I find it hard to write about The Eldest in a way that doesn't make it sound like she is naughty. She's not naughty, in fact, she is really pretty well behaved and I want to make that clear here. She doesn't do "naughty" things on purpose. One on one she is an absolute delight - a sweetheart who loves to draw and play "dogs". It seems that she is fairly well behaved as well when she goes to her friends' houses - unless that is the other parents just don't tell me when she has been bad which is perfectly plausible! She has a nice group of friends and even went for a successful sleepover at a friend's house this last week. She is bright, reading well above her expected age and spelling almost as well as I do, although if she's gifted, she's hiding it well... Like any 6 year old, she is testing boundaries and it's often hard to pick apart the behaviour that stems from Aspergers from the behaviour that stems from just being 6!
So it is very hard for her to learn to share and she very much acts first, then thinks later. She will snatch a toy from her siblings, behaviour which she really should have grown out of by now. She often treats the baby like a dolly, carrying her round when she doesn't want to be, sitting her down when she wants to stand up and so on. She's the same with the orange dog, she will drag him round by his collar and treat him like a toy who should sit where he's put, rather than an entity with his own mind. He loves her though, which is fortunate...
A day when she is in the house is a day punctuated by screaming and squabbles. A day when I really can't get anything done at all because I need to be on hand to adjudicate, to help guide her (and the others) to a resolution. Don't get me wrong, she is perfectly capable of playing nicely with the others, so long as they all do exactly as she says - it's when they demonstrate that they have a mind of their own that the trouble breaks out!
She will often join in crying if another child does. Sometimes because she has done something to make them cry and she knows she's about to be told off, but sometimes just because she doesn't like the sound of them crying and it upsets her. She used to be very upset by hand dryers and, although she's much better now, still doesn't like to use them.
She has to learn intellectually what the others learn intuitively. She has to be told that she cannot smack or hit or snatch and she has to have it explained that it hurts the other person. She has to be told, "You must not try to carry the baby up the stairs", or you will turn around one day and find her halfway up the stairs carrying said baby. I suppose you could say that she lacks common sense - certainly she is unable to assess risk yet. Currently we are working on what to do if another person is upset. Almost every time someone is hurt of crying, I try to use it as a teaching tool (which is REALLY popular with the others...). "Right, they are crying, what should YOU do" and we work through it. Again. And Again. And Again. One day it will sink in and she will do it. Once she has done it once, hopefully she will do it again, and eventually it will become ingrained, a learned strategy so that she knows what to do when another human is upset.
She takes up more of my time and energy than any of the others do (bless them) and sometimes I worry that I am not only shortchanging them, but that I am short changing her. If I did not have so many children, I would have more time to devote to her and to help her cope with the world. On the other hand, the constant interaction with her siblings provides a relatively safe environment for her to learn about other beings and their needs, so perhaps I am being unduly harsh on myself.
There are days when, even though I know that it is not something I have done and Aspergers is something that you are born with, I wonder what I have done to "break" her. I wonder where I went wrong, what I could have done differently. Even though I know intellectually that I haven't done anything wrong (and that the things I do have helped her), it is easy as a parent to blame yourself. On days when I really am at my wits end, I look at The Feral One. The Feral One is independent and spiky, but also incredibly loving and giving. She learns by imitation and intuition - an ordinary little girl, who happens to look like a flower fairy. And as I look at her, I think that I must be doing something right and that helps me feel like I am on the right track with all of them.
We'll get there, The Eldest and Me, it is just a longer and stonier track that we have to travel, but travel it we will and we'll travel it together.