Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Would it be wrong to offer up your five-year-old as a giveaway?

I'm leaving a message for a doctor's secretary: "Hi, this is Max's mom, I need to change his appointment, can you call me?"

As I hang up Sabrina, who's sitting nearby, says, "Why do you always say you're Max's mom and not Sabrina's mom?"

I explain to her it's because I'm calling about a doctor's appointment for Max, and she seems to understand. In the next few minutes, though, Sabrina starts going through my purse, finds my wallet, and notices that Max's photo is on top of the stack in the plastic sleeve. She rearranges them so her pic is first.

Then came the note above. She asked me how to spell it and wrote it out; you have to read it like one of those word-sort puzzles. It says, "Max not going in my room."

Sabrina seems to be more and more resentful lately of the extra attention Max gets. I go to great lengths to make sure I spend enough time with each of them. But Max needs help being fed, dressed and bathed. I have to explain certain things to him again and again. And approximately every five minute, when he looks at me with an expectant grin on his face, it's my duty to say, "You're Purple Max!" So, yes, he gets more attention.

I think this is why Sabrina's been acting rather obnoxiously. She's taken to crashing Max's therapy sessions, making it hard for him to concentrate.

She's also been snatching Max's clothes. Not that she's ever been the easiest kid about dressing. For her class photo, she insisted on wearing a shirt that says, in sequins (half of which have fallen off), "Black is the new pink." She definitely stands out in the photo, that much I'll say.

Sadly, she's also been kind of mean to Max. Today she got mad at him and said, "Max, you don't like PURPLE! You only like BLACK!" OK, I guess that's not the meanest thing you could hurl at someone, but it upset Max, who vehemently shook his head no and said, "Ur-ul Max! Ur-ul Max!"

Tomorrow Max has to go to the doctor to get his ears checked (there's some fluid in one) and tonight I overheard Sabrina telling him, "Max, you're going to get a shot at the doctor tomorrow! In your face!"

She has been rather obnoxious to me, too, dragging her heels on doing things that I ask. Once, she called me a "brat." And she used the police threat again this weekend; when I told her she could not have ice-cream she said, "If you don't let me have ice-cream, I am telling the police!" She didn't specify what charges she would press against me, though I don't think failure to provide ice-cream is a punishable offense.

I have decided to kill her with kindness.

I started a Sabrina wall above my desk featuring her artwork and photos.

I sometimes put her to bed before Max, so we can have time to read books alone.

Thursday, we're going to the circus together.

I know, I need patience and understanding. I don't really have any plans to offer up Sabrina as a giveaway, because I don't think that complies with the new FTC guidelines for bloggers. But sometimes, I sure am tempted.


  1. This so hit home for me as I have often been quoted as saying, "I will list you on ebay" or "Get in the car, Mama needs witnesses"
    Sending you patience! Sabrina must be a pretty smart girl to know just what to do to test you :)
    xo Kera

  2. It sure sounds like you DO have patience and understanding and are doing a wonderful job even acknowledging the difficulties of being the sibling to a kid with special needs. I highly recommend Sibshops, if they have them anywhere near you. Both of my boys really enjoyed them. My younger son has always had the most difficult time dealing with his sister and that attention thing -- Sabrina sounds like one smart cookie, and it's wonderful that you allow her to express all her confusing feelings about her brother.

  3. Oh man hang in there maybe sign S up for fun rec center type things that she can do with other kids like dance or gymnastics or start a blog for her or try to do something fun with her while M is getting theaphy. Why not try shareing the color purple for the whole color problenm

  4. I only have one child so maybe I shouldn't poke my nose in. However, I've had plenty of opportunity to see that what you describe is, in the words of my psychologist friend, 'age appropriate'.

    Sure, Max requires extra attention. But it's not like you're doing this at the expense of Sabrina. If Max didn't need your help, you know that you'd have both of them telling you that you favor the other.

    This is probably the most discussed topic on a few of my homeschool forums. We all struggle with balance - even us moms of only children. There will always be something or someone who will at times demand our attention. It's life.

