I have failed my kid miserably, and she is only 14. Can I still fix it?
If you have HBO, have you seen the documentary Monica and David? If not, you HAVE to check it out! It's about a couple with Down syndrome who have gotten married, and are learning about living and loving together, and their family learning to let them do just that. It was fascinating for me to watch. And, I have to admit, some parts were hard for me to watch to. Like their wedding night when the hotel room door closed behind them. I told Dean, "That is where I would want to put my thumb in my mouth, my fingers in my ears, curl up in a fetal position and hum in the corner." Really, when that day comes for Angela, I'm gonna have a hard time with it.
Anyway, this movie was a slap in the face of reality for me. Monica is a bit obsessive about some things, as Angela can also be sometimes. Ok, a lot of people with DS have some...ummm...obsessive tendencies. Several times they showed Monica making her bed. As she made her bed, all I could think of was the mess Angela's bed is left in each morning and the fact that Angela is perfectly capable of making her bed, I just don't seem to have the patience for teaching her how to do it. It's not that I haven't tried, it's just that our sessions have not turned out very well. One of us always ends up irritated with the other. Oh my, Angela and I are soooo much alike!
In other segments of the movie, Monica and David are doing chores together, like taking out the trash. (It was pretty cute to see them bickering over some small detail.) But the scene reminded me of my friend Tamara's recent blog post about her son Shawen doing chores. And that is when I realized that I have failed Angela miserably.
You see, although Angela has four older brothers, she has been very much an only child since they moved out when she was 7. (well, except for the revolving door stuff with Tyler.) When she was little, and we pretty much did everything for her, and since she was the only one here, it's been pretty easy to just keep the same patterns in place.
Some things have changed. Like, she showers independently and stuff like that. But she can't make a bed. She doesn't take out the garbage, or do any kind of household tasks unless asked to, which is rarely. Occasionally she lets the dogs in or out, and we're met with a huge attitude when we do tell her to do it.
I have news for Angela.
The sh** is about to hit the fan.
There is a new brother coming, and I'm pretty sure he is NOT going to be a happy camper when he comes. He is loosing a family, and a foster sister who he is bonded to. I have no idea how independent he is, but I'm going to assume he's not at all and hope I'm pleasantly surprised.
You know how girls, when the hit the age of about 7 or so, start to mother everything? Suddenly they're very into mothering their nieces and nephews, etc. Well, Angela just started hitting that developmental stage about 6 months ago. I think that's interesting since I've been saying for awhile that cognitively she's very much 7-ish. All of a sudden here came this very 7-ish behavior! Prior to that she was really pretty rough with little ones. We're hoping we can use that "mothering" thing to our advantage when Axel comes home. Hey, it's my blog, and I can be delusional if I want.
Anyway, we've been talking to Angela about how she's going to be the "big sister" and how big sisters do things themselves because when moms have new babies, moms have to take care of the new baby. Bringing Axel home is going to be a little bit like bringing home a new baby because he's going to need lots of attention. We talk about how when she was born, she had to go to lots of doctor appointments, and her brothers had to come along. Most of Axels visits will be while she's at school but she'll be able to come along to some of them. (she was thrilled about this, because she LOVES to come to the doctor when it's my turn and not hers! LOL) Axel will need someone to tuck him in at night, and read him a story, and teach him how to be a big kid. She can help by showing him how big kids act, and do thier CHORES like a big kid. And do their HOMEWORK like a big kid, etc.
We struggle to find ways to explain all of this to Angela in ways that will be fun and exciting for her, and not make her resentful of the intruder who is about to descend upon her empire.