Sibling Syndrome

So today would have been my mum’s fifty-sixth birthday, but she never made it this far. For whatever reason, she had to go at the tender age of fifty-four and a bit. It also happens to be my daughter’s ninth birthday- I can never quite decide whether that was poor planning on my part, or a decent hand well played by Fate. We ate cake for breakfast, made pancakes, and I waved O off as she merrily left to visit her grandparents. I hung out with my little sister; we had lunch in a café we occasionally visited as kids, that happened to be re-opening today after a lengthy refurb *cue spooky music* bought flowers and took them down to the river where we launched them one by one (speedily-sorry mum) in the pouring rain while saying ‘Happy Birthday’ in as many different accents as we had flowers. We know how to live, the little sister and me! The ducks were none that impressed when they quickly realised that the lilies weren’t the bread they’d been holding out for, but other than that a fairly un-sad and successful trip. They say time is a healer and that would seem to be true, at least in this case. We still both miss her on a daily basis, but remembering her doesn’t hold quite the same sting anymore.
In other news we are struggling on an epic level with our five-going-on-fifteen year old. I’m fairly sure anyone who knows me would say I was a pretty chilled parent; I have that whole opposite of control freak thing going on- some may call it ethereal, others just disorganised. I try my best to let the bad behaviour pass me by, I am NOT a fan of supernanny, and if you asked me the value I most want to encourage in my children, it would undoubtedly be free-thinking. Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Emmeline Pankhurst, Mother Teresa, Sigmund Freud, and many others- examples of incredible fearless people who valued individuality and human rights over any of the constraints society and culture shackled them with. 
As Henry David Thoreau once put it “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.” I totally agree with this. And yet, what the heck do you do when that free thinking person happens to be your little shit of a child?  She questions everything, and I mean everything. When I ask her to please do something, she asks me why, thinks for a moment and then makes an informed decision, mostly to the tune of no thanks mum, piss off. Thankfully she doesn’t know any swear words yet, so hasn’t actually ever told me to piss off, but I don’t reckon that particular issue is too far round the corner. She went a bit crazy the other day and smacked me, so I attempted to pull the supernanny routine and sit her on the ‘naughty step’ for two minutes. She promptly got straight up again, and so I placed her back on the step and informed her that any further attempts to leave said step would result in a loss of pudding. She loves pudding, but even this wasn’t enough to thwart her crazy bright freethinking little brain and sway her into conformity. She proceeded to ask me what exactly we were having for pudding, in order to weigh up whether it was worth staying on the step for. Facepalm. The child also happens to be no respecter of persons; the thinking for herself and apparent rudeness can occur at any given location. She isn’t scared about taking on older children at the park if she thinks something is unfair, and she will definitely speak her mind if asked a question by an adult, regardless of any social constructs and without concern for how her response may make them feel. Her school report stated ‘BP knows her own mind and is very confident in sharing her opinions.’ I know a few teachers and up until July I worked in a classroom, and that little statement basically translates to ‘how the heck do we tell you your kid is a non-conformist nightmare child.’
So it got me thinking; how can the very thing I value so much in child rearing also be my biggest bugbear?! And I think the answer lies in the fact that B happens to be reacting at a level way beyond her years. She responds with the thought processes of a child much older, and with life experience even most adults won’t ever have the pleasure of. You see she’s my fourth child. She comes after my very special boy, a kid who needs around the clock 1:1 attention. She bears the brunt of B’s frustration on a regular basis and has the bruises and scratches to show for it. She watches her brother seize up to 45 times a day. The phrases she most often hears are, ‘BP, just wait… please wait… not right now… I’m in the middle of dealing with B…go ask your sisters…I can’t right now…hang on…two minutes…’  Conversations are regularly cut short in order to rescue B from some predicament or other, her older sisters, while very gracious to a point, understandably get annoyed with her banging on and on at a constant high volume. She wants to be heard and yet so often, through circumstance alone, her voice is drowned out by generic chaos. We try and set aside Mummy-B time, which she laps up, but as soon as regular life kicks in again after that little oasis she defaults to defiant little devil. 
So the more I chew on it, the more I realise the impact of having a special needs child radiates out to the whole family, and more than that, has an immense effect on the baby born after him. Emotional exhaustion, physical fatigue, sleep deprivation, adrenaline insanity, system fighting, advocating and the day-to-day chaos of living with four children, one of whom you literally cannot take your eyes off for a second, are all ingredients for a less-than-ideal environment in which to raise a little girl. Sibling Syndrome. My guess is it’ll go one of two ways; either I’ll end up with a compassionate, strong survivor or I’ll end up being a granny at 40! I haven’t got a crystal ball, and of that I’m very glad, because if I knew what was the next curveball in the game of my life I might well just give up now. So I’ll keep trying my best, even when that best seems so far from good enough.
The next time you see a kiddo kicking off (especially if it happens to be mine!) please try and view it through the kaleidoscope of context. And if you don’t know the context, don’t succumb to the judgey constraints of social appropriateness just because. Yes, a child may be displaying definite signs of Spoilt Shit Disorder, but they may also be showing old before their time, freethinking Sibling Syndrome traits.
‘Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.’ Henry mate, I f***ing hope you’re right.

*Since time of writing I have set up a funding page to try and get out to a conference about my son's rare condition. Please head over and give if you can.



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