Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green...with Envy

"There she goes again.  Trying to get all of the attention."

Yes, that is a direct quote from S.  Just as I have suspected for some time, she's jealous.  I realize this is typical sibling behavior, even though I really have no frame of reference for typical sibling behavior.  That's what other people tell me.  I can accept that, but I am sensitive to it.  I've said it before - it cannot be easy to be the sibling of an extra-special kid.

Kids, even as they mature, don't seem to see things as logically as they could.  I know, I know...duh!  I just wonder what S would really think if she took time to compare her life to K's.  I recognize that the jealousy stems from her perception that K gets more attention, but would she really want that same attention?  If we go back to the "fair and equal" thing, which has already been established as a myth, would she really want to do what K does?  Sure, K is technically spending more time with me.  However, let's look at how that time has been spent.

I'm pretty confident that K could pick me out of a crowd just by seeing the back of my head.  Why?  Because she has spent a lot of time in the car, being driven from one therapy to another or to school and back.  That's a lot of time in the backseat!  Don't be deceived, either.  It's not like she gets to just play in the backseat all the time.  Many times, we use that time for other activities to help her in her learning.  Sometimes she reads aloud to me.  Sometimes, she is listening to books on CD - not fun ones, the boring stories from her Open Court reading text at school (in the hope that repetition will help her understand it more clearly).  Occasionally, she does her homework in the car because the time is too short to do it at any other time.  We've been known to practice spelling words in the car and also those pesky math facts.  I don't think S would enjoy spending all that time in the car.

Over the years, K has spent a lot of time in different therapy settings.  Granted, the one that S seemed most interested in was occupational therapy.  Who could blame her?  It looked like K got to spend an hour playing in sand, finger painting with shaving cream, sitting in a bucket of beans and swinging on a hammock swing...all inside!  K did that once a week for 3 years.  Would S really have wanted to be doing that?

Speech therapy has been and will remain a constant.  S knows that she doesn't want to do that, but still, she seems to envy the time her sister gets to spend doing it.  It's not logical.

For me, the hardest thing to convey to S is that even though it seems like K is getting more attention, the reason for that is not one she would want to share.  I try to explain to her that the reason K went to occupational therapy was because she couldn't manage to get through a day without shutting down - her brain was like a clogged up freeway.  Would you want to trade places with that?  Same thing for speech - it may seem like fun to go to speech therapy but how would you feel if you couldn't communicate clearly with your friends or didn't understand what the teacher was trying to explain or didn't have the right words to express your frustrations, your joys, your fears, your excitement?  This is really hard for S to conceptualize in her own mind since she has never experienced it for herself.

It's also just because that's what siblings do and her lament is a common one from the older sibling toward the younger one.

In all fairness to S, K can certainly be a drama queen and she does nab our attention - both good and bad - because of it.  On the other hand, it can be quite entertaining to watch the two of them trying to grab their spotlight, upping the ante with one antic or another.  I have to be careful, though.  If I laugh at it as much as I'd like to, S will give me the eye roll with the huffy sigh.  She is a 12 year old girl, after all and that means she is hypersensitive to any perceived criticism, whether real or not.

As a mom trying to manage raising two very different daughters who require two totally different approaches to parenting, I have to be a keen observer of things like this.  The little things that S says and does are what give me a much clearer picture of where she is at, particularly in regard to K.  Her statement about K trying to get all of the attention helps me to remember that S can't be taken for granted.  The challenge is to keep that in mind on a daily basis, given the normal hustle and bustle of any family.

Will I get it right?  Will S eventually figure out that she wouldn't want to be in K's shoes?  I don't know.  As with everything else on this crazy parenting journey, I just have to do the best I can with what I've got and then cross my fingers that it all turns out okay.

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