Sunday, May 11, 2014

Just Doing It - Part II: The Mia Mia Edition

I started this blog as a way of chronicling our life as we navigated the world of physical, occupational, etc. etc. therapy with our Sammie B, who has cerebral palsy.  So, understandably so, the Sammie B-emphasis is heavy here . . .  but then Mia came into our lives, and while she may not be the focus of as many posts, she is, just as much as her big sister, the focus of our lives.  Mia is the perfect little fourth puzzle piece to our family.  We couldn't have picked a more perfect fit for our family than this girl.  Really. 

Mia Mia, from four months until now (center picture).  Growing up.  

So, here's an update on all things Mia.

First, as I think was evident in my "Part I" post about Sammie, Mia Mia so looks up to her big sister.  She finds her sister hilarious (and the feeling is mutual).  While, like any siblings, they bicker (what feels like non-stop some days) over toys, and Sammie sometimes does things that she knows irritates her sister, there are so, so many moments where Mia just leans in and gives Sammie a big hug and kiss, and moments where they tell the other one "I love you" and those moments make all the bickering seem so insignificant.

Mia loves music and dancing.  She turns everything into songs, and indeed, her voice even has a sing-song quality to it.  When they lay in bed talking at night, and Sammie fades off first (as is usually the case; Sammie rarely naps, Mia always does), Mia just sings to herself.  About everything.  Last night she was singing about how when she woke up, Mama would come in and she'd drink milk and it'd be so nice and yummy.  

She's learning and understanding feelings, and expressing herself so well.  When she cries, she will throw herself on the floor and say "I'm so sad because I'm not happy!"  She feels sadness for others (like when B was traveling for work - "I'm so sad dada is not here"). 

She once asked me what B was doing on a work trip (it was a conference) and I said, "he's going to talk to people," so now she always says B "talks to people" at work, and one day, she grabbed her own little bag, and said, "Bye, I'm going to work.  I have to talk to the people."   I adore her.

I especially love when phrases and words come out of her mouth in the exact way Sammie says them, with the same intonation and everything, like "I have an idea!" or "I'm just having a rough time" and "Don't be mean to me!" (When she's told "no" by one parent, she'll usually come running to the other one saying, "I'm so sad.  Dada's being mean.  Dada told me no!")  

I love to watch her with her baby dolls.  I love to watch her imitate the things in her life - the things I say, her teachers say, etc.  I once heard her with her baby doll saying "it's okay baby, your mama will be back, I promise.  Your mama is going to work, and then she will come back."   That made me feel so good about Mia's daycare.  Watching her nurture her babies tells me my girl is getting enough nurturing herself.  She's modeling it.  Just by the virtue of our life circumstances (and the fact that Sammie needs my arms a little more) I have worried that I haven't held Mia enough, that she's been forced to be more independent at such a young age -- though my hunch is she would be any way -- but watching her with those babies, watching her rock them and soothe them and talk to them just as I talk to her when she's upset, or watching her run to another kid at the park or at school if they are hurt, to ask them if they are okay, to kneel next to them and try to comfort them, then I know . . . she's getting enough.  As much as I - and most mothers - worry that we are not enough, on this page, I think I am.  And my proof has come in watching her model me.

The girls want each other all the time.  We often run an errand with just one of them, and call it special time, but usually, they ask for the other one to come too.  And if given a choice, they would always pick for all four of us to go everywhere.  I love that.

When Mia was one, I wrote that she did everything in a big, big way.  She still is.  Big tantrums, big giggles, big fun, big drama, big love and big joy.  And I wouldn't change that for anything.  My hope for her is she keeps doing life in her big, big Mia way.   

Just enjoying a little post-cupcake-making cake batter.

I've gotten a total kick out of the fact that Mia prefers t-shirts to dresses and nightgowns (polar opposite to Sammie) and she makes it known.  At night, Sammie insists on a nightgown, Mia insists on a t-shirt.  The few times we can get them in matching nightgowns have made Sammie's entire week, but for now, Mia is mostly a t-shirt girl.  (Sammie also wants Mia to dress up as princesses with her all the time, and that's just not Mia's thing.  She LOVES princesses, but dressing up as a princess, not so much).

But when MiaMia does dress up (though rare), it's her own way.  Her own style.  And we all dig it.

