Eva has been blessed since birth with two incredibly loving big sisters, Ella, 9 soon-to-be 10 and Emma 8. I may be biased, however for the most part they have been stellar big sisters. They adore their little Eva and shower her with affection. At times, I chuckle for there is little escape for Eva, especially when I find all three in her crib, along with the menagerie of plushy toys which her sisters bring into her crib for her "entertainment". I often times find myself referee in a heated dispute as to who gets to see Eva first when she wakes up in the morning or after a brief "nap" (this is often times when Eva is at her most exuberant).
Don't get me wrong they are only 8 and 9 and they too have their limits; they are oftentimes selfish (appropriately and inappropriately), often impatient and at the most inopportune times, quite ceaselessly demand my undivided attention. When required to join me when I shuttle Eva to and from therapy, you would think that they were being tortured based upon their public outcry and lamentations. I guess this to be expected and I am guilty of bribing both Ella and Emma with a quick lunch at Cheesecake Factory while Eva is in therapy, if not to assuage my mommy guilt, to just buy myself some peace from their protestations.
I can recall the evening after learning about Eva’s diagnosis, while my eyes were still puffy and my nose was still congested from having cried so much, my Emma asked, “Why do you sound as though you have a cold.” I simply answered, “I don’t have a cold. I sound the way I do because I have been crying. I was crying because I am sad and scared.” This was the simplest and most honest thing I could say. What ensued was a conversation about Eva, what I had learned and how it had affected my heart. I cannot tell you what I said precisely, all I know is that I tried to make it honest and age appropriate. What I do recall, is that Emma half listened and seemed more interested in getting back to whatever activity she had been engaged, prior to our conversation. This made me smile inwardly. To be a child and to be able to move effortlessly between the reality of the “adult” world and back into the relative safety of her childhood domain, gave me such a sense of peace. I did not have to “protect” her; her age and her youthful understandings naturally sheltered her from some of the hasher truths of Eva’s condition.
Ella in turn, also responded with such aplomb, “Well, you know, Eva is Eva.” Such simple words, however they resonate with me even today. Eva will always be Eva. Even before her BPAN diagnosis, we lived with the belief that Eva lived each day, quite unaware of any of her diagnosis, functioned happily without caring if she met any of the standard developmental benchmarks and definitely did not know that her life should be anything other than what it was. In her eyes, she was not functioning at any deficit rather she was and continues to function and thrive each day, seeking the fundamentals: safety, connection, compassion and love.
I cannot predict what the future holds and I can only pray that Ella and Emma continue to grow in their tolerance, patience, love and understanding for the youngest Chisholm. As Eva’s condition progresses and her medical needs require more precious family time or perhaps potentially come to monopolize my time, I can only hope that we as a family can rise to the occasion. I am realistic that this will be an ever growing challenge, which I hope that with the help of others, maturity and open and candid conversation, will actually serve to fortify my girls and provide them with the grit and character that they will undoubtedly need to face any challenge in life. At the same time, I have not been able to quiet that persistent voice which speaks to me (quite loudly at times), that all girls, no matter the age, no matter the situation, need their mommy. The real question then is, am I up to the task? I guess only time will tell.