Sunday, October 20, 2013

Raising a Child With Special Needs and One Without

Jayden is your typical big sister, I think.  She secretly LOVES Sophia more than words can say, on the inside, but DISLIKES her little sister, more than words can say, on the outside. 

Sophia is Jayden's first experience at sisterhood.  And because of that, I think that a lot of the things that go along with having a little sister in general, get Jayden confused with having a little sister, who also has Down syndrome.  Jayden seems to associate a lot of Sophia's little sister habits, with her having Down syndrome, and we all know that isn't the case.  Little sisters are suppose to bug their big sisters.  They are suppose to get on their nerves and tear up their stuff and pester them until they want to scream, that's a little sister's job.  But sometimes I get the feeling that Jayden thinks that just because Sophia has Down syndrome, that is why she does all of those things.  I'm not sure Jayden is quite prepared for the double dose of little sister evil that is about to be placed upon her! 

I have told Jayden about Down syndrome.  I have explained to her that even though some things will take Sophia a little longer to learn, she is no different.  I have tried to make her understand that we accept everyone, for who they are.  We don't bully or make fun of others just because they appear different from us.  We accept everyone and play with everyone.  And just because someone has different abilities than we do, doesn't mean that we can't be their friend.  It's always been important to me that my kids would be nice and accepting and stand up for what is right, no matter what.  But sometimes I feel getting my own daughter to accept her own sister's differences is a challenge.  And if I can't get my own kid to accept Sophia for who she is, how do I expect other kids to accept her? 

It's hard to see how Jayden truly feels about her sister, because Sophia is her little sister after all, and she does what a lot of big sisters probably do, torment their little sister tirelessly, day in and day out.  But I have seen Jayden truly scared for her little sister.  I have seen her truly concerned and worried about Sophia.  I have seen glimpses of Jayden standing up for Sophia around other kids, when I wasn't right there with them.  And that, makes my heart sing. 

I want Jayden to grow up and help advocate for Sophia.  I want Jayden to help to be a voice that encourages her peers to accept others for their own abilities.  I want Jayden to be able to stand up for what is right, and protect Sophia when she needs protecting, no matter what the cost is.  I want Jayden to be on the side of inclusion and acceptance, even if she has to stand there alone sometimes.  I want Jayden to be a voice for those around her who don't have their own voice.  And as Sophia's mom, I put a lot of pressure on Jayden to live up to all of these things. 

When I see another child mistreating my kids, I want to go and wring their necks!  Sorry, but that's just how I feel :)  But when I see my own kids mistreating another child....OH HELL NO!  I'll do more than just think about wringing someone's neck!  I never want my kids to be the center of being picked on, or made fun of, or mistreated.  But I also never want my kids to be the ones who are doing those things to another kid.  I worry about peer pressure and feeling like you have to live up to certain standards around your friends, more with Jayden than with Sophia.  When I hear Jayden come home from school and talk about some kid being "weird" or if I'm around Jayden with her friends and someone excludes someone else from playing, and Jayden does nothing about it....I get fired up a little.  My mind immediately jumps to Sophia and I think, what if someone was treating her like that?  I sure hope there will be a brave little kid around who will stand up for her, and I really hope that brave little kid is her big sister. 

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