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Special Siblings Need Time Too

June 29, 2011
by Maria Spencer

This month is dedicated to all of the special siblings, and siblings to-be. While a few months ago I focused on their love for their special brothers and sisters, my prayer this month is that you will have more awareness regarding giving all of the children in your household "equal" time. Time with you, your spouse, etc.

To ensure you realize where I'm coming from, I must first clarify what it means to be in "survival mode" as a special parent. My definition of survival mode covers many aspects of what comes instinctively to a special parent - particularly a newer special parent. It involves when you are searching high and low for any treatment, therapy, or specialty physician that may help your special child. When the main focus of your thoughts, actions, and words can only be described as having tunnel vision for your special child - his or her needs, and nothing else. And I mean nothing. Your physical body and your thoughts are continually going through changes, and the world seems to be going on around you, but you are not really contributing to anything except getting to the next step for your special child.

Can you relate?

Now that I've defined what survival mode is, I have to speak from my heart and let you know from experience that while many, many wonderful things get accomplished while you are in the midst of this state, many things - and people - get lost in the shuffle in the mean time, including your other children. During this phase of special parenthood, it is so very easy to put aside the needs of the special siblings in your household, but I do think, subconsciously, it happens to all of us.

Personally, I was in survival mode for about two years. (Yes, years). When I look back on those days, I would like to go back and change many things that I did or didn't do - but the one thing that stands out the most is the time I missed out on with my son. He is three years older than his special sister, and he was three when I like to say he was "de-throned" - you see, he was the king in our house before she was born. My husband and I gave all of our time and attention to him, because we didn't have any other kids. He was very accustomed to being the center of attention. And in one moment, one day when his baby sister was three months old, his whole world changed. He became the older brother that went to multiple therapy or doctor appointments with us - or he was left with a sitter while his dad and I tended to Olivia for appointments that would take up more time. And as I spent most of my days following in my own little survival mode world, he was growing older - and I didn't give myself the opportunity to enjoy him or spend true, quality time with him.

When I finally "woke up" out of survival mode, and began to see the world around me, I realized I didn't give him the time he deserved, and that he needed me just as much (if not more) than his sister. I can't recall the exact moment or incident that caused me to come out of my world, but I'm sure it had something to do with finally noticing his amazing sense of humor, or his beautiful dimples. I don't know what it was, but I'm grateful the moment caught my attention.

Since then, I have made a conscious effort to go on "dates" with him, when he gets mom all to himself, and he gets dad time around a pond fishing or working in the garage on a project together. We realize that the night Olivia got sick and caused part of her to have different abilities - the person he was growing up to be had changed. And I definitely think now it was for the better. Of course he fights with his baby sister, but he has such a big heart and watches over her always.

If you are reading this and have realized that you are currently in the midst of survival mode, know that where you are is part of the process in raising a special child. But I hope you can also realize that there are other things and more importantly, other people that need your time and energy. Also know if you share your time with your other kids, your special child will survive, and life will go on. Sometimes when we are in the middle of this stage in the process that is so very important, we think our special child will fall apart if we allow ourselves to put our emotional energy elsewhere. Know that it will be better for everyone you love if you acknowledge what a great job you are doing raising your special child, and how so very much your other children need you.

On the other hand, if you have plans to add a special sibling to your family, I hope I instilled words into you that will carry you through the process, and that you will allow yourself to go through survival mode, but acknowledge your entire family in the mean time.

Our typically developing children are special, too-and they need our time, love, and attention just as much as their siblings.



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