When My Child With Special Needs Gets More Attention Than Her Siblings
When I go out with my three beautiful girls who are close in age, we attract a certain amount of attention. I’ve gotten used to it. People can’t help but comment about any family that’s larger than two young children. Cashiers and wait staff remember us even if it’s only our second time going somewhere. I get it. We’re a spectacle.
I often have two of them strapped to me, which makes them appear even closer in size and age than they are. If not, I push one in a bright red stroller as she plays with the beads I attached and joyfully yells and smiles at everyone.
My oldest daughter, Kaylee Dee, talks a mile a minute with the vocabulary and clarity of a child twice her age. If the store has kid-size carts, she’s surely pushing one with her baby dolls in it, along with a bag of grapes.
My daughters always have brightly colored bows on their heads, which occasionally match. My middle girl, Everly, has Down syndrome. We’re a unique family. The comments are expected.
“Three girls? Your poor husband is outnumbered!”
“Are they all yours?”
“Look at all those beautiful bows.”
“You’ve got your hands full.”
I also get the occasional unique comment — one that makes me genuinely smile — from people who really look at my family before speaking.
“Three girls. What a lucky family.”
“How close in age are they? You look like you’ve got it all under control.”
I don’t mind either type of comment. The vaguely observant, stereotypical or the ones that spread joy.
I also understand some people’s urge to single out my middle girl. I really do. She’s cute. She’s loud. She’s got the almond eyes, low-set ears and flat nose that indicate her Down syndrome; it’s hard to miss. She has an infectious smile and is learning to communicate, so she might even “say” something to you by using her hands.
But please don’t ignore my other two kids. My youngest daughter, Finley, is observing with her big, beautiful eyes, her own squeals of joy and a ready smile. And Kaylee Dee is a little mother hen and is dying to be noticed in public for her manners and helpfulness. Please don’t ignore them and only compliment Everly’s cuteness.
Especially don’t do this when she’s throwing a fit. I’m sure you wouldn’t praise a typical 2-year-old while in the throes of a terrible twos meltdown; please don’t tell me she’s cute when she’s trying to hit her big sister and yelling.
Inclusion is when you treat all my girls with equal attention, not when you single out Everly and ignore the other two. This hurts all three of them in the long run.
It teaches Everly she is allowed to misbehave, since she’s being lavished with praise and even given things. And it teaches my other two they aren’t special.
They’re young now, but soon Kaylee Dee will start to notice the discrepancies, and Finley will, too. Resentment will build. I know you mean well, but I’m trying to raise three girls, not just one.
Our local grocer “gets” it. She acknowledges all three girls’ contribution to my family equally. She always has something to say to each one, a sticker for all three and frequently offers to help me to the car even though it’s not a store where that’s the norm. I go out of my way to be in her line, even if it’s longer.
Because as much as I love the acceptance my middle girl is always shown, please don’t forget my other two. They may not have an extra chromosome, but they do have feelings.
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