I have unique sounds for Sabrina, too, and I reminded her.

"Honey, when you came home and you'd gotten 100 on your social studies test, wasn't I so excited for you?" I reminded her, and she grudgingly agreed.

I often joke to friends that sometimes Sabrina is my child with special needs. Like many siblings of children with disabilities, she recognizes that Max needs (and requires) extra attention, whether I'm helping him down the stairs or going over homework with him in depth.

Dave and I do our best to do things just for her, both so she knows that she's special and because it's nice for us, too, to each have time alone with the kids.

Sabrina had already asked to do facials after Max and Dave had left, which I loved. I started doing them around her age. For years, I followed the instructions on a page I'd ripped out of Seventeen magazine that included a scrub made out of pulverized almonds and honey, followed by an oatmeal and yogurt mask. During college, a woman at a Clinique makeup counter with beautiful skin told me her secret: She applied an egg yolk to her cheeks, for softness, and the whites to her forehead, nose and chin to help control oil, and for years I did that. Then I had kids and I barely had time to wash my face.

I pulled out a grainy scrub and showed her how to rub it into her skin in little circles.

Then I found an oatmeal mask. We smeared it on, hung out on my bed, took selfies and chatted about summer camp and other upcoming stuff she's psyched about. Then we wiped off the masks with a washcloth.

"Ooooh, Mommy! My skin feels so soft!" she said, and it did. A little TLC was just what she needed. And I looked at least ten years younger! Right.


  1. Ellen, I face the same thing. Trying to find that balance for your typical kids is hard some days when you are so hands on with your special kids. My youngest said to me the other day "You always help Shea and not me." But the reality is I HAVE TO help Shea with everything. Getting dressed, going to the bathroom, hands on all the time. It is hard to help your other kids see that.
    I love how honest and exposed you are in your writing and pictures. The good and bad and full facial of it all!
    Thanks for sharing

    1. Logically, Sabrina knows that Max needs that hands-on help. Emotionally, it's still hard to accept.

  2. You can sometimes feel the same way if you have "lesser needs". Sometimes, I feel like I have to be the perfect child my parents always wanted because I'm the one that "can do it". I have a horrible fear of failure because of this. My parents won't even bat an eye at one of my As because I get so many of them, but I don't think it occurs to them how hard I work for those As. I sometimes feel like they want my academic record and not my creativity, passion, or intuition.

    1. FlutistPride....
      Hi there, Friend!! Thank-you for such a real, honest, transparent comment!! For some reason, it spoke to me!! You are such a Beautifully Unique, creative artist.... And I love you for every single aspect of this!! Keep writing. Never stop!! Keep creating. Never stop!! Keep making art. Never stop!! But do it for you. Not your parents' approval. {Easier said than done, I know!!} Do it because it makes you happy!! And {In my case as a writer, an artist who paints pictures with words} do it because it keeps you sane!! ;-D
      Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive.... ;)
      Love you later, Raelyn

    2. Anna, your parents may be more proud of you than you know! Sometimes parents are not so good at showing it. And some take more stock in academic achievement over creative ones, often because of the way they were raised. Have you ever told them it would make you feel good if they praised you for other accomplishments? I hope your own pride in your greatness continues to grow. Believing in yourself is one of the key things to carry you through life.

    3. To "Kate": Your comment has been deleted. See my comments policy.

  3. Ellen, you are radiant :) Just thought you should know. Happy Monday.

    1. Why, thank you! Pregnancy and oatmeal masks agree with me. ;)

  4. Beautiful and so sweet, ladies!


Thanks for sharing!

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