Lara is 5, it was her birthday last Sunday. It’s hard in some ways to believe that our little girl who used call herself ‘Wawa” is 5, yet so much has happened since she was born. She has lived in 5 houses, 2 states, travelled a lot (she has been on approx. 50 flights), drank at least one milk lake’s worth of babycinos, and in the middle of all that she got a new sister. I barely remember life pre Lara!
She started school a few weeks ago, which has been a really positive experience. She has settled in so well, and has lots of friends. By home time she is absolutely exhausted, yet in true Lara form- still refuses to sleep! The day before she started school she was really upset, she was terrified she would be late “If you’re late you have to go to the principal’s office, and you will be banished” she told me through tears. Apparently she doesn’t know the word punished, but knows the word banished. She thought if she was late she got sent to another “Kingdom”! God, I love her innocence.
Her school has a modern play based approach to early years education, which is fantastic. I hated the idea of her sitting at a desk. We wanted her to be exploring her environment and asserting her individuality, not learning to conform at such a formative stage in her development. I really miss having my big girl around during the week. It’s only dawned on me that the only time we now have to squeeze in activities together is the weekend- 2 days! Simon works weekends too, so it means that the 4 of us having days together will be rarer, we will just have to be more organised and plan our family time better.
One of the biggest reservations I had about starting this blog was that it was another area where Lara would be invisible. It’s not that I don’t have lots of stories about her, it’s just that this isn’t a blog about our family life, it’s specifically about Zoë’s journey. The siblings of children with special needs often feel neglected and overshadowed by their special needs brother or sister, we are very conscious of this and try to find ways of making Lara know that both girls are equally loved and important. It’s hard when she is brought along to appointment after appointment where Zoë is the centre of attention. Lara is often relegated to the sidelines to colour in or watch the iPad. I loathe her using the iPad, but it’s a means to an end in these situations. Inevitably conversations we have with people also revolve around Zoë, this of course cannot be avoided but little ears are always listening. Our family plans are often also determined by Zoë’s needs ahead of those of everyone else, from minor things like whether we can go out that day, to major things like where is the best place to live. So far Lara seems largely unaffected by this, hopefully that will continue to be the case into the future.
We take it in turns to go on “dates” with Lara, which is something we did before we even knew that Zoë had special needs. It’s so important for every child to get one on one time with each parent, but it has taken on a new importance now. It might just be a quick trip to the supermarket or something nicer like going to the park or for a babycino. We always have the best conversations during these dates, she is a sparkly little ball of joy and I love seeing the world through her eyes.
We chat to Lara about Zoë, and involve her where possible with her therapy. It’s beneficial for both of them, Zoë lights up when she sees Lara, and Lara loves finding new ways to make her laugh. She is very considerate of Zoë’s needs, and she is so protective and caring towards her little sister. Two people from Lara’s school have told me that she was telling them all about her sister and how proud of her she is. She told them that Zoë can’t walk or talk like a normal 2 year old and that she gets food and medicine through her NG tube. The nicest part of her description though was that Zoë loves cuddles and singing, these are the little details that Lara observes. I mentioned once to Lara that when she sings it calms Zoë, now whenever she hears Zoë crying she sings, it’s almost like a reflex, it’s adorable.
There are things that have changed for Lara due to Zoë’s needs, we had anticipated her getting a little playmate, but they don’t have a traditional sister relationship. Their bond is different, and in many ways even deeper, Lara understands Zoë without her ever uttering a syllable. I wonder about the effect having Zoë in her life will have on Lara. I think her world has been opened up to an aspect of life that not many people experience first hand, and I think she will be all the better for it. She is so kind and compassionate, she is a deep thinker too, she will often come out with things that literally leave me speechless.
So happy birthday to the first human to live in my tummy- you are a very, very special girl. It would be impossible to love you any more than we do. If you ever do get banished to another Kingdom, we will be on the first plane to join you, after all we are all on this journey together.