Hmmm…. I spend life attempting to spread myself equally between my children, but it only takes a quick photo to remind me just how easy it is for Claire to become the centre of attention.
Don’t get me wrong, Callum gets his fair share of attention, but the fact is, that Claire simply needs much more help, assistance and support than your typical almost-two-year-old kid. And when, I look at Callum, sometimes I feel mighty guilty.
As a reminder to me to update Claire’s page more often (um…not working at the moment!), I have the internet browser set to open up to her page when it launches. “Claire Matilda” in bold lettering and three pictures of her beautiful little face, often send a wave of guilt through me. I consciously avoid having the page open for more than a second if Callum is in the room for fear that he will see the inequity of photo sharing and resent her presence.
The new(ish) ‘play area’ in our house is very much oriented at the needs of Claire. A sensory swing, a ball pit, a purpose built chair, and her standing frame, stick out as another reminder that Claire is the focus of much in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, Callum enjoys the swing and ball pit immensely and should thank the arrival of his sister for us loosening our sense of what is ‘right’ for a play space in the main living area. There is no way Matt would have agreed to that swing hanging where it is had it not have been for Claire, and there is no doubt that it is a great source of enjoyment for Callum, Claire, and countless visiting children!
Where possible, we attend Claire’s therapies on the days of the week that Callum attends his kindergarten. This is not always possible though, and with each appointment, I need to make a decision as to whether it is best to leave him with a helpful friend or relative, or to drag him along to waiting rooms and sessions where the focus is ‘all about Claire’. My heart breaks for him as he battles for attention, only to be told that a therapist is ‘working with Claire right now’. In my mind, I know that it is often much more fun for him to be somewhere else, but I miss him and feel guilty when I take off yet again with just Claire in tow.
We have an iPad at our place, courtesy of the Gold Coast Community Fund. Yes, it is Claire’s, and we are working with Proloquo2go to develop her communication skills. Callum also loves to play with it at times and of course this is allowed. However the hot pink case, and reacquisition by Claire so that she can express her needs as and when she chooses, are pretty clear indications that it isn’t his. Another ‘ouch’ moment for an egocentric four-year-old I’d think.
Callum takes most things in his stride, and I know he loves his little sister immensely. He can be very protective, but also likes to stir her up, as any older sibling would do. I should know…I have two.
In his defense, with her significant progress during the last few months, Claire has taken on the natural role of younger sister. She is starting to give as good as she gets. She can be a bit of a drama queen (must get that from Matt ;)) and can kick, pinch, scratch, bite, and pull hair quite well. These are all wonderful indications of her fine and gross motor development of course, but perhaps not the most welcome behaviours in the eyes of her four-year-old brother. She also appears to hold a grudge, and is less than forgiving when things don’t go her way.
As un-fun as these interactions sound, they are interactions none-the-less, and Callum and Claire are becoming good friends. While Claire has always noticed Callum and attempted to interact at times, her delayed reaction times, and his faster-than-a-speeding-bullet-approach to life have made ‘conversation’ between the two quite difficult. Callum’s attention span can be quite limited and he looks for action and reaction. With his sister, that has been difficult to come by.
This morning, Callum asked me to read a book to him, Wombat Devine. Quite coincidentally, his request coincided with a burst of giggles from his sister. “She thinks the big fat wombat is funny!” he said to me. To Claire, in his sweetest voice, he said, “Do you like the big fat wombat, Clairesy? Do you want to read the story too? Awwww”. More giggles and a beaming smile from Claire. I was on Cloud Nine.
More than anything, Claire has taught Matt and me patience. Some times it feels like time is standing still and we aren’t moving anywhere, then, on a day like Monday two weeks ago, when Claire crawled for the first time, she will amaze us all and do something so significant that all the waiting is made worthwhile. For Callum, patience is a virtue he is yet to fully acquire. Anyone who knows him would realise that a ten second wait time would be like a lifetime. He has commented on more than one occasion that “Claire is taking a really long time to grow up”. ‘Ouch’ for mummy.
Claire’s ‘crawling’ has continued (commando style is the current choice of method though), and Callum is a great help in encouraging this. His excitement at this achievement brought me more tears than the actual achievement itself!
Claire signs “brother” at least ten times each day…this morning just a few minutes after she awoke to find him still in bed. We are quite sure that she is attempting to make a vocalisation for brother and Callum at times, though it is only recognisable to those who inhabit our house.
Their interactions are becoming more often and more varied and we are conscious of encouraging Callum and Claire time, as well as Callum and Mummy time, and Callum and Daddy time. Some of these times are scheduled, but more and more, they are just the natural course of our daily lives. I would imagine finding this status quo would be challenge for any family with a new sibling. The challenge here is that Claire has remained in the ‘baby phase’ for soooooo much longer than a typically developing child would, and she could be here for quite some time.
In January, Callum starts school. Claire will miss him immensely. Me…even more so. I know he is ready, and I know it will be so good for him. Until then, I plan to work extra hard to focus on our time together and to have fun with my beautiful boy. I love him with all of my heart and as long as he knows that, we should be on the right track to avoiding the resentment and jealousy that are my deepest fears.
Perhaps I don’t need to be so hard on myself… I have noticed tonight that there are no less than eighty printed photographs of Callum around the house (including his baby photos on the shelves in Claire’s room!), and you would be hard-pressed to find more than five of Claire. Oops. I hope she doesn’t notice 😉