Table for Four
As I sit here at my big, takes up too much space in my kitchen, kitchen table with six chairs around it, that I bought on sale years before I had children, I realize and accept that I don’t really need it anymore. I bought it in the first place because: #1: It was on sale, and #2: It had plenty of room for my “future family”.
The only thing I ever knew, without a doubt, my whole life, was that I wanted to be a mom and have a big family. I also knew I did not want kids right away when I was very young because I wanted to get some adventures, partying, and good times out of my system before. I figured I had plenty of time to make it all work out.
As I’ve mentioned before, when we finally decided to grow our family it didn’t exactly work out how we’d planned. There were fertility issues on my end, and we had to use medical intervention to conceive our first. Then, our second came as a surprise, no medical intervention necessary. That had me excited! After our first, I went through a stage where I treated each moment as if it would be my only with my only child, but then number 2 was on the way, and my dreams of a big family were back “on the table”. (Haha, see what I did there?)
Things were hard at first with two very small children, but I knew, and as everyone kept telling me, things would only get easier with time as the kids got older. I was beginning to think I was crazy or just weak, because I swore things were getting harder, not easier! That’s because they were.
Raising kids is hard. The hardest job you’ll ever have, if you do a decent job. It is also the most rewarding job you’ll ever have, and a job you get to keep lifelong.
The older my kids get, the harder it gets to navigate because their differences become more obvious, not just in general, but to each other.
ME: “Ada, go play with your brother.”
ADA: “But mom, he doesn’t talk!”
ME: “Ada, Mom is busy, go play with Gus.”
ADA: “But he doesn’t play right!”
ME: “Ada, apologize to your brother.”
ADA: “He never says sorry to me!”
ADA: “No, Gus isn’t a part of this game.”
ADA: “I had a dream about our family, and….”
ME: “Was Gus there, too?”
ADA: “No, mom, Gus is never in my dreams.”
ME: “Ada, it’s time to clean your room.”
ADA: “I didn’t make the mess, Gus did!”
ME: [After setting a timer at the supper table for 5 minutes and then letting Gus get up.]
ADA: “Why doesn’t Gus have to sit at the table?”
These comments hurt my momma heart. They’re not easy to hear. They’re not easy to address…
Kids are literal. Kids are honest. Kids can seem brutal, but kids are innocent. Kids are observant. Kids are like little sponges. They learn and adapt quickly. Most importantly, kids are resilient.
Lucky for us, Ada is all of these things, as well as very kind-hearted and brave, extraordinarily articulate, and has a great capacity to try to learn and understand.
To say things can seem “unfair” in our household is an understatement.
I’m not an advocate for things always being fair in the first place, kids are all different and require different care, but it’s complicated when things such as house rules, which should apply to all, have to be made different and adapted in our situation. To boot, our kids are really close in age, so there really, typically, shouldn’t be much difference in what is expected of each of them. But for us, there is…
I can most definitely see, especially from a child’s perspective, how we seem to give Augustus more attention. The truth of the matter is that we do. We have to.
Each individual child, in any given family, having time alone with their parents together and individually is important. In our family, this is not just important, it is absolutely necessary on a regular basis.
Ada comes to therapy with Gus and I once weekly. I let her participate as much as I can without it being detrimental to what Gus is doing.
I can see how hard it is for her. Gus gets to go to the Sensory Gym where there are swings and slides and foam pits and rock walls. To Ada, Gus is getting to play at an indoor playground, and essentially he is. The difference is that swinging and spinning help Gus to regulate and calm down, while swinging and spinning have the opposite effect on Ada. Adults barely understand sensory processing disorder (SPD), so I sure don’t expect a 4-year-old to. Gus gets to sit at a table and get treats and praise for doing things that seem extraordinarily easy to Ada. Heck, she can do those things! Why shouldn’t she get some treats, too?
While I feel it is important for Ada to see what Gus is working so hard to do, I also think it is important for her to not be in a waiting room or in the therapy environment the majority of her childhood. That’s why we choose to send her to daycare when she is not in preschool and we are at work or therapy with Gus. It may not be the most money-savvy choice, but in our opinion, it’s the right choice.
We make it a priority that Ada gets to spend time with both of her parents individually and together without her brother around. Whether it’s something as simple as getting to go feed the cows at work with dad, or getting to run errands with mom; we make sure it happens. Sometimes she gets to have a lunch date with mom or dad while the other stays at therapy with Gus.
Advocacy & Understanding
That all being said, no one is going to know or understand Gus like his sister. More than once in a public setting someone will say something to Gus or ask him something and be waiting for a response when Ada pipes up and says: “Gus has autism, and he can’t talk.” She doesn’t say it in an irritated or annoyed manner. She says it in a very matter of fact, somewhat proud, and a kind of “Um, hello, you should know this…” type manner.
That’s right. Gus does not talk (yet) and is in fact nonverbal. We as a family have learned to adapt and communicate with him in different ways. Including Ada.
I can tell that it most definitely distresses Ada when Gus is upset and we cannot understand what is wrong. She does her best to comfort him. She will ask our Amazon Alexa to play “Wheels on the Bus” for him. She will turn on a favorite television show for him. She will turn nursery rhymes on and hand him her tablet. She will offer him something to eat. She will give him a hug. More often than not, Ada is met with resistance by Gus. He might swipe what she is offering out of her hand. He might even shove her, pull her hair, yell at her. Nine out of ten times she understands. It’s nothing personal, he is trying to communicate.
Ada has most definitely learned to adapt and play with Gus in a way that is fun for the both of them.
Don’t think Ada is putting in all of the work on that end, though. We work hard everyday with Gus at home and in therapy to learn “appropriate play”. He is getting better all the time.
The Big Question
Will I be getting a smaller kitchen table? The answer is a hopeful “Yes”. Haha. Sorry, sorry…
The big question: Is our family complete? Are we done having children? The answer: I honestly don’t know. I do know my dreams of a big family are not realistic or what’s best for our family now, and I am wholly and fully okay with that.
You see, I look at it in a few different ways…Gus is always going to need me more and on a different level than a neurotypical child. God knew my dream, and while it was presented to me in a different way, it makes sense. It makes sense to me, anyway, and that’s all that really matters.
The reason I brought up the table, and the big family dreams, is because it’s all something I had to learn to accept (also actively have a say in, if that makes sense) due to various reasons and situations throughout my adult life. It didn’t happen overnight. I am, in fact, still in the process. My kitchen table is/was a symbol of that dream.
DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware just how weird I am, but I am not afraid to let my freak-flag fly!
I am ever evolving, and things are always changing.
As always, I truly and sincerely thank you for taking a peek inside my life and my mind by giving this a read.
-AMom’sFaithUnbroken – Amanda