At the end of March a big thing happened: Lil Z turned four years old. FOUR!
In true Z fashion, she had a seizure in the morning and was miserable for most of the rest of the day. But she still turned four.
I remember when Vegemite turned four – I was devastated. I think there is something about four years old that definitively signals the end of being a baby or toddler. Four is a child’s age. You can’t even really call a 4-year-old a ‘preschooler’ since so many kids (Vegemite included) start school when they are still four. I didn’t want Vegemite to grow up and she still remembers me forbidding her to ever get any older than four. We still joke on her birthdays that she’s just celebrating being four again…
I was a bit more circumspect when Lil Z turned four. But I’ve been surprised how much it has affected my view of her. She really and truly is no longer my baby. She is a little girl. She may not be doing even a fraction of the things that Vegemite was able to do at four, but she has always had a different path in life. And I am hopeful that this year will be full of big changes and events for her.
The first, and hopefully biggest, is what I am calling the COMMUNICATION REVOLUTION. Up until now we have focused mainly on sign language with Lil Z. She has grasped – and lost – a few signs over the years and understands several more. But sign language is never going to be her primary mode of communication because she has such limited use of her hands.
So, for her birthday, she got an iPad. And on Monday, her Speechie is coming over to help me set up a few starter communication apps for her. And on Wednesday I am going to an introductory course on Proloquo2go (an augmentive and alternative communication (AAC) application that we are going to try using). This is such an exciting and totally HUGE thing that I’m not going to go into it too much now – I’ll save it for another post.
And second, is that before she turns five, Lil Z will be starting school on a full-time basis. This past term has been a bit of a disaster since she’s been so unwell and twice the school had to call an ambulance because she had a seizure that required emergency medication. But I am hopeful that we are finally getting on top of some of her health issues (again, I’ll update you in another post) and that this term will be better for her. And that by term 3, we can increase her attendence to 2 days per week. And in the next school year (beginning in January 2016), she will be ready to start Prep (the first year of school in Australia), just like all the other kids her age. This will be a big step for a little girl who is used to spending the majority of her time at home, receiving one-on-one attention. But I think she will be ready for the challenge.
Lil Z turning four has also made me start worrying about if I’ve done enough for her in the early years. After all, everything you read emphasizes just how important early intervention is for kids like Lil Z. What if I didn’t put in enough effort? Maybe I shouldn’t have worked and instead dedicated myself to working with her. Maybe I should have pushed her carers harder to do more therapy with her. Maybe I should have found more private therapists or tried more types of therapy. Her early intervention days are nearly at an end – what if I’ve screwed them up and can never get back that window of opportunity?
Some of that fear also comes from the fact that at four, Lil Z is not sitting or standing or walking. And I wonder: is this it? Is this as far as she is going to progress physically? I’m certainly not resigned to it – I still have big goals I’d like her to reach, including to start using a walker – but if she isn’t sitting by four, is it realistic to expect her to do it, ever?
And that also leads to my big worry of the moment – dealing with Lil Z the girl, not Lil Z the baby. We still treat her like a baby in that we lift and carry her. Her only two big pieces of equipment are her special needs pram (which can convert into indoor supportive seating) and her adjustable bed. But my back is suddenly telling me that the time of lifting and carrying is coming to an end. And to be perfectly honest, right now I can’t picture or understand how we will cope in the future. And that worries me, because without a vision, we’re just going to keep plodding along, struggling to lift and carry her, and falling apart ourselves.
So, four is an age of change – some good and some not so good. Change is always scary, but I’m hopeful that this will be a good, positive year for Lil Z and for all of us.
But the last – and no less important – change now that Lil Z is four will be felt most keenly on this blog. I’ve decided that “Lil Z” is no longer the right name for her. She’s never been ‘lil’ and in fact is well above average in height with long, long, long legs. And now that she’s four, she’s not ‘lil’ in age either. So, from now on, she will be referred to as Miss Z or just Z.
As much as I want to, I can’t keep my girls little forever. And at four, it is time to remember that Z is growing up.