Maura is not the most well-spoken creature. She can make a point or two, but deciphering words between the babble she speaks, or the silence and just a look, isn’t always easy.
Since her communication skills aren’t fabulous, it would be so much easier to just get her to do what I want her to do. To like what I like, to wear what I want her to wear, eat what I tell her to eat.
Life doesn’t work that way.
I don’t expect her sister to be that way. I expect her sister to have opinions, and she’s been very expressive of them since birth. My side of the family consists of a whole lot of strong-willed stubborn women with opinions, and I married into a family with a whole lot of strong-willed stubborn women with opinions (which is probably why I get along with my in-laws so fabulously and think they’re great.) I see Maura’s sister being all strong-willed, stubborn, and holy cow full of opinions…
…why should I think anything less of Maura?
Because she can’t express those opinions with words? Because she’s “delayed”, “impaired”, etc? Because compared to the other females she’s related to, she’s kind of laid back? Should I be taking advantage of that so my life could be easier?
I could. But I don’t. Because at the end of the day, she’s still a girl, with her own likes and dislikes and opinions. Sure, she’s got the mind of a three year old at times, but even three year olds know what they like. God knows her sister was a most opiniated three year old.
Maura chose favorite colors that I wouldn’t have chosen for her – she loved oranges and yellows and bright pinks from the start. Her wardrobe will often reflect it. When we go shopping for clothes, I will let her wander, and she’ll look around going “no…no…” until she spots what she wants. I have sighed over shoe choices – where I’d want something more neutral, she would pick out fabulous multi-colored high tops. Sometimes I’ll try to talk her into a different choice only for her to go back to the store and want the thing I vetoed. The girl knows what she wants.
Right before moving to Ireland, I took Maura to see “Tangled”, which she fell in love with instantly. We saw it again (thank you cheap $3 a seat theater!), solidifying her love of “Hairbrush” as she calls her. At the time, Maura was wearing her hair in this cute bob. Maura has a narrow face that’s perfect for shorter hairstyles. I love bobs on little girls, but Miriam never had the right face shape for it – Maura did. Maura loved getting her hair cut and would applaud the hairstylist every time she was done with her hair.
But after seeing “Tangled”, Maura started to pull at her hair, pretending it was longer, that she was Rapunzel. We moved to Ireland and left our fabulous hairstylist behind, so the bob started to grow out. As her hair got longer, Maura got more and more proud of it. “Hair!” she’d say, flipping it about her head. “Yes, you have beautiful hair!” people would respond.
She does – her hair is gorgeous – shiny and dark, thick and straight. And now past her shoulders, because while I still think she’d look cute with a bob, the girl wants her hair longer.
Who am I to say no to that?
I don’t let her run rampant, getting every single thing she wants and always getting her way. She gets to be normal in that way as well, getting to hear me say “no” when a “no” is needed. But I also don’t steamroll her into something I think she should be. She has all sorts of specialness about her, but she’s also still a 10 year old girl, with her own thoughts and likes and ideas of how she should be, wrapped up in a stubbornness from two sides of the family.
Why fight it?
Besides, sometimes she’ll prove me wrong. Like the time she picked out this outfit – a purple/brown/red tunic with red leggings and sweater. To be honest, I thought it was ugly as shite when I saw it. But she insisted that was what she wanted (not the soft pink floral thing I loved and wanted her to choose.) She hid it behind her back and said “No!” to all the options I offered her. I sighed and bought the outfit she wanted. Which became her favorite outfit.
Go figure, she rocked that outfit and looked so fab in it, that it became one of my favorites to put her in.
Lessoned learned – Maura knows what she looks good in.
Lesson for all of us – they may be kids with special needs…but they’re also kids. Sometimes, you have to treat them like any other child, and listen to them, even if it’s not really in words. Let them take charge in the areas of their life where they can.
They just may surprise you.
They probably will.