Saturday, December 4, 2010

Special-ization and Survival of the Fit-ist

As I type, I try to block out my son's screaming tantrum. We rarely sees these ragefests anymore, but they sure bring back old memories. We used to see this nightly. Now we go long enough between them that I can no longer recall when he last turned red as a tomato and slammed every door in the house like this. So you think I'm upset? Frustrated? Angry? I'm not. It's fascinating on so many levels.

First, as he stomps and screams and paces, his sister calls out prudent advice. "Take a deep breath," she suggests. "Do you want me to tuck you back in?" she offers. She modulates her tone of voice. She asks me for guidance. Shazam, my girl returns! Just like we haven't seen the Rooster act out much lately, we also haven't seen that sweet, gentle girl we call the Peach, either.

And I'm fascinated about how these things are coming together.

For a few weeks I've worried and lamented all about Peaches and her inescapable change in personality. She gets in some trouble in preschool, she acts out at home, she seems sensory seeking, she becomes remarkably hyper, she crashes into everything she can find, she puzzles us and her teachers, she gets distinctly LOUDER. Then, a few days ago, I picked her up from after-school care and she hands me a pile of adorable holiday cards she drew. "Thank you!" I cooed. "I love them!" She stares at me and says, "They are not for you! They are for the HELPERS. You have to MAIL THEM." Ah, a clue. On Halloween, we'd said goodbye to the "helpers," our ABA therapists who felt like they lived with us for two years. I begin to wonder if Peaches misses them, misses the structure, misses the attention she got when her brother's ABA included her. Fast forward a few days, and NPR has a story on siblings and why they tend to vary so much in personality. One theory ties in to Darwin, and generally follows the notion of specialization of species. Roo came along first and took the role of Tantrum King, so Peach came along to be Princess Perfect. Well, not always -- Pixie Mama can attest to Peaches not always living up to her name -- but now that Roo is doing much better overall, Peaches has plummeted. And it all makes some sense.

Tonight, before the Rooster flipped out because his daddy denied him some candy, I thought about these recent changes, and I asked Peaches, "How do you feel when Rooster behaves himself better than he used to?" She shrugged and looked down. "Peaches, how do you feel now that Rooster doesn't need helpers anymore?" She shrugged again. "Sweetie, how do you feel when people tell Roo how great he's doing?"
She looked at me. "I'm not doing great?"

Ahhhh. Can't believe I didn't see this all coming.
And then within an hour, the candy rage ensued. And there came my girl out of hiding, gentle and maternal and in charge.

I need to do a better job at balancing my kids' needs. I need to give them both room to specialize in excellence. I need to remember what we learned about ABA and the need for attention. I need to brush up on my Darwin.

The screaming just stopped. We all survived the fit. I call that survival of the fit-ist.


Niksmom said...

Oh, it's so hard being the baby of the family even when everything is picture-book typical. I am glad to read your recognition of your daughter's needs. Flash back a year or two ago and imagine how you would have handled it. You have ALL come so gar together as a family. It is lovely to behold...even when you're writing about a tantrum. Xo

kim mccafferty said...

Trust me, I have friends who are second-born (I am first) from completely NT families, who swear they were completely screwed at birth by their pecking order. I've been following this blog for a while now, and am so impressed not only by the kids' progress, but by the way you're approaching every situation. Great job, and loved the title!

redheadmomma said...

I love it when you write about your two - there are tones of that in this family as well. You are a well-attuned mother, darlin'. XO