Sometimes our life is filled with many extraordinary circumstances that are unrelatable to many families, but then there are moments like tonight that prove we are in many ways, just like every other family out there and Olivia is just like every other seven year old.
The kids had been playing on the Wii prior to dinner, each of them taking turns being Mario or Luigi because when you have three kiddos and only two remotes, you do your best to minimize the possibility of WW3 erupting in your livingroom.
When I told them it was time to put away the game because supper was ready, Craig and Olivia were in the middle of their turn, working with Kameron to defeat one of the levels in the Mushroom World (definitely not the official name, but they all look like mushroom worlds to me).
I gave them a five minute warning while dishing up dinner and I could hear complaints coming from Olivia, which sounded like a series of annoyed groans and squeals. Like most seven year olds, she LOVES video games and doesn’t like to turn them off when told.
When the game was shut off she began to get herself riled up into what I thought would become a temper fit. Immediately I tell her if she is going to act this way, she will need to have a time out in her bedroom until her behaviour changes and there will be no more Wii the rest of the evening. I ask her “are we all done with this behaviour?” and proceed to hold up my right and left hands (right hand means yes and left hand means no). Olivia scans both hands with her eyes and chooses no. I say, “excuse me, but that is unacceptable. I think you meant to say yes.” Again she looks to my left hand and then shoots the biggest dirty look directly at me.
So usually by now I think most parents would be hopping mad that their seven year old was challenging them, but I wasn’t and you know why? Olivia was acting like a seven year old and this was her letting me know that she was miffed with me. Big deal, right? Seven year olds. Damn straight this was a big deal!
In the past, Olivia would have usually just erupted into a full blown meltdown, crying similar to a hard newborn cry that would have ended with her puking or passing out from exhaustion. This wasn’t just exhausting for her, it was extremely draining on us too. There wasn’t any opportunity to talk or ask questions, just riding out the emotional storm until it past.
Olivia has grown so much this last year, developing strong communication skills and a distinct behavioural maturity typical of her age. Her ability to beautifully communicate her displeasure of having to put away her game, using verbal indicators, non-verbal facial cues and eye gaze was amazing! In that moment, I had an incredibly deep respect for her because the road it took to get here was both long and difficult; and we were never sure we would get here. I was so proud I wanted to cry, but didn’t because it wouldn’t have been fair to her and here’s why.
Olivia is often treated or spoken to differently because she is a child with extraordinary needs. People will speak patronizing to her, often assuming she doesn’t understand. Children sometimes dismiss her, or don’t include her in activities going on around them. How she is treated every day within society is determined how others perceive a disabled child with special needs.
As her mother I do the best I can to educate and advocate equality and acceptance on her behalf, but the reality is I can’t control or change everything that happens in her environment. I can however, provide her with an environment within our family where she is treated equal to her siblings, accepted for who she is, where her voice is heard and where she will always be loved, taught respect and be respected.