Friday, October 19, 2012
Where Do They Fit In?
I'm talking about my girls. Being a mother to my girls has shown me that the kind of parenting my kids need is so far outside the American system that my girls don't fit in anywhere except at home. My job is to try and help them grow into the outside world.
The first step outside the home for most kids is school. Academically, I have two first graders, one who is 8.5 years old and another about to turn 12, and I have a 3rd grader about to turn 14.
At church, Jie Jie, my 8.5 year old is close to fitting in with her Sunday School class socially, but she can't read even close to their level and doesn't know about 1/3 or more of the English words used during the lesson.
My almost 12 year old, Blossom, hasn't ever even been to a church service and needs a lot more time at home before being ready.
My almost 14 year old, Sissy, is intellectually ready to observe and learn some of the things girls her age do at the mid-week activities, like baking muffins, but she only speaks a handful of English words so she'd be lost in their Sunday School class and bored stiff. She is ready, I think, to join the class with 10-11 year-olds. They have singing and activity time as well as class time on Sundays.
Size-wise, Jie Jie looks 5 years old, Blossom looks eight and Sissy looks 11 or a petite 12.
At home, if Sissy needs to go potty, especially #2, she'll come up to me about 40% of the time to tell me first, dramatically either grabbing her belly or semi-squatting to demonstrate, depending on her level of urgency. At least she seems to not do this in front of others, or is at least more discreet if my assistants are nearby.
Blossom may not go into a bathroom alone any longer. I supervise her or, if I'm near, Sissy stands in the doorway. Blossom is actually not allowed to go anywhere alone right now. This is working well and I'm getting used to it, but it can be extremely tedius. She cannot even go upstairs to get her shoes because that is when food disappears, even in 3 minutes.
Due to her special needs, Jie Jie needs help with many things, but it's our norm in our home so we don't feel it too much. But when we go out we do. Looking at her, no one would really ever be able to tell.
I'm sure I appear extremely over-protective, but that's what this kind of parenting looks like. If you saw us last week, you'd understand why...
I knew Blossom was on edge over something and I tried to get her to go for a run to try and head it off, but I was too late. She had a HUGE, meltdown outside on the sidewalk. In public. Everyone could see and hear her. She was on the ground screaming. You can imagine how I managed to get her home, people popping out to see if I needed help. No obvious reason, but she even screamed another hour once home and had such a hoarse voice afterward. Once she was calm enough, I brought her a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and she sat up on her bed as I entered the room and said is the sweetest, most sincere voice, "I'm sorry, Mommy."
I don't get angry often, but twice now I did feel anger on this day and the day the toothpaste went down the toilet. Thankfully, it's very short-lived because it's so easy to see how hard Blossom is trying and it's easy to understand her lack due to where she's come from.
My girls don't even fit in well at the park, though we are making progress. Sissy is a little beyond the playground stuff, but she'll swing. Blossom was terrified to swing at first, but each time we've gone she's tried it again. Tonight she did very well, crossing the threshold between sitting on the swing and gently swaying, to actually swinging a bit for the first time. As I type this, I can't remember if she's used our backyard swings or not or stuck to the glider. Jie Jie likes to swing, but falls off easily so I have to make sure she holds on tightly. She also likes the monkey bars and, tonight, for the first time, could reach them, but she still has about a 3' drop to the ground if she lets's go. That's about a shoulder-high drop for her. She's too mature for the little kid-sized area, though, and the jungle gym is boring unless she can get her sisters to play with her.
Watching my girls play is a treat. Blossom and Jie Jie play the best. They play little girl pretend games. Blossom and Sissy do big girl things like sing pop songs and chitchat. Together, all three play Barbies, color, draw, play games, do puzzles and more.
This kind of parenting is rigorous and keeps me on my toes. The trick is to avoid expecations and go with the moment, be strict and consistant so they can feel exactly where the boundaries are. In fact, I'd say that Blossom, at least, goes through life right now with one hand on the boundary at all times so she always knows exactly where it is. I have to be energetic, always ready, give up almost all privacy, be patient and loving and extremely forgiving, all the time, and often, at the same time.