MiaMia marches to the beat of her own drum; outfit styled by her.
Speaking of princesses, we've now taken Mia to Disneyland several times and she goes crazy over meeting the princesses.  She pops out of her chair, screams the princess's name to call them over to her and then proceeds to talk the princess's ears off.  Showing them her shirt, her band-aids (that's an obsession all in its self).   During her last trip, we overheard her telling Snow White it was her birthday, and then changing her story to "it's almost my birthday" (it was not).  

After telling Snow White the whopping birthday lie.
The band-aids and boo boos.  Oh my goodness.  If Mia falls, she is a mess.  She needs a band-aid immediately and after skinning her knee a bit, she will, I kid you not, limp for days.  Days.  And sob over the thought of getting in the bath for fear her band aid will come off.  Mostly, B and I try to be compassionate here, but it's tough.  We can't let the kid go weeks without a bath because she skinned her knee.  We went and bought these HUGE waterproof bandages that we now tell her are magic bandages just for the bath, and that's helping.  There was even a morning when Mia was still limping around after a not-serious-at-all fall the day before that Sammie B said with all the seriousness in the world, "maybe Mia could use my wheelchair today."   (The skinned knees, by the way, are new territory for us, and what they represent is not lost on me.  My littlest girl who has the freedom to climb, explore, run, jump, etc. Skinned knees.).

MiaMia is a bit of a daddy's girl but I'm the first person she runs to when she's having a rough time, and in the moments when she's really struggling, she'll just look at me and say "I'm having a rough time.  Rock me!" and I do.  MiaMia, in those moments, you own me.  Really.   You are growing so fast.  So fast.  And I want you to want me to rock you forever.  

I've worked hard not to compare my two girls' journeys.  I find myself silently marveling at Mia running ten-feet ahead of me.  In those moments, it's not like I'm sad at all; I'm not even thinking "I wish Sammie could walk."  I'm not.  (Remember that now, Sammie now gets to dart off ten feet ahead too).   But because of the journey we are on, the ease with which Mia darts ahead is just not lost on me.  I must have 30 pictures of just that -- Mia running ten feet ahead of me.  I'm chasing and then it hits me -- the beauty of the moment, and I stop to take a picture, to appreciate the beauty in her running, with ease.

A friend posted on Facebook that her littlest one had started walking, and she said, "there's nothing like watching the miracle of new mobility as our baby took his first steps, though we've witnessed just as many miracles through his big brother, who's never taken a step at all."  So true.  Their stories are their own, but our stories are intertwined, and of course the way in which I take in Mia's experiences is affected by our journey with Sam.  But "affected' in beautiful ways.  Our stories are meant to be intertwined, and their stories -- each of them -- are made more beautiful by that very fact.

I am constantly watching and listening as Mia makes sense of how her sister has a hard time doing some things, but mostly, I've marveled at the fact that Mia hasn't seemed to notice.  One night, when we were listening to them on the monitor at bedtime, Mia was telling Sammie "stand up Sammie! stand up!" and my heart leapt a little, waiting for Sammie's response, wondering if Sammie would be upset.  Wanting to protect her feelings.  But Sammie just said with such grace and so matter-of-factly, "Mia, I can't.  I don't know how to stand up."  Mia repeated her demand, Sammie repeated her answer, and they moved on.  But my heart was still fluttering.  Tears came streaming down my cheeks, having that "I wish it were easier" feeling, but B wisely and so simply said, "Sammie wasn't upset.  They've already moved on to telling funny stories."  And so, I too, wiped my tears, and I moved on.  

Last night, during their bedtime chatter, Sammie told Mia "stand up in your crib," and Mia did.  And then Sammie said, "Mia you can stand up all by yourself.  I can't do that.  Good job!"  Again, my heart leapt a little.  But they moved on.  Or in moments when I'm carrying Sammie in from the car, and Mia wants to be held too, and I have to say "baby, I can't carry you both, but will you hold my hand?" and Sammie says so gracefully (99% of the time), so matter-of-factly, "Mia, you can walk, I can't, so Mama will carry me, and you walk."  My heart leaps, but they move on.  Sammie's simple explanations, told with such grace, and Mia's simple acceptance of those explanations.  Sammie is so acutely aware of her differences, and I'm fascinated, marveling at these two girls, and learning from them, as Mia is taking it all in, and making sense of it.   Their beautifully intertwined stories.

