Can You Meet ALL Their Special Needs?

Hello, 5 Minutes for Special Needs readers.

For my first ever column post here, I’m going to step outside the box and write about my two kids who don’t have special needs. Because I love those kids…every bit as much and with just as much passion and adoration as I do my daughter with cancer. Yet, I know there are days they feel last in line and second best because the bulk of my attention is focused on whatever critical issue Peyton has.

Am I alone here? Need I go join the team at 5 Minutes for Things That Apply Only To Me?

Peyton was diagnosed with Leukemia at 2 years old. Nathaniel was 8 and Rachael was 5 when our normal life was shaken like a snow globe. I won’t lie or make excuses, they fell to the background in the fallout of Peyton’s diagnosis. I was frantically trying to understand my new role as a nurse to my sick child, grasping wildly for some emotional control over the situation and they suffered for it.

Perhaps they didn’t suffer in any large CRUSH-YOU-LIKE-A-BOULDER ways, but in many small ways that sting like a pinch. The kind that, when repeated over and over again, leave a huge and lingering bruise.

“Can you help me with this?”

“No, I can’t right now, go see if your dad can.”

“Are you coming on my field trip?

“No, I have to take Peyton to the clinic.”

“Can I sleep in your bed tonight?

“No, Peyton had a rough day at the hospital and she’s sleeping in there.”

The No’s far outnumbered the Yes’s in those days. Time and time again, without even realizing it, I reinforced the idea that they weren’t as important, as significant.

The guilt. The hurt. The pain of mistakes made that can’t be undone.

Whenever I talk to parents of a newly diagnosed child, I always make sure to ask if they have other children, I make sure to express my concern for those children and their coping skills. I never want to add more to the overwhelmed feeling that the parents are experiencing, but the subtle reminder of their “other” children sometimes brings new support options.

On my personal site, I’ve gone out of my way to emphasize that although this is something that Peyton is going through, it ripples through our family. Your entire family is diagnosed.

What can you do to emphasize that you’re still there for your other children?

There were times when Peyton would cry for me as I walked out the door, she would be screaming, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” Yet, I would hold the hand of whatever child I was devoting time to, and we would shut the door behind us. My heart would be pounding and everything inside me would be aching to turn around and go comfort her. It was one way that I took back my relationship with my older children, I let them see that although she needed, or wanted me, they were a priority in my life as well.

I made sure to take them out, whether just to a movie or a dinner, but one on one time, dedicated solely to them. We never stayed at home during those times because it was too often that I had to answer Peyton’s call, or she wanted to be involved in whatever we were doing. It HAD to be a singularly THEM moment. I would pull them out of school an hour early so that we could go to the park, I let them stay up an hour later so we could play a game.

I think it helped. If not them, it sure helped me.

What have you done to remind your special needs child’s siblings that they are special too?

You can also find me at Hope4Peyton, come by, it’s nice…we have cookies!

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