Now they are eight. Eight. I can hardly believe that part. While I digested this and the birthday presents wrapping paper has barely been cleaned up, two of them were asked to have sleepovers at friends' houses. On the same night. This would be a first. My son worried that he needs to sleep with the light on, and how to deal with that. We figured that part out, and packed both of their sleeping bags and PJs, and . . . off.They. Went.
Though I was struck by the fact that they are old enough to have a sleepover with friends, I was more struck by another feeling. Sadness. Not because they are growing up. That's a normal feeling that I imagine most of my mom friends have. This was different. I struggled to identify it, and then I realized what it was. My third triplet. He is a very capable child. Smart, SUPER social, impossibly cute (by more than just my 'being-his-mom' standards) and funny. This, in spite of his Cerebral Palsy and having had a major stroke after an 11-week premature birth.
The reality is that he is still in diapers and has some mobility issues. We are so grateful he does not have more severe conditions. However, this does not negate that he still has therapeutic needs and support. This precludes him from things like attending after school programs, play dates and - sleepovers - without support. Thus far, he has been to one home for a play date without one of us. That friend happens to have a mom who is a nurse, a very kind and lovely friend who is willing to help him and change a diaper if needed. This is not to disparage any of our other friends and moms in any way. I just would not presume or even ask that anyone step in this way.
So last night, as two of his siblings left for sleepovers, his face crumbled. It began to dawn on him that he would be sleeping alone. His sobs became uncontrollable and his face contorted in a way that broke my heart. I swallowed the lump in my throat and managed to get him into some deep breathing to calm down. Then I reframed the situation. This is the approach that seems to work best, but often takes a few tries until it sinks in.
"Yes, they are sleeping at their friend's homes, but guess what?"
(sob, sob) "Wh-what Mama?"
"You get Mama and Daddy and your big brother who is home from college, ALL to yourself!"
More tears but it slowly sunk in and a smile spread across his wet face. Through his fogged up glasses I could see a small twinkle in his sky blue eyes when he realized he would be getting something the other two have never had. Plus hot chocolate and staying up super late with us watching a movie. I told him that second part once he really calmed down.
The thing is . . . though his siblings tell me he knows more people than they do at school and has more friends, he gets invited to precious few birthday parties, play dates and certainly no sleepovers. His classmates are a wonderful, friendly and accepting group of kids, so I cannot explain it, other than maybe his social situation is not as in depth as it is wide. From time to time I get reports from my other two that my son does not play with anyone except his aide. Or that he only plays hopscotch or with hula hoops, but not with friends. This makes me sad, to think of him alone on the playground. At this age the boys are definitely more rough and tumble, playing soccer, catch, climbing on things. While I am not a fan of the word 'can't', this happens to be true for my son in relation to those activities. For now. He has overcome an amazing amount of disability thus far.
Throughout the evening he randomly began crying, as part of his brain trauma affects his memory. He forgets things he already knows and has to be reminded frequently. Other things he remembers produce perseverating behavior. This is where he reminds US all too frequently. He was thrilled to share hot chocolate with just us, and fell asleep on us in the living room. We knew this would be the only way to get him into bed without complete disaster. We had agreed in advance to leave his bedroom door open. Fortunately it all went off without a hitch. This morning he got up and hung out with his older brother, had a donut and played on the computer. Uninterrupted. Once he called out to share something with his sister, and then realized she wasn't home. No tears. Whew.
We made it through this one. But what about the next time, and the next? I should not borrow trouble, I know. In no way do we try to remove obstacles from our children's paths. we firmly believe they need to grow strong by learning how to get past difficulties. But how does that translate to a child with special needs? In figuring out what this means for each of our children, we have learned that one size does not fit all. I have often told the triplets that 'you don't always get what everyone else has'. And I mean it. That was severely put to the test last night. #walkthetalk
What it means is that we learn the best way to describe situations to the kids and help them, and ourselves, learn how to see and approach things in the best light possible. Also, with a healthy dose of reality. Reality is important because no one can be good at absolutely everything. No one can do absolutely everything. You don't even have to try absolutely everything. Finding what you like and what you can do best, that's the thing to do. Football moves at a goal pace of 10 yards per down (try). We may be moving at a goal pace of eight years per try, maybe less. But as everyone woke up this morning seemingly unscathed, and all had an enjoyable night and morning, I'll consider this first pass a touchdown in our own personal Superbowl.