    Sabrina's 5, and her world is all about her. Except that she has Max as her brother and he has a blog and he gets special attention and Mommy does things for him and she has to do those same things herself.

    You're a phenomenal example of what can come from love. Talk to other moms in Max's classes/programs and you'll see that this is very common.

    Siblings of Special Needs children have different lives. It doesn't matter if you're dealing with delays or advancement. The siblings are often required to do more, learn some things faster, help more, and exercise extreme patience that would not otherwise be required if their sibling did not have special needs.

    I don't mean to imply that your daughter isn't unique. Of course she is. What I'm hoping to convey is that in this regard you're like all other moms who have 2 or more kids.

    Gotta love 'age appropriate' behavior!

  5. Most people struggle with this, at least I hope they do or else I just feel worse now. My eldest does get left out quite a bit. He is 8 and the younger two are 2 and 1. Even if we didn't have to take account of autism for my younger son my eldest would still feel it due to the age gap. I have even asked his Teacher at school to let me know if he is acting out! (luckily he isn't). We do special 'big boy' things with him. We all do our best, sometimes it is enough and sometimes it isn't. I have so much more to say but really, it would all be rambling. Jen.

  6. Do they have sibshops in your area. Its an opportunity for siblings of children with disabilities to get together and play and talk about their feelings.

  7. Oooh! That little stinker! LOL! THat is funny stuff, Ellen. Maybe you could trade her for a day! Just kiddin'. I like the old Bill Cosby line...I brought you into this world and I can take you out!

  8. Going through this big time with my 9-year-old. And at 9, she is old enough to say/do some very mean things. My girls attend a great Sibshop. R's teacher and councselor are also working with her. It is tough being the middle child (7, 9, 11) and the only one with no medical issues. As a single mom, I only have so much time. Right now I'm trying to figure out what my next step should be (and how I will have time/energy to do it)

  9. Oh you're going to have quite a time when she hits the teenage years.

  10. I thought Sabrina was a little young for Sibshops, but I'll look into them. This morning, she was angelic—she shouted "Max loves purple! Max loves purple! Bye, Purple Max! I love you!" as Max walked to the school bus. She's also wearing his "Big Brother" shirt and pants.

  11. All fantastic ideas, Ellen!

    Love the "Sabrina wall." It's hard, I know, I like to tell mine (I have 3) "you're my favorite youngest child!" or "you're my favorite oldest child!" They laugh, they get it, and I think saying it that way helps them understand that each one of them truly IS my favorite. Just like Sabrina is your favorite Sabrina all the whole, entire world!!!

    P.S> Don't tell her, but she is Hilarious! "Max, you only like black.." oooh...how below the belt. And calling the Ice Cream Police on you, just hope she doesn't hear of CPS! ( My kids heard that one on The Hoarders, and now it's all "CPS! CPS!" when I don't stop at the golden arches for fries every time we drive by :)

  12. A shot in the face. Very creative. I laughed. :)

  13. She reminds me of my Savannah. S is 6 and is the oldest sibling - neither of my kids is special needs, but my youngest - Tara (4) is what we descibe as "high needs" always has been. Savannah is more laid back and likes to do her own thing. Still, we have lots of "Why do you always help Tara get dressed?" Well, because she needs help. "Why does Tara always get to sit in your lap" Well, because you chose your favorite spot on the sofa and she climbed up in my lap. "Why do you put Tara to bed first?" Well, because she is younger and you like to stay up later and play. I do strugggle a lot with making sure that Savannah gets what she needs from me. I like your idea of a Sabrina wall. She is telling you as best she can (in a very age appropriate way) that she needs a little "more" from you right now. You are a great mama to trying to giver her that! Hugs!

  14. Hey, Chica! I'm sure it's tough finding balance--luckily Sabrina is letting you know exactly what she needs:) Just think, in a few year, she won't want any of your attention!

