I started this blog back in March 2012 as a way of recording the many beautiful lessons I have and continue to learn as wife, mother and homeschooler. What I didn’t expect was the journey of discovery I would undertake in particular regard to my two wonderful girls, Sunshine (8) and Curly Sue (4).
As different as chalk and cheese, my girls at times overwhelmed me with their different needs, desires and expectations. The same parenting, the same structure, the same emotional investment could not be applied to each of them. I started to struggle under what felt like the most impossible of tasks.
Until… :) (“pause for dramatic effect” – Gru )
I started to actively and consciously love them as incredibly unique individuals. But to do this I had to learn what was required for my Sunshine toolbox and what was required for my Curly Sue toolbox…. not an easy task!
Labels are not ideal and I do prefer not to go down that path, but they have certainly helped me equip myself to a degree with strategies and tap into the past wisdom and experience of others. The labels I had to come to terms with were to do with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), for Sunshine it was “Sensory Sensitive” and for Curly Sue “Sensory Seeker”.
The diagram below I have used before but it is pretty clear…
In lay mans terms, Sunshine is the yellow (how appropriate!) and Curly Sue is the pink (even more appropriate!). Sunshine experiences the world in technicolour, full stereo surround sound with 4D effects and responds immediately to this stimulation in many ways, most often emotionally. Curly Sue finds everyday life unstimulating and can often be heard saying “what can I do NOW?”. For her there is a real daily need to be stimulated physically, whether it be swinging, tasting, jumping, squishing etc. As evident from the above graph… my two girls are completely opposite! Chalk and cheese!
This discovery was simply life changing for me and turned my parenting on it’s head :)
So where are we know? Am I still struggling? Do I have this SPD parenting sorted? Am I able to blog about how brilliantly we handle these gorgeous kids?
The reason this particular blog post has come about is because I have been pretty unmotivated in my consciously competent parenting (see here for post on this!). The result of this lack of motivation is an ever increasing impatience and frustration which festers and feeds on itself. I haven’t got it all sorted….. in fact I have been only just coping!
Cue a much anticipated trip to Australia for one very blessed Sunshine and her Daddy.
Suddenly for the first time in almost 9 years, I am without my Sunshine for 6 days. Master Luke (6), Curly Sue and Fuzz (2) are without their big sister for 6 days. EVERYONE feels the absence. EVERYONE misses her!
And I get some much needed thinking and praying time, and a good kick up the backside (excuse the expression) in regards to my attitude and lack of unconditional love.
My children are such precious treasures, and having one absent has opened my eyes to the richness they bring to my life! So instead of sharing some of the challenges and tools that have come my way dealing with SPD recently, I want to lift up the unique beauty of each of my girls.
Strong, willful, generous, righteous… at 4 years old Curly Sue looks like the cutest of poppets with her big green/blue eyes, long lashes and head of golden curls, but she can roar like a lion and fight like a pirate given half the chance! She has a take on the world that is calculated, unemotional and wise beyond her years but will be moved and brought to tears by unusual things. She is fearless when it comes to physical feats, but cowers behind her big brother in the dark. Her voice at play is the loudest in our family, but she can be lost for periods of time at home curled up quietly in a “nest” of her making. Out of all of my kids, she is the one I struggle the most to find any resemblance to me in, yet she is the one I look forward to dealing the most with as a teenager :).
I love her by letting her have a voice and listening. I love her by letting her sit on my feet as I walk around the kitchen. I love her by creating goop, playdough and warm spaghetti baths even when I have just cleaned. I love her by letting her push her physical boundaries (within reason :)). I love her by letting her cross the road walking close beside me not holding my hand. I love her by swinging her round, hanging her upside down, wrestling her and letting her snuggle against my skin inside my dressing gown. I love her by kissing her when she roars at me. I love her by thinking of creative, messy, sensory play ideas. I love her by letting her be Curly Sue and by providing a strong, unwavering set of boundaries that give her the courage and confidence to grow! I NEED to love her by reading this again tomorrow and actively choosing to do these things :)
Radiant, sensitive, deep, theatrical, emotional, philosophical…. at almost 9 years old, Sunshine can be a brilliant ray of light in our lives, or just as easily grow into a rocking, rolling thunderstorm. Her anxieties and drama queen episodes are very real and often all consuming, but her effervescent chuckle and smile illuminated from within are priceless treasures! She is sensitive to sound which leads her to feel music and interpret it with grace and depth of understanding. She sees beauty in created forms and constantly thinks of ways to recreate them herself. She daydreams the hours away, lost in a vivid imagination rich in characters and language. She knows God and loves him personally from a faith that wells up from within calling us all on in her own special way. She likes order and routine, always seeking to know what is coming next and suffers deeply when plans change. She invests her heart freely into people, always desiring to make bosom buddies but is still learning how to read social cues and seek what is in the other person’s best interest. She doesn’t play with things, but would rather be in character. She is slow to undertake or complete normal daily activities, getting distracted or lost in her imagination….. but this trait that frustrates me the most about her… taught me a valuable lesson the other day!
Sunshine had the idea to make a doll of Our Lady of Guadalupe. So feeling motivated and inspired I said “Yes” and we got the required materials and began. I gave clear instructions on hand sewing which she had only done a few times before but in a much smaller degree. “Keep to the line as much as you can and keep the stitches small and closely spaced to help the stuffing stay in”. Master Luke (6), launched in guns blazing and got off to a great start. He was half way done when I glanced over to Sunshine who had completed not quite a quarter of the stitching. I made the occasional “you might need to speed up” and “if you are going to get this doll finished you will have to” comments, but to no avail. It was then that I heard a slight mutter coming from her lips. As I listened, I realised that she was praying a Hail Mary for every stitch……..
I asked her what she was doing and she told me that because it was a doll of Mary, she wanted to treat it with respect and thought that praying her way through making it would be a good thing. I really was speechless. Here I was trying to speed her up, when in fact she was making the most of ever second by offering it up to God in prayer. To add salt to my pride…. when she finished, her stitching was AMAZING :).
I love Sunshine by making myself present. I love her by taking control of her coping mechanisms. I love her by providing stable routines. I love her by giving her space and a time frame to get things done. I love her by making my expectations clear and simple. I love her by feeding her good music, literature and art. I love her by encouraging her to take physical risks and letting her do them in her own time and pace. I love her by teaching her filters and providing her with tools for social environments. I love her by feeding her the right food for her brain chemistry and avoiding the junk that messes up the wiring. I love her by being her advocate and not her judge. I love her by affirming her strengths and not emphasizing her weaknesses. I love her by giving her responsibility and trust. I love her by giving her my ears and mind to download on. I love her by recognising her fears and anxieties are real. I love her by helping her rise above them and to soar. I love her by taking her to the Sacraments. I love her by accepting that she sees and will continue to see the world in a different way than I do, and by giving her a solid foundation of love and acceptance which will give her the strength to fly! I NEED to choose each day to consciously and competently love my Sunshine!
Whoever your children are, what ever quirks, gifts, personality traits etc. that God has given them, no matter how they exceed your expectations or fail to live up to them…. they are treasures! Here today, gone tomorrow, our lives are truly precious and as parents we need to live a life of gratitude and praise for Our Heavenly Father has entrusted us with the extraordinary gift of raising His own! It is ok to struggle and it is ok to wonder how you are to possibly love a child in the midst of a struggle, but LOVE raises us up, strengthens us and makes us capable of more than we think is possible!
Tomorrow, embrace your children and then spend the day looking at them in wonder. Observe them, ponder them, allow yourself to learn about them and then take those heart notes and turn them into a mission…. a mission to actively love!
Many, many blessings my friends!