Holding Elsa for the first time back in December 2010 brought on some really odd feelings. She was the baby I had always thought I’d have when Jude was born and ever since then has shown me the way that most parents experience raising children. “Normal parenthood.” The experience I guess everyone expects to have when they initially start thinking about having children. No-one ever thinks about the possibility of having a child with additional needs.
Don’t get me wrong, I literally couldn’t love Jude any more than I already do. He’s perfect in his own Jude-like way just as Elsa and Emmeline are equally perfect. But raising Elsa felt very much like my first child. It was so so different to raising Jude. I had many “expected firsts” with Elsa that I never had with Jude.
Watching Elsa make friends at baby groups. Feeling like I fitted in at these groups and instead of that overbearing dread I had a few years beforehand. I looked forward to attending them with Elsa, knowing that she would thrive in that environment. All things people expect to go through as a parent that I didn’t with Jude. At the time, I had no confidence and was far too conscious of what people around me said and thought. If I were to have Jude now, at the age I am now, it would possibly be very different. But then would it? I think Jude has helped mould me into the person I am today with his magic little ways, so perhaps the situation would be similar.
I guess it didn’t help that during one of our first toddler groups with Jude, that vile woman challenged my concerns about his development. I already felt stupid so to have a complete stranger virtually confirm it really didn’t help my confidence. It was my first experience of conflict as the mother of Jude…sadly, the first of many. Back then. Aged just 25 I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the crap that comes your way as the mother of a child like Jude. Crap in the sense of people, experiences, situations, verbal attacks, “advice” and crap in the sense of how you often feel about yourself. Over the last 13 years I can’t believe how much I’ve changed and it’s largely thanks to being Jude’s mum. Good work Jude!
But raising Elsa has very much felt like a first for many situations. First time of having a birthday party with friends. First music lessons, sports clubs, competitions, parents evening and homework. Haha I remember baking my first ever requested cake for Elsa…it was a big chocolate sponge cat. I literally spent four hours making this damn thing and even got the tweezers out to line up and stick little pink pearl sugar balls all the way around its neck for a collar. I got high on licking too much icing sugar that night. Thankfully Elsa loved her cake!
Now she’s 10 and rapidly racing towards her teens in that typical way that Jude never will. With Elsa, we’re currently experiencing our first “what the hell do we do with her now?” feelings. Some days she can be awesome and I can envisage what she’ll be like in years to come. Other days she’s a total rat-bag but very typical for her age.
All of the above are expected parental scenarios but not scenarios that came along with my beautiful son.
We talk about Elsa as being the eldest child. It’s possibly wrong to think this but it’s just how we, and everyone else sees her. Mentally, emotionally, physically even, she is the eldest child and is bringing with her the expected firsts.
I’m not really sure the point of this post but I guess I just wanted to find out if anyone has similar experiences/feelings. Considering your younger child as your eldest! Ok, I’ll shut up now…
Is this normal? I’d love to hear other parents thoughts on this if you have an eldest child with special needs.