Sibling love, rivalry and life

The love and support of a sibling in my own life means so much to me. My sisters are always there no matter what, on good and bad days. Being the eldest of four, growing up there was no shortage of playmates and no chance for boredom. Now that we are older, there is always a shoulder to cry on, an ear to rant to and support whenever we need it. This bond has been an important part of my life and without I honestly don’t think I could have managed in the early days of having children and going through diagnosis. 

Sibling Awesomeness

Looking at my own four children it’s easy to see the amazing bond that they all share. Even with the range of disabilities they have, they are always there to love, support and annoy each other as only siblings can. Life is interesting to say the least. Each with their own individual needs they somehow come together. They are always there supporting each other when the need arises from cuts, bumps and bruises to just spending some quiet time together reading, drawing and story massaging… well, until the arguments start!

My eldest daughter, age 13, has a hearing loss which she lived with for five years before diagnosis. She is the rock of the bunch, always trying to help her sisters anyway that she can. Sometimes I feel that she takes on the motherly role too much and that she grew up too quickly but she’s always the peacemaker and will spend hours with her sisters playing games and make believe. There is no shortage of imagination in the family!

With two fellow sisters both also having a hearing loss, M is increasingly becoming my own little guru in understanding how my other two daughters may be feeling. As she says, “been there done that mummy, maybe this could help?” She tries to support them in the maintenance of their own hearing aids now that they are older, and takes great pride in being able to show her sisters the correct way to clean her aids. She also loves to cheer her sisters up by baking them cakes and letting her sisters help. This leaves me with an upside down kitchen but the result is always the same: happy, cakey children.

My second eldest daughter, age 12, is your typical teen and finds family life hard. She has no disabilities and can become frustrated with her sisters. I have been told that she has an old head on young shoulders but the truth is that she wears her heart on her sleeve and finds the noise levels and challenges of ADHD hard to navigate. But she is amazing at writing stories, poems and songs and will think nothing of writing amazing Story Massages which she then shares with her sisters. C will spend time using story massage and sharing what she has written with the whole family. C also loves to play on the trampoline with her sisters and they will literally be outside giggling like mad for hours. What she lacks in patience she more than makes up in love and the ability to cheer up people. 

Our third daughter has hearing loss and ADHD. Life is a challenge and having someone who is forgetful, inattentive and impulsive can cause a huge strain on the whole family dynamic. Not to mention the OCD which can see her rearranging her room daily and also trying to rearrange her sisters’ bedroom, but her sisters have now learnt to embrace this side of L as they have realised that they do not then need to tidy their own bedroom up! This said she is our cheeky monkey, who on a good day will spend time gardening with her younger sister, trying to help anyone who needs it. 

My youngest, aged seven, also has hearing loss. This one is the cheekiest of the bunch and she is able to bring a smile to anyone’s face even in the darkest of moments. Life viewed on the outside can seem harsh for my youngest as she has to compete with three older sisters, but she never fails to amuse. Always the prankster she can help diffuse an argument with her funny faces and voices which help to keep us smiling. She doesn’t offer much in the way of support to her sisters as yet but I’m sure as the years progress she will find her niche. 

Life with four children may seem daunting to some but to me it’s awe-inspiring. Living with these little people who overcome so much to get where they are makes me proud. Of course like most siblings there is rivalry, arguments, and full on catfights, but there’s also laughter, love and support. 

The bond that they all share is one I hope they will cherish for life. 
XX Leanne XX

Perfect Parent, imperfect parent….Really??!!

 Is there any such thing as perfect parenting? Or is it just an outdated way of trying to make parents tick all the boxes and, when we can’t, making us parents feel like failures?For those without disabled children the list of guides, self-help books, factsheets and social media sites are endless. Round every corner there is advice for you to follow and ways to achieve that title of the perfect parent. For those of us with disabled children there is not so much out there on perfect parenting, but as a parent one thing is abundantly clear to me…. not every child is the same regardless of whether they are disabled or not and not every child is the one you will read about in baby books. Why? Because they are all as unique as each other. Having four children really makes you see this. Not one of them has developed at the same rate, according to statistics, or even experience life and their environment in the same way. 

 

I could read a range of fact sheets, views, blogs, and websites and feel that I am a failure as a parent. I can look at the parents around me and compare my parenting skills to theirs and find myself lacking when it comes to being that perfect parent. I have high spirited girls who love to interact with the world around them but because they have hearing loss they are louder, one has ADHD so her behaviour is not the same as everyone else, she stands out but that does not make me an imperfect parent!!! It makes me a parent, a human being, a person doesn’t it? 

How can there be a thing called perfect parenting? Don’t most mums and dads  think they are doing the best that they can? The media, social media, specialist’s and family members all play a huge part in making us feel like we have to conform to the image of a perfect parent when in fact we are all as unique as our children and as a parent of four girls I feel I am learning new ways to parent my children every day by trial and error not by following some guide or book on the subject. 

 The last 13 years have really been a learning curve and it’s been really hard to not compare myself to that perfect parenting idea where your children do what is considered the right thing/way to do something… treading water here as I can honestly say I have not read a parenting book since my eldest was four years old. Saying that, light hearted programmes are now being made such as the recent “Parenting for idiots” on channel 4 showing even famous faces have parenting blunders. This makes me smile but makes me wonder why we still try to live up to expectation which leads us to doubt ourselves and can in some cases lead us parents to feel like we cannot cope!

 Raising our children today is very different from when my parents raised me 30 years ago, more of us parents work, technology plays a huge part in our lives and parenting has changed with advances in knowledge. Surely it’s time to be more accepting and not put people into boxes, classifications or categories. In my opinion there shouldn’t be this pressure to be like everyone else. We shouldn’t feel pressured to conform to a set of ideals which we can be seen as failing in. None of us are failures. Religion, age, personality, traditions; we’re all unique so why can’t our parenting skills be viewed as unique? 

I feel perfect parenting is sneaking into your child’s room at the end of the day to gaze on them sleeping and feeling a huge rush of love for them no matter what has been thrown at you that day, its taking care of them, protecting them even when you have hospital visits and you don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s watching them grow and learn and being there to catch them when they fall.


 Parenting skills and Disabled children……

Having disabled children who are seen as different and challenging really impacts on how society views me. One noticeable trait of being a mum to a child with hearing loss means that I have to speak louder than other mums. This used to be really embarrassing when out with other parents at toddler groups etc., my children are louder than others and the old saying children should be seen and not heard would never fit with my girls. Then there’s ADHD which has so much stigma attached to it mostly due to the way it has been viewed in the past as a naughty child and of course that old philosophy of bad parenting.

Am I a bad parent? Does struggling to raise a unique, beautiful child struggling day to day with memory loss, impulsiveness and a range of associated ADHD comorbidities make me an imperfect parent? I do not view myself as the perfect parent but I am not a failure because of it. I try to remember that I am unique, I am not perfect but I am raising my children the best way that I can with help from friends and family and being the best mum that I can be. 
X Leanne x 

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