On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Toll: what the unchallenged siblings endure

First, welcome La Mama Loca, my 50th follower!

Second, in regards to this post about Sissy's fish I am reluctant and admittedly bemused to inform you that Sissy poured him down the drain, again. And true to my warning after the second rescue and again on Sunday when, after 6 weeks, she decided the ick-infested fish needed fresh water to swim in, I did NOT rescue it a third time. Truly, our RADishes just can't be pet owners, not even of tiny little fish.

Please, don't let Felix the Fish die in vain. Let it serve as a reminder and warning when you decide if your RADish is ready to have the responsibility of a pet. If s/he is not ready, it WILL become a thorn in your side as you determine at what point you feel compelled to either intervene because the animal suffers inhumanely or if you should let nature (and your ill-equipped RADish) take its own course. Yes, in retrospect it is amusing that the fish met his final demise, and we are all, including Sissy, relieved to have the issue resolved but it just makes me so sad that the poor thing had to suffer so Sissy could learn. I really want to write a nasty letter to the RTC that sent the dern thing home but since we were asked if we'd be willing to let her keep it, I feel culpable to a small degree. Hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20.

OK, now to the point of the post.

The main reason we sent WG off for a week to her Grandma-in-the-country, was because we knew it would be calm, quiet and with no other small children to vie for attention, WG would be doted on. In our minds, no one in our household deserves respite more than her. She has been through SO much for such a little girl, we just wanted her to have a week in which only her needs were catered to, all without the nonsense from Sissy and AB to muck it up. My MIL and SIL (who lives across the street now since Grandma has recently moved) were equal to the task and gave WG exactly the type of respite I hoped she'd get.

We would chat with WG on the phone and she sounded so relaxed, confident and happy. Her appetite was up, she was sleeping without nightmares, she was behaving well and was resilient to changes in plans. In short, she was everything I know her to be but what she is obstructed from being at home because AB and Sissy consume. The two of them are like the death eaters from Harry Potter, they just suck the life out of everything. MAJOR suckage.

While WG was away, Sissy asked me when she'd be allowed back in the bedroom with WG. I thought for a minute, took a deep breath and dived in. No point in beating about the bush, only truth sets us free. I started by talking to Sissy about how hard this year has been for her as she's had to face her illnesses and struggle to get better. Then I told Sissy that it's been hard for the rest of us too at which point Sissy interrupted me and said, "because I've been so bad and angry."

I acknowledged that this was true but that we were all very happy that she's been working so hard and has been so much better. I went further. "Sissy, it's been VERY hard for you sister too, watching you go through all of this ..." and Sissy interrupted me again.

"And because I hurt her and I'm mean to her." I nodded my head. I told her that it's all been very scary and that because WG is so little, it's been REALLY scary for her. We talked about how after all of that, WG was then bit by the dog and how WG has nightmares and is angry too.

I took another deep breath and with some trepidation added, "WG is at Grandma's this week so she can get a break from all of this." Sissy nodded her head. I went on to say, "It's just like you getting a break from us by going to camp." More head nodding.

"So," Sissy hedged after thinking a bit, "when can we be in a room together again? I liked it."

"Sissy, that's not something we can do right now. Both you and WG aren't better yet." In my mind I thought I don't know if it will EVER be possible, I WANT It to be, but that is probably unrealistic. Sissy mulled over these words for a bit. So I added just a smidgen more, "Besides, I know you like having your own space, and it's kind of pretty, isn't it?" She nodded her head. "And since you've been learning so much in therapy about taking a cool down time, if you and WG shared a room, where would you go to be by yourself? You've been doing such a good job with that! I don't want to take that away."

On that note, I decided to redirect the conversation because I wanted to end it positively and not go over board so that I got backlash. Instead, I started talking about how big families don't have a choice, that in those situations, the bedrooms only have beds and dressers and all the toys are in a play room. I let Sissy fantasize about what a house like that would be like and we concluded the conversation with a giggle about how silly it would be if AB had to bunk with the girls in a triple-decked bunk so we could put all the toys in AB's room. Crisis averted, at least until WG came home.

Yesterday's transition went horribly. I ended up calling the crisis team on AB, AB and Sissy both pulled chores from the chore tub and had mandatory cool down times, I found myself physically planting myself between them and WG to protect her and by the time the day was done, Sissy was still vying for control, AB had screamed himself out and WG was bawling to go back to Grandma's so she didn't have to deal with it. Can you blame her? Instead of her siblings being glad to see her, they showered her with anger and hatred!

It might be argued that they were jealous of whatever perceived inequalities they felt existed because WG got away and they didn't. But truly, their behavior was only mildly more exacerbated than normal, I just didn't realize how much WG is forced to endure until she wasn't dealing with it. Sissy and AB alone would rip each other a new one even if WG wasn't part of the equation.

At only 6, I'm finding it very difficult to achieve a balance and an air of safety for WG so that she can lead as normal a life as possible in this chaos. I want her to hang onto the confidence and joy she gained at Grandma's but since I'm having the same difficulty myself, I feel utterly powerless and helpless to support her.

I know many of my readers and followers have very large families that include both challenged and unchallenged children. I know that in such large numbers, it demands that the children share rooms. But in my mind, I just don't know how that is safe, wise or beneficial. What is the long term consequence for these little ones? No one seems to have a legitimate answer.

Are any of my readers unchallenged adults of impaired siblings than can give us advice? Tell us what DIDN'T work and what you wished was made possible for you in your childhood home so you could grow up with some semblance of normalcy. I would REALLY love to hear from you. If you can't comment because you do not have a blogspot account, please click my profile and then the email link on the left tool bar.


GB's Mom said...

You posed an important question. I can't wait to read the answers!

Cyndi said...

In our situation to kids without challenges are older then the other kids. I do think that is a plus. As far as sharing rooms giving WG that space may be the best solution for her. It is a way for her to get away at times. We always let kids do the things that fit their abilities. When we do this we also have to reinforce the fact that everyone is different and that is just the way things are. They will give you thethat that is not fair battle here. We have, even now that some of them are young adults, taken the older kids on trips and outings that the other ones could not handle. This is respite for everyone It is heavenly to walk on the beach with my two daughters who have no disabilities. Having siblings with disabilities has its affects both positive and negative.I know that my kids are more caring, understanding, and accepting of differences because of their younger siblings.