Putting it together

Victoria Tkachuk by Victoria Tkachuk Additional Needs

Victoria Tkachuk

Victoria Tkachuk

I'm from the Midwest region of the United States and I have four children, three neurotypical daughters and one son with dyskinetic cerebral palsy....

Time spent with siblings is so precious; have I been overthinking it?

I'm one of those people who always feels the need to do something. I want to go somewhere, see something, make something.

Sometimes it's a blessing, sometimes a curse.

Do my kids and I have lot of fun, outside-the-home experiences? We do! Parks, the lake, museums, friends' houses, even camping – we do a lot.

My kids have taken on my “get out there and try it” attitude, and having a disabled family member hasn't changed that much either.

Trips require more planning, so we can't be nearly as spontaneous as before my son entered the picture, but we still get up and go plenty.

The problem is when the kids feel like being homebodies. I can't stand it. I'm restless and I want to get somewhere, at least outside.

Chalk it up to being a mom of four whose primary work occurs within my house. I'm. Home. A. Lot.

Naturally, I crave social interaction, and something else to think about other than my ABCs and 123s.

Alas, mom's needs be darned, the children outnumber me and so we are often home.

That is fine, except regularly I don't have a clue what to do with them.

Does that sound odd? I have had four kids; I should know how to play with them by now. And with the younger two, I do.

Toddler play is simple and can be adapted for my motor impaired son. It's my older girls I struggle with finding something they both can engage with, and since one-on-one time occurs with them less often I feel guilty about this.

For a neurotypical family this isn't a big deal.

The kids can play by themselves, they can figure it out, there will be plenty of other times for us to play, etc. B

ut in a special needs family, the thing is that you don't have those “plenty of other times” to play with the other siblings.

You have time allotted for Your special needs child, then the leftovers for the rest of them. Why is this?

The special needs child, by definition, requires more time and attention to accomplish the same tasks (or even play) as his neurotypical peers.

Mom's Time spent with siblings may be rare and, therefore, precious.

It certainly is for me. I miss the days when it was me and my oldest girls alone, having tea parties and playing dress up.

I love my son to bits, no question, but there was also a disconnect that occurred from his sisters when he was born.

I had much less time with my then 4 and 2 year olds, and that hasn't really been rectified in the following four years.

If anything, it's become more challenging to find that time with them, let alone finding those special activities.

I realized recently: I've been overthinking it (I am prone to do this). Instead of going special and spectacular and outside-the-box, I went inside it.

A puzzle box, that is. I found a couple beautiful puzzles at a thrift store and asked them to join me during nap time one day to complete it.

But, I wondered, would they think it was too simple? Too boring? Too hard?

To my surprise and delight, they reacted the opposite. They loved it!

We made hot cocoa and chatted while we parsed out edges, and slowly worked our way toward completing small sections.

We celebrated when someone picked a piece out and immediately found the right place for it.

My girls freely shared about friends at school and other small things they had on their minds. We had two hours of uninterrupted mom-daughter time that turned out to be so precious.

We have continued our puzzle ritual for a couple months, and it's been fun finding time to work on them together.

If we can't complete one in a sitting, we just walk away and look forward to the next session.

There's been an unintended consequence also: I have learned to slow down and not overthink my relationship with them.

I feel like I'm starting to put it together, and I couldn't be happier.


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