  15. This is one of the reasons I am hoping to send D. to an overnight camp for kids with special needs this summer. It will allow me to give J. the attention he clearly craves. Everyone who has done it says it is amazing -- the SN kid has an AMAZING time in an environment designed specifically for them, the other kids thrive on getting to be regular kids for a bit, and the parents, who generally don't even realize how much they do, have a chance to breathe. If you can't imagine the idea of sending Max to camp, consider a quick overnight or weekend getaway with Sabrina -- even if it's just at a hotel in your city.

  16. Those silly FTC guidelines ... LOL! :)

    Seriously though, I think this is 100% normal and expected. My Monkey is 10 and he still sometimes crashes Peanut's therapy sessions. He has to be over the top goofy and silly to try and get attention there.

    It sounds like you are doing a great job with Sabrina now. Definately keep giving her alone time, the circus will be so much fun!

  17. Uh oh. I "get" this. I even remember it, better than I care to admit, though it was a long, long (did I say LONG?) time ago.

    It is jealousy, pure and simple, and then, because she's clever and in her heart she knows the score and knows that Max has a WAY tougher road than she does, it's guilt on top of the jealousy.

    The jealousy doesn't go away, even with that awareness, and the guilt makes her feel bad about the jealousy. It's a difficult and rather bitter soup of feelings and it just keeps going round and round. Eventually, she'll talk herself out of those feelings (outgrow them, really, through the miracle of maturity and enhanced empathy), but it don't come easy.

    I'm guessing you have the talk, on a regular basis, about how Max can't do what she can do, and how he needs help, and even though she's younger, she has to help her brother because "we all love each other in this family," and Max needs her and Mom is counting on her and couldn't do it without her help...blah, blah, blah...but it never hurts to repeat those discussions--it worked on me, anyway, but maybe I'm hypersensitive to guilt trips combined with pep talks.

    She's wearing Max's clothes because she wants his "power" to rub off on her. And by "power," I mean the power to command one's parents' sincere and undivided attention--emphasis on "sincere." Kids can spot a fake at fifty yards!

    If there was a way she could have a special activity of her own during Max's therapy, that would be good. Something Max doesn't do, and won't ever do, that is hers and hers alone. She might do well with a few outings with "just Dad" too--that "Daddy's Little Girl" song came about for a reason, and every girl wants to be daddy's little princess.

    Send her to me if you can't bear it any longer, though--we could use some more "girl power" around here! Hee hee!!

  18. I'm sorry you're dealing with that....as it seems, most of us are! But knowing that you're not alone doesn't always make it easier. My daughter has started struggling in school lately, and her teachers are asking if there's something going on at home. Well, yes, it's called Autism! It's so hard to know how to balance, but it looks to me like you're doing a fantastic job!!

  19. Just had a conversation with my daughter about this .... she is 23 and her brother with special needs is 20, also have a younger brother 17....

    We were discussing how she does not feel validated, that her needs/ideas/etc are not important and that she has felt this way her whole life..... very hard stuff for a mom to hear.

    I made myself crazy when they were all younger trying to make sure they each had quality time etc etc. and now to hear this is more then a bit shattering.

    The important thing for me now though is to know how this happened and what can I do to improve the situation.

    Keeping in mind that part of this, I know, is normal development as in 'I am an adult with my own ideas and I want to be heard and acknowledged.'

    However, she made a very important tip, that I hope will be helpful to all of you...

    When you are interacting with your 'typical' child, focus on them and nothing else. Just stop and focus.... easier said then done some times.... but ... it is advice, as they say, from the horses mouth....she said that all the Saturday shopping adventures and other one-on-one activities, although fun, cannot make up for all the times I listened to her while doing something else.

  20. I've been tempted to leave both of mine on the side of the road with a "Free" sign around their necks.

  21. Hi.. I am new to this blog ..have been following and love it!! You have to understand my situ. I have two boys...Christopher 6 1/2 and Ryan that just turned 5 in Dec.