I watch as Mia hops into Sammie's wheelchair and propels herself around the house, giggling, or climbs into Sammie's walker.  As she uses a medicine syringe and pretends to inject something into her stomach and says "I'm eating like [M]" (one of our little buds with CP who has a feeding tube) and I marvel at her perspective.  Or how she runs to my friend's little boy, who is (for the most part) hooked up to machines and non-verbal, and she just runs over and says "hi" to him and starts telling him about what's on television or showing him toys.  Her story, her view of the world, is being shaped by kids like M, and kids like Sammie, and the beauty in that is something that takes my breath away.  Beautifully intertwined stories.

I've giggled as I realize that to Mia, our normal just is "normal" (whatever "normal" means).  For years, I've taken "wall pictures" of Sammie in outfits, and very early on, when I asked Mia if I could take her picture, and she would immediately run to and stand against the nearest wall, the way I would position Sammie for a picture.  Never occurred to Mia that we do the pictures that way with Sammie because that's what Sammie needs to stand.  To her, the wall is just where we do pictures.  Beautifully intertwined stories.  

Wall picture of a snazzy new-to-her outfit, with some dancing thrown in.

Another new-to-her outfit, wall picture. 

No words needed.  She was feeling so glam in this rain coat.  This picture so captures our MiaMia.
We've had a lot of fun firsts with Mia lately.  Her first time trying out a big girl bike (at a birthday party) (which ended in a scraped knee, two days of limping and three days of no bath).  It honestly just hadn't even occurred to me to TRY a big bike for her.  But she saw it and wanted on.  And when she got on, and pedaled, with B trailing along, I watched, and I marveled, and my eyes filled with tears.  Happy ones.  I delighted in it all.  I was so proud.  And Sammie B, sitting next to me, marveled.  And cheered her sister on with utter and total glee.  Beautifully intertwined stories.  

Her first ballet classes, and her first ballet recital.  As I stood and watched her, I felt nothing but pride.  Such intense pride and happiness.  Such joy watching her do new things and her feel joy in doing them.  Such surprise when instead of running off the stage or being timid, she walked right onto the stage and danced during her first performance (even though later, she did run down a few times to stay "hi" before running back onstage to dance some more!).  

Leotard on, ready for first ballet class.  

Oops.  Was she supposed to wear pink?  Mia's first ballet class. 

And their first public performance (at the mall).
If I'm being honest, and this is a hard thing for me to admit, but I worried, early on, that when Mia crawled and walked and rode a bike and did ballet and chased a soccer ball and all of these things for the first time, that I'd be sad.  Sad for Sammie.  But in those moments, there's been no sadness. I've stood, and I've marveled, and I've felt nothing but pride in my littlest as she grows and does new things.  As she writes her story, which is, of course beautifully intertwined with her sister's story.  Her sister who, without exception, in these moments is always Mia's biggest cheerleader.  Her sister who asks to wear a tutu to Mia's ballet class ("so I can look like a ballerina like Mia") and insists on sitting front and center to watch Mia do ballet, and who asks Mia at home to do her ballet moves.  Her sister who cheered louder than anyone when Mia crawled for the first time, and took her first steps, and learned to jump.  A big sister who is so, so proud of her little sister.  A big sister who is just delighting in what her little sister can do, while at the same time, keenly aware that many of those same things are things she can't do.  Yet accepting it all with grace.  Beautifully intertwined stories. 

And that makes me prouder of both of them than I could ever, ever possibly convey.

Two beautiful stories, so beautifully intertwined.  How lucky am I to be a part of (and help shape) those stories.   Their individual stories, their intertwined stories, and our family story.  Beautifully intertwined

MiaMia, I love you so.  I could not have designed a better little girl to be our littlest one.  I hope I can always be the mama you need me to be.  I love you with all that I am.  And the pride I've felt for your firsts  - your unique firsts -- is a pride that is just too big for words.  I want you to always know that.   I'm so lucky to call myself your mama.  


Laura Smith said...

This is so sweet. I feel the same way at times because my younger son will probably surpass my daughter in many skills. Also, I started my blog to chronicle my daughter, but like you said, my son is the fourth piece of the puzzle. He is as equally important. Unlike you though, I do still feel sad when he masters something my daughter only recently gained. Love reading your updates :)

CM said...

What a beautiful post!