After the bloggers' session on Friday, we visited with friends for a bit but everyone was toast so we called it early. Early for the adults, at least. You know what happens when you push a toddler past the point of exhaustion? They get a taste of adrenaline and decide sleep is for schmucks. Mix well with one non-child proofed hotel room and the boys' late night arrival from Chicago and you get me sleeping in till 8:15, a mere 15 minutes before the first of the sessions for which we'd flown halfway across the country. Whoops!
But I was super mom (super disheveled, that is) and ended up only 5ish minutes late for Brian Skotko & Susan Levine's talk - "What Your Other Children without DS are Thinking". IT WAS FABULOUS. They have been talking to siblings, running surveys and presentations for years, and had lots of reassuring statistics: 94-96% of kids reported they felt affection & pride whereas less than 5% of respondents wanted to trade in their brother or sister with Ds. They rightly pointed out, to much laughter, that most kids want to swap out their siblings occasionally, typical or not, and 5% might be even be lower than the average.
A lot of their talk was just good parental advice - keep the lines of communication open, ask clarifying questions, spend one on one time with each kid, be fair, acknowledge feelings - even the negative ones, & be willing to talk about the hard stuff. And, boy, did they talk about the hard stuff. They threw out some gut wrenchers, asked by actual children:
"Why does her face look odd?"
"Will she be ugly?"
"Is she going to die?"
When my girl was younger I heard a few times how great my son was going to turn out because of his sister. I hate this. We weren't getting a dog so The Boy could feed it every night and learn about responsibility. His sister is an individual, not an object lesson, and she has every right to live her life free of pedestals & angel wings. That said, he IS a neat kid. I'd like to think that's a result of the fabulous parenting job we're doing but who knows?
Earlier this summer a bunch of neighborhood kids were over. They'd been playing nicely for hours but late in the afternoon I walked back into the living room to see my never violent son pushing the other kid and yelling, "Don't you call my sister that!"
The kid had said something mean and my son had stepped up to the plate at the ripe ol' age of 7. I sent everyone home (they were already at the "ten more minutes" mark), had myself a good cry, and then we sat down and had A Talk. I told him it was going to take his sister longer to learn things, that she might look a little bit different, and that some people wouldn't know how to act around her. As they got to know her, they'd learn she was just like most kids but no one is ever allowed to be mean to her, especially not in our own house.
Then I told him he was a really awesome big brother and I made chocolate chip pancakes for dinner, by request.
[And, HELL NO, I didn't mention the pushing]
But my son isn't angelic either. Not too long after, during my birthday weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks, we went on a tour of Bridal Cave. The girl was hollering and the cave amplified her noise, drowning out the tour guide. The Boy looked pained and kept trying to shush her. Then he just walked away and shadowed a random family of strangers till we were done. What are the odds he was in that 5% during those ten minutes? Funny stuff.
I googled and found a version of Dr Skotko/Susan Levine's sibling presentation here. It's long, but if you have other kids, I'd recommend it.