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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Balancing Act

Me.  I have to get back on the treadmill.
There is a balancing act that every parent performs when they have more than one child:  the act of lavishing enough love and attention on each that the other doesn't feel slighted by a perceived lack of his/her share. 

On the one hand (Lily's point of view) that's easy.  Lily doesn't notice whether we're spending extra time with Emma because she doesn't (for the most part) care.  That's not to say that she doesn't miss us, or want us, especially when she's being asked to attend to some less-than-preferred task/function (currently that's any TSS time, daycare or kindergarten), but for the most part, as long as we're not absent, just being there seems to satisfy her sense of "mommy/daddy time".

Emma, in the case of this blog, the "other" child, however, does.  It did occur to me as I began posting to this "special" blog that Emma's awareness of a "special" blog for Lily would immediately prompt the question, "Where's my blog, daddy?"  That awareness manifested iself last night, as I was working on the little cartoon face I drew of Lily for her blog title. 

With Lily fast asleep upstairs, I fussed with the picture on the PC from the office.  In the Family Room, my wife, playing with Emma, called, "What are you up to in there?"

Unable to suppress my urge to surprise or maintain the mystery, I responded, "Working on something!"

"What are you working on, daddy?"  Emma joined in.

"I'm drawing a picture."

"Can I see?"

"May I see?"

*groaned response, pause* "May I see?"

"Sure!"

She joined me in the office and looked over my shoulder at the picture.  "I like it," she said brightly.  "What's it for?"

This part I was prepared for, "I'm writing an autism blog for Lily.  This is a picture for the title."  I hurried on, "I have a blog for autism, and one for family stuff with mommy and you and Lily and I together."  I figured she'd want to know that I wasn't just doing something cool for Lily and forgetting about her.

I should have known what would follow, but didn't think it completely through.  To be honest, the blogs themselves aren't anything I necessarily want my 9 year-old reading until she's. . . well. . . not a 9 year-old anymore.  I thought the blog itself and the idea of blogging would be something she'd remain ignorant of until her early teens at least.

"May I see the picture for our blog?" Uhmm.

"I haven't drawn it yet."  Yet.  The magic word in this case.  I bought myself time.  The thing I had overlooked, that should never have been overlooked, is that yes, having a child with special needs sometimes means you have to pay them special attention, even extra attention, but it also means likewise paying special attention to the child without those needs. 

I hope Emma never feels that ironic sensation that if only she'd have been the one with autism, she'd be getting all the special attention.  I hope that we, as her parents, always do the extra "work" we need to do to make sure she feels included and loved and yes, "special". 

So after a momentary lapse, and a temporizing "yet", I formulated a plan to add a cartoon to the title of my other blog as well, and I remembered something I should never have forgotten in the first place:  That yes, I'm willing to put in the extra time and effort needed to give my special needs child what she needs to help her succeed in life, but that will never preclude or eclipse my other daughter's needs.  She's not a "special needs" child, but her needs are equally "special."

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