Thursday, November 13, 2014

Kids Need Kids

"I continue to believe that if children are given the necessary tools to succeed, 
they will succeed beyond their wildest dreams!"
-David Vitter
As mother of a 2 year old in my mid forties things are a bit different than they were when I raised my first set of kids. I'm different; older and, dare I say, wiser.  I am much more laid back or maybe that's just a disguise for having a lot less energy.  I attribute the fact that I am less structured almost entirely to raising special needs where my days rarely look like I think they will.  My appreciation for each stage of development is much greater because I don't just accept the word of older parents when they say "they grow up so fast. "  I know it.  I've lived it. Jamee was just a baby and now she's almost completed college. I know also that tomorrow doesn't always come and if, God forbid, it shouldn't come for another one of my children, I want to know that I loved with every fiber of my being, that I gave the very best that I had to give.

While advanced maternal age ( I think that term is generally used for pregnant women but if the shoe fits...)  has many, many perks, I have discovered one major draw back.   Children of older parents do not have a lot of other children to play with.  This is a problem.  And when the child is developmentally delayed and desperately needs other children to model after, it is an even bigger problem.  As our older children grew up, they were surrounded by kids of all ages.  My siblings, Jim's siblings, and the majority of our close friends all had kids with whom our children played. Play dates and park visits with friends were a regular part of every week.  Weekends were packed with picnics and cook outs or just getting together with families.  Not to mention that our 5 children played all day long with each other and their cousins next door.

Kruz, on the other hand, lives in an adult world. And not just any adult world, but one where every single one of us positively adore him.  His days are filled with kisses and snuggles and "look how cute he is." We dote and gush and cootchie coo him all day long.  These are all really good things but the fact is he is going to grow up and when he's five no one else will think it's all that cute.  Kids need kids, friends, someone to imitate and play with and even fight with.  I've never liked the idea of Kruz growing up thinking the whole world revolves around him but our entire social circle is made up of people with teen or young adult children.

My first attempt to remedy this problem was an epic fail.  I took him to our church nursery one Sunday morning and he screamed so long and hard that he vomited on the nursery volunteer.  But I was persistent and it gradually got better.  One week started with the nursery volunteer taking him from me outside of the nursery and then taking him around the other kids. We made baby steps and now he explores all over the nursery but doesn't exactly interact with the other kids.  I'm told he insists on sitting his little rear at the bottom of the slide so others can't go down and...well.....we'll work on that one.  But he goes, he stays, he seems genuinely happy and content when I pick him up. Those nursery ladies are the best.

But was one hour a week enough?  Did that give him the peer interaction he needs to help him develop? It was a start but given the severity of his developmental delays, I knew he needed more.  So I started my own little play group for Wednesdays.  His new friends being .....I think the correct term would be "first cousins once removed" but I never was good at that so let's just call them....  my great nieces and nephews.  That "great" in there makes me feel much older than I really am. It means my nieces and nephews are all grown up with babies of their own.

It took a few play dates but now he maneuvers himself right in the midst of the other kids. He wants to be a part of them and it melts my heart.

We play and sing songs and read lots of books.  I've read If You Give a Pig a Pancake more times than I count.  But we're not really counting anyway and that pig and all his silliness sure can make little people giggle.  We do crafts too and that scene takes me back a few years to my older children's toddler and preschool days.  Those were good days.  Sometimes I wish I could have a do over.  Some things I'd change but lots of things like I'd keep the same.

A certain little miss is self appointed "keeper of all that Kruz does" and that's okay. She has her own form of hand over hand instruction and, amazingly, he doesn't seem to mind. An enormous step in the right direction. This scene would not have gone over well a few months ago.  It's progress. What she doesn't know is that she's really only two weeks older than him.  That developmental gap is glaringly obvious but it IS progress and that's what matters.

Okay, so little miss might be self appointed keeper, not only of Kruz but of all the others. She's the oldest by a little and she takes that role very seriously.

It gets a little hairy at times.  Five kids under two is bound to create a little chaos.  But chaos is good.  It's part of learning and growing and becoming.  It's part of being a normal kid and we're striving for doing normal as much as possible.

I love watching little minds soak up good things.  Friendships are forming and I'm getting a beautiful glimpse into little personalities.  I see their mommies and daddies in them and stand in awe of the whole genetic thing and how a God so great can create these little people and pass traits along through the ages.  It's beautiful. Life is beautiful. Growing up is beautiful.  Kids needing kids is beautiful.  My life is blessed to be a part of so much beautiful and in the meantime Kruz is learning.  It's a win, win.

God is good, all the time.

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