I’ve been waiting for this day. Although I certainly haven’t been looking forward to it.
We got our first “What about me?” And it made me feel AWFUL!
Ever since we found out that Emmy has Williams syndrome, I was conscious of how it would impact Charlotte. In the beginning, Charlotte had no idea that there was anything different about Emmy. But, as time has gone by, we’ve had conversations about heart surgery and Williams syndrome and how things are more challenging for Emmy.
Charlotte clearly doesn’t notice any differences yet with Emmy. She’s just her sister. Period — end of story. But now she’s started to take notice of all the special treatment Emmy gets. The additional doctors’ visits, the therapy sessions at school; the meetings with therapists at home.
One wouldn’t think that she would be envious of doctors’ visits, but she is! Charlotte actually loves going to the doctor and dentist. (I’m sure Emmy would gladly trade places in that respect because all hell breaks loose when Emmy senses that she’s going to get poked and prodded by someone.)
And Charlotte is envious of the therapy sessions because they look like fun! Emmy is spending time with really nice therapists who play games with her and cheer her on. What’s not to like?
Well, all the special treatment has started to add up, and it came to a head yesterday when we had an Early Intervention meeting with Emmy’s team of therapists to discuss her goals. Charlotte was supposed to be at school, but it was cancelled. So she got to watch everyone fuss over Emmy some more…and it wasn’t fun for her. She wanted to be fussed over. And in her effort to get attention, she jumped on the couch and tried to get somebody — anybody — to focus on her. Of course, this resulted in a lot of wild bouncing around, and it was hard for me to try and hear what the therapists were saying. It was difficult to manage the situation, but I tried not to get frustrated with her. I know what she wants because I would’ve wanted the exact same thing when I was her age.
The thing is that I’ve been trying so hard to over-compensate for Emmy’s special attention. I wanted to head this off before it started. I didn’t want Charlotte to ever feel ignored. So my husband and I both take her for one-on-one time every weekend. We also signed her up for soccer, gymnastics, and swimming, and we try and make a big deal over all her various activities. My husband even coached the soccer team! I take her for mani/pedis. I read to her. I snuggle with her. I do arts and crafts with her — just the two of us! I try everything in my power to make her feel like she’s special too!
But yesterday when all the therapists left, her face fell, and she said, “What about me?”
She wanted to know, “Why doesn’t anyone get together to talk about me?”
And she’s right. All the outside activities that I do with her don’t compare to the fact that a bunch of people sit in a room and talk about Emmy for an hour. How can I possibly recreate that situation for Charlotte? I don’t know…
I told her that I talk about her and how awesome she’s doing with her teachers all the time, but that’s not the same…
The thing about Charlotte is that we don’t have to sit in a room and talk about how to get her to open a Ziploc bag, or climb the stairs, or keep her balance. She does all of those things beautifully. They’ve never been a struggle for her. Every single goal we set for Emmy yesterday are things that Charlotte has already met. And they all came easily to her. I don’t think I ever had to teach her how to use a fork and spoon. She just did it.
And I’m so conscious of the fact that she is very sharp. This morning, Charlotte was playing with her dolls, and I heard her doing math very quickly! She was saying, “What’s five plus three? Eight! What’s two plus seven? Nine!” I mean, she was QUICK. I was really impressed. And I told her so right away! She’s also really good at gymnastics — very strong and fearless. I watch every gymnastics’ practice. I take videos of her hanging on the uneven bars and send them around to family members. I celebrate her artistic talent and hang up her paintings.
But kudos from mom doesn’t compare to a bunch of people sitting in a room and reviewing her accomplishments for an hour.
So with all of my attention and praise, I don’t know how to recreate that aspect — that type of special treatment that doesn’t apply to typical children. The therapy sessions, the doctors’ visits, and the goal-based meetings. How does an arts and crafts session with mom compare to those things?
If anyone has suggestions, I am all ears! Maybe I can have relatives dress up as strangers and come over to discuss Charlotte’s progress. 😉 I’m picturing my mom with a funny hat on and a feathered mask over her eyes…yikes!
Or maybe the answer is just to keep stressing that things are harder for Emmy and, while these therapy sessions seem like special treatment, Emmy would rather not have to work harder than everyone else. That’s not an easy concept for a 4 year old to understand though. Especially because she notices how Emmy loves getting doted on by her therapists. It certainly doesn’t look like hard work to Charlotte!
I just want to do it right. Like every other mother out there, I have guilt up the wazoo — both for things that have and haven’t happened yet! (I love that I already have guilt for things that haven’t happened yet, by the way. So silly yet so true.) I want to get on the right path, but sometimes I don’t even know where to start.
Glad you liked it! 🙂
awesome article..this is exactly what I am passing through these days with Rudy (WS) 41/2 yrs and Jimmy almost 3 years.
Thanks for sharing, Katia! Sounds like we’re in the same place. It helps to know I’m not alone.
I am a grandmother, not a mother, but I really think you are more than half way there by being aware …….just keep being aware and loving both children the way you do. They will grow up loving each other and you. Be kind to yourself, you are doing a hard and good job.
Thanks so much, Sally! Another friend once told me that as long as someone is aware, that’s half the battle. So I’m halfway there. 🙂
I will agree with you- it is hard – I find myself having some guilt over feeling like I don’t pay as good attention to my 3 yr old (heart healthy) daughter. She has so far been accepting of the fact he has more dr appts and more attention sometimes… but I know the ‘what about me’ day is coming. It’s inevitable. It’s a juggling act for sure. It does sound like you are handling it just fine – but it sure is not easy. We hope to see you on Sunday. 🙂
Ahhhh the guilt!! I know it well. I’ll see you on Sunday unless we get trapped by the snow that is maybe-possibly-sort-of coming and maybe-possibly 3 to 30 inches. 🙂
I am disabled and my older brother is not. When I had ‘special treatment’ he got upset because he wanted attention too. My mom did two things:
She allowed him to be part of my therapy. He wasn’t able to be part of my offical treatment, but at home my mom had to do therapy with me between sessions. He got right on the floor and she did the stretches and other things with him while doing it with me. She also encouraged him to help me with the session.
She found an activity we both enjoyed. I took swimming lessons one summer, I already knew how to swim so it was more of a way for me to exercise. It was for the disabled so he shouldn’t really have been part of it. My mom explained the situation to the coach and she readily agreed he could join. He did the same arm movements and leg kicks that I did
It bonded us and we had a very close relationship for a long time.
Thanks so much for your comment! That’s great advice. I love that your mom put your brother in your swimming class. What a cool idea. I’m really enjoying your blog!
Yeah, my mom is a pretty cool lady 🙂 Let us know if you find something that works. I’d be interested to know! Thanks for the compliment about my blog, I get so few comments on my blog I was beginning to wonder if anyone was.
It seems clear you’re a fantastic mother, Vanessa. Part of why you give your kids siblings is so they learn life isn’t always all about them, a lesson we all get pounded into us throughout life. I imagine that eventually the pendulum will swing the other way, when Emmy is old enough to notice she can’t do some things that Charlotte can do and that it’s not just because she’s younger. Those will be the more poignant “What about me?” questions. The current questions just demonstrate that Charlotte is paying attention, not any lapse on your part. You obviously go above and beyond for both kids every day. And of course they don’t realize how hard it can be for you sometimes. It’s impressive what a great mom you are to both your girls.
Thanks, Gail! That’s sweet of you to say. 🙂 And a very good point about something that siblings need to learn, in general.