    Christophers story: http://hopeforcj.blogspot.com

    New diagnosis at 6 1/2 years?? My
    5 year old is going through the same exact thing!!! Christopher depends on us for everything (plus some with new diagnosis).. so I so get it! Ryan the 5 year old is quite bright and wants to all of a sudden call the police if he does not get his way.
    He called 911 once and they called and told me to make him a hamburger and explain 911 is for urgent emergencies only.. I could not believe it!
    It is hard on our other ( typical.. which I do not like the term)kiddo's.
    Special time is soo needed but sometimes hard. I try to balance but it is hard! We are warrior moms and we will make it work somehow!

  22. Sabrina sounds like you- one tough cookie!! She is challenging Max like no one else has the ability to: through confrontation she is making him practice all of his skills....in a very age-appropriate, sibling appropriate way.

    Sabrina is extremely bright... I wonder if you have had conversations with her about Max's needs and the logic behind it. And how she reacted?

  23. First of all, can I just tell you that I think you're amazing?! I lurk on your blog quite often..You always bring such grace and humor to things. I should take a page from your book.

    I find that my daughter has always been the more dramatic of my 3 children...definitely snarky to say the least..lol. So I ABSOLUTELY relate. If you can find a giveaway..see if we can get a two for one deal going! ;)

    Love the art wall! Very good idea Mom!

  24. Thanks for the props! I have my days.

    Johns Mom, that is EXCELLENT advice. Sometimes I feel like I have parenting ADD.

    Abbi, another great idea to do an overnight with just Sabrina. You're right, though, I can't yet fathom leaving my little Max at an overnight camp.

    Empress, I think Sabrina is perhaps a little more hysterical when she is not your child but it is kind of hard to keep a straight face when she keeps threatening to call the cops.

    Felicia and Ms. Anonymous (or is it Mrs. Anonymous? Mr. Anonymous?), yes, I have tried to have those talks with Sabrina but she doesn't seem that engaged during them, it's almost too much for her at this point just to have a long conversation about Max. We have little moments of recognition and awareness. When she makes a comment about Max like, "Max can't talk!" I discuss how Max may not be able to say words just like she does but he most definitely has his own way of saying them and communicating.

  25. My first comment has to be, looking at that photo - WOW how much has Sabrina grown!!??? She's such a big girl now! So lovely to see.

    Not so lovely to hear about her attitude. BUT I think you are tackling in it a very wise way. I love your Sabrina wall.

    As I nurture baby number 3, I am realising how few of baby number 2's milestones I can remember because I was so busy with baby number 1's therapies, appointments etc.

    It's made me feel so guilty that I've been going through old photos and making sure there's a few more pics of M on the wall. I've also been planning outings for us and doing my best to give him more attention.

    I am really worried that he'll resent his big brother AND ME when he gets older too.

    It is a difficult balance. I think you're doing a great job of addressing it.


  26. As the adult (25) sibling of someone with special needs, I can still remember this feeling as an adult. Everyone gave great suggestions re: individual time, so I won't comment on that.

    I will say that I think that what finally worked for me was when I entered school as I was ages 7-10 or so, when I had projects, I would choose to do them on the special needs, what could be done to improve our classrooms/schools for kids with special needs, etc. I "helped" (I certainly thought I was a huge help, but in retrospect, I probably wasn't) plan a fundraiser for a special needs organization and asked my friends, teachers, etc. to sponsor it. Basically, I started to realize that through living with my brother, I actually had something special in that I understood something more than others I was around and could share it with them, changing the world for the better. This made *me* feel special, too. As I got older, I took pride in being able to figure out what my brother wanted/needed better than others could, sometimes better than my parents could, and teaching others how to figure it out. (I think as adults, my parents were a bit more likely to apply their own logical version of what my brother needed based on what they would think a kid his age needed, whereas as a child who hadn't been around a ton of typical kids, I just did more watching. One example is his teacher pulled me out of class to ask what she could do about him fidgeting and moving around so much no one could focus. It seemed completely obvious to me that the solution was to tape his worksheet to the wall and let him work on it standing up if he couldn't sit still, but all of the adults thought this was very novel.)


Thanks for sharing!

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