Tuesday, August 8, 2017

To my daughter who (frequently) gets the short end of the stick


Dear Camille,

It's been a while since I've taken the time to write a letter to you. As I was observing your behavior today, during one of Clara's many therapy sessions, I knew it was time.

I know it isn't easy being you, a typical sibling to a sister with special needs. Your life is a blessed one, no doubt, but I will admit you frequently get the short end of the stick.

Ever since your birth your life has revolved around Clara's needs, appointments, therapy sessions, treatment plans, and medical follow-ups. Clara's first speech therapy session was on your two-week birthday. You've been tagging along strong ever since. And I have never once heard you complain. Not once. You have grown to know our routine, how important Clara's therapy appointments are to her overall growth and development, and it has become part of your normal. You will never know what a blessing this is to me as the mommy of two beautiful, but vastly different girls.

What started as three-four private therapy sessions a week a few years ago has morphed into two private weekly sessions mixed with various meetings and consultations/trainings at your sister's school. By hopping in the car with a smile every Monday and Wednesday to take Clara to speech, and then immediately following those appointments, heading into another meeting with me at Clara's school after drop-off, you are giving me a precious gift. I can breathe easy knowing that our routine won't cause a struggle, a fight. You skip right into Ms. Missy's office and ask if you can color or read a book while Clara does her thing. And you go with the flow and ask if we can swing on the playground after talking with Ms. Jovan. Of course we can color and swing, sweet girl.

Sometimes I feel guilty that you get dragged around from appointment to appointment, missing out on other opportunities, so I do try to make up for that with special one-on-one moments. Like today when we made cookies together, you in your swim suit, just because. I try to make our days, in-between therapy sessions, count.


It's easy for mommy to fall into the trap of expecting you to act like the older sibling. The dynamic around here gets a bit tricky for mommy, but that doesn't mean I should treat you like the five your old your sister isn't.

You, in many ways, function as the oldest sibling. You can do for more yourself, are more independent, can communicate and follow instructions. You can get dressed and put on your shoes all by yourself. You can throw away your trash and wash your hands. Sometimes I take advantage of all you can do, expecting you to do more and more and more, and that isn't fair.

Clara drops her sippy cup on the floor and I insist you pick it up. I spot Clara chewing on her glasses in the next room and I insist you run in there and take them away. You are the sister, not the mommy, and sometimes I default to requiring more of you than I should.

I find myself saying frequently, "Camille, please clean up your crayons," or "Camille, you know you can't leave your dress-up beads on the floor," or "Camille, you can't leave your open water cup on the edge of the table," as your sister loves to chew on inedible objects and doesn't understand the concept of an item spilling and making a mess.

I wish I could let you leave your blocks and dress-up jewelry out all over your bedroom floor and your bike in the middle of the hallway, but unfortunately, I have to take your sister's needs into consideration constantly. Mommy is always anticipating Clara's next move and need and sometimes that results in my barking orders at you. Mommy is sorry and I am truly working to correct this behavior.

I love you so much, Camille. You are an amazing sibling and compliment your sister perfectly. You are highly in-tune to Clara's needs, you have her back, and you always cheer her on in her goals.

I love watching you interact with Clara. You give her so much of your time and attention, with very little response, yet you keep giving. You never give up, Camille. What a beautiful quality. You throw out "I love you's," and kiss Clara goodnight and ask her questions as if she is going to answer back with actual words. You ask her teacher excitedly every day at pick up, "Did she go potty today?!" What a gift this is to Clara. Keep it up, sweet girl. You are showing the world that a child with special needs isn't scary or weird, just different, and that a lack of response or eye contact is no reason to avoid interaction or dismiss an opportunity for connection.


Proud doesn't even begin to describe how I feel towards you, Camille. I know you get the short end of the stick sometimes, well . . . a lot of times, but I hope you know you mean just as much to me and play just as important of a role in our little, perfectly-imperfect family.

Love,
Mommy

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