Today, after school, Little had a playday. I spent the day feeling quite sick about it as the last time we tried this, Little had the biggest meltdown I’ve ever seen her have and her friend went home in tears.
Last time, Big simply couldn’t manage Little being able to manage and found a way to control the situation and leave Little feeling excluded.
This time, I asked my mum and dad if they could look after Big for an hour so that Little could have some time with her friend.
For an hour, I got to listen to Little playing, laughing, giggling and just having fun. They didn’t say, ‘pretend the dinosaur said…, pretend the dinosaur walked away.’ They were the characters and they went with the flow. Nobody tried to control anything, nobody spent the entire time lining things up (or trying to construct ‘games’ that involve lining everything up), nobody hid something of the other person’s, nobody got cross. They just played. (With Little’s sensory issues about people being too close or too loud, I did hover the whole time but she did so well, even saying at one point, ‘I’m just going to move into this space here.’)
It breaks my heart that Big cannot manage this. That she cannot manage to have a friend round to play. But it breaks my heart that Little’s life is so taken up with Big’s trauma. I’m so used to the way they play that it’s another thing I’ve (sort of) accepted. I’ve accepted that their world of play is going to be ‘Pretend the mermaid said I’m going over here.’ ‘Pretend the dinosaur said I’m going to school now.’ But when you see that actually, Little doesn’t need it to be this way, that she’s adapted her play to make it easier for Big, it makes me so sad. Her whole life is about making adjustments for her sister. She’s desperate to go to the wildlife park again but Big’s behaviour in the car is just so terrifying that we just can’t risk it at the moment.
People have lots of ideas about how I can help Big and some of their ideas are very good. But I always want to say ‘And what do I do with Little?’ We didn’t do anything for Mother’s Day but halfway through the day Little said, ‘I know Big can’t manage it but I want to celebrate it. I love you lots and lots.’ (I think a big part of it was a reason to put a party dress on, she is a fan of a party dress, but I did appreciate the sentiment.) But we didn’t do anything because we know we need to make it easier for Big. And then you start realising that everything we do is to make things easier for our eldest.
Little keeps asking for ‘The boy who built a wall’ to be read to her. She says that she needs to keep reading it so that she can help Big take her wall down just like she’s taken her wall down. That she needs to know what she has to do to help Big. And we have lots of conversations about the fact that she doesn’t need to have that ‘job’ and that mummy and daddy will keep trying to do that but she is adamant that she wants to help her sister ‘feel safe like me.’
Trauma is still such a huge part of her life, some of it is hers and a lot of it is Big’s. I wish that it wasn’t this way, that she didn’t have to constantly live her life in a way that makes it easier for someone else. The way she does this is incredible and makes me realise sometimes that I am not dealing with it in an even remotely incredible way. She has the capacity for more empathy than a lot of adults I meet.
So I’m very grateful that my mum and dad have moved up here and that Little was able to have some time. Listening to her laughing with her friend was wonderful.
The best bits
At gymnastics this week, Big managed to get onto the beam using a front support and walk along it by herself.
Last night she read me a cvc phonic book from start to finish. She never reads to me so it was lovely to hear her.
Little chose to go through the ‘outside’ way with her class on Wednesday. She’s been going the inside way but told my mum that she wanted to try being with her friends and she did it! It was the first thing she told me when I picked her up, she was so proud of herself.