Lately I've been thinking a lot about who Addison is.
Who she really is.
Because she is so quiet and delayed with her speech, it's really easy for me to make her say what I want her to say. Like when she sends someone a Thank You note, I write the note on a blank sheet of white paper, I read it to her, and she paints over top. A Thank You note "from" Addison.
Sometimes I think perhaps I do that with her life.
When she was a baby, it was easy to post pictures with captions completely out of my head- forcing a subject or emotion on the picture that perhaps wasn't even there in the moment.
I thought I was understanding her. I thought I was in her head. I thought I was truly trying to get to know her, but in all reality- my perceptions always came first.
What has forced me to reevaluate this? Carter.
He is not quiet. He is not reserved. He is the hurricane to the light sprinkling of rain that Addison is. Extremely opinionated. Extremely verbal about those opinions. Extremely loud and stubborn.
He has forced me to rethink how I interact with my children. How I listen to their opinions. How I direct them where they need teaching and accept them where they need grace.
Those means two different things for Addison and Carter.
"She's rocking out Down syndrome!" What if she doesn't want to rock out anything? What if she just wants to be a quiet little girl who loves chocolate and dancing with her family?
"She may have Down syndrome...but look at what she can DO! Way to break all the stereotypes, little girl!" She doesn't care about the stereotypes. She wanted to climb to the top of that dresser so that she could be doing exactly what her brother was doing. She has no hidden agenda to PROVE A POINT ABOUT DOWN SYNDROME. She just wants to live equally as a part of our family.
When I look at her in her beautiful blue eyes, I learn a lot. She is getting better at answering "NO" or requests for "more" or "all done" or "please" but also is extremely expressive with her facial expressions and hand gestures. She is communicating who she is in many different ways if I am patient enough to hear/see what she's saying. Sometimes I just need to stop my hurried pace, wait, and really listen to her.
Life gets so distracting. The laundry, the dishes, the little boy dunking his toy cars in the toilet, the dinner that needs to be made, keeping the little boy's toilet-water-covered hands away from half-prepared dinner.....sometimes my favorite days are when I take the time to set those all aside, sit down with Addison, and just wait for her to tell me what's going on with her. It's easy to ignore her. It's easy to let her wants and needs get pushed to the side because she won't insist on being heard (like Carter does.)
Not going to lie- it is easier to get a sense from Carter what's going on with him because he will use words. And tantrums. And mischievous sneaking around. But Addison's opinions are no less important. And awesome. And worth whatever effort it takes to extract them from her.
The other day I had a morning to spend alone with Addison. I don't get these mornings often because she is usually in school while I have one-on-one time with Carter. We ran errands, and she was very quiet and most uncooperative. She didn't want to walk and hold my hand (like Carter does), so I ended up breaking out the wagon just for her to sit in. The stores were small and hauling the wagon around seemed ridiculous. I started to get frustrated with her because her only response to anything I asked her to do was to whine and cry. Running these errands with her was turning out to be way more work than running errands with Carter. And I didn't have the energy to deal with that. And I certainly couldn't carry her from place to place or physically make her walk when she was determined to sit and pout.
I don't like comparing Addison and Carter. I hate it when my mind goes there because it's not fair to either of them.
We were rushing from store to store. I was going my pace and didn't even acknowledge that Addison wasn't keeping up with what was going on. Also, she wasn't wearing her glasses because it was cold out and I was just trying to get her to keep a hat on so she probably couldn't see the things that usually hold Carter's attention as we rush through errand time.
I had an agenda. She wasn't it. I was frustrated because she was whiney and refusing to walk. She was frustrated because I was refusing to see her. Instead of Mother/Daughter Time, it was Mother Time with daughter being dragged along.
It wasn't until the very end that we reconnected. I asked her if she was hungry and if she wanted to get some lunch. She immediately lit up and said "EAT. please. Eat. Please. More. Eat. Please."
It occurred to me that that was the first time that morning I truly explained to her what we were doing next and asked her opinion on it. Plus? Sister was hungry from being dragged all over town.
Forcing my spinning mind to slow down, we stopped the errand list and drove to McDonalds while I talked to her more about eating. I asked her what she wanted and what toy she thought she might get with her Happy Meal. She didn't answer, but I could tell she was listening.
When we got out at McDonalds, she walked very obediently beside me, holding my hand. She waited a few seconds while I ordered and then wandered off to a table. She picked a seat, climbed up, and waited there. "Eat. Please. More. Eat. Please." Was requested by her every time I went over to deposit food items onto our table that she had chosen.
She beamed with pride when her food was laid out carefully in front of her. She was fascinated with her page of stickers and the bucket her meal came in. We talked about everything and nothing and even though her responses back were not verbal, I could tell she was with me for the first time that morning.
It was a date. We sat there long past when I was done eating because she was still working on her food. This was about seeing Addison for who she really is. A cute little girl who enjoyed that Happy Meal with more gusto and happiness than I had seen from her all morning.
We talked about how she was going to sleep at Papa and Grandma's house that night and how she needed to make sure that Carter obeyed and went to sleep. We talked about school and how I was sorry she had to miss last Friday. We talked about the new baby coming and how I was going to need her help as big sister. We talked about how proud I was of her. We talked about the new raincoat that I just bought her and how we need to find her some new boots for the coming snow.
Each subject matter was considered very seriously by her even though her responses were sparse. Her facial expressions responded even when her words could not.
I just wanted to freeze this lunch date into my memory. I wanted to always remember to see her for who she is. Not for who I need her to be. Or who I want her to be.
Who she is.
Because "who she is" is pretty awesome. And very sweet. And just wants to be talked like she understands- (because she DOES even though she can't always tell me that.) And has absolutely nothing to do with Down syndrome or "rocking" anything or proving herself to the world.
It's just about a little girl being a little girl. One proudly carried bucket of Happy Meal leftovers at a time.
p.s. Thank you to those who gave ideas for preggo/bearded husband costume ideas on my facebook page. We ended up going as the Master of Ceremonies and the Disco Ball. I cannot take any credit- my Mother-in-Law heard the idea from someone at Joanne Fabrics and then she sewed together the sparkly ball material for me. All I did was find black apparel to wear underneath. Aaron borrowed a fun tux thing from his dad, and we were all set. Awesome costume party...and even more awesome that Addison and Carter successfully slept all night at the grandparent's house. Seriously- amazing to get that break! (And to know that when baby comes they won't completely fall apart in the new space. (-:) Thank you!