As you might have noticed, BubTar is a kind and sensitive soul, which makes him the ideal sibling for KayTar in a multitude of ways. It almost means the biggest thing he struggles with is keep emotions in check, at least to a point. Weeping and gnashing of teeth is not an appropriate response to "Time to brush your teeth." These are the sorts of things he has to be reminded of frequently, because everything just feels so giant in his heart. On the flipside of that coin, while KayTar can be a highly emotional (sometimes to the point of volatile) little girl, she has no grasp of the feelings of others. She doesn't even understand people HAVE feelings. She surely doesn't understand how someone else's feelings can be hurt or what that even looks like.
So this week, I have been treated to several showing of this little play.
[enter BubTar, stage right. Briskly walks across the stage and dashes up the stairs. A door slams]
Mom: BubTar, what's wrong?
BubTar: She hurt my feelings. She doesn't even CARE. I'm NEVER COMING OUT. NEVER. I WILL JUST STAY IN HERE FOREVER. FOREVER! [cue heaving sobs]
KayTar: Where's BubTar? BUBTAR! Pum back hee-yah!
Me: BubTar is SAD. You made BubTar feel sad.
KayTar: [cue crickets]
Me: BubTar is crying.
KayTar: Stop dat cwhyin.
Me: Say "I'm sorry BubTar."
KayTar: I sorry BubTar.
Me: BubTar! Did you hear that? She said she is sorry.
BubTar: [opens the door]
KayTar: BubTar! Ef you are, BubTar! Come hee-yah!
Me: KayTar, can you HUG BubTar and say you are sorry?
KayTar: [willingly complies]
And off they run together, until it happens the next time.
Then I beat my head against the wall because I don't know how to stop the cycle, except to split them up, which I usually end up doing, at least for a short time. Neither of them are fond of that either, because they do love to be together. Here is my dilemma, Josh and I have explained to BubTar that she doesn't understand what feelings are or how she hurts them. She is only aware of herself. But that doesn't stop his little heart from being stomped on several times a day. And KayTar, she doesn't even know anything has happened, she surely can't rectify it or stop the behavior without knowing what it is. And so I am stuck being the referee between two people who seem to speak completely different languages. BubTar with all his understanding and KayTar with all her knowledge. I don't know how to bridge a gap like that.
KayTar does have some understanding of her own feelings, when she cries she frequently says, "I cwhyin! I sad, Mommy!" but that same knowledge doesn't translate outside of herself. You can show her a frowning picture and she could label it "Sad." but she doesn't understand what that means for the other person. She is labeling a object, not recognizing the emotions of another person. It all seems very fine line, but I am with her daily and she doesn't grasp the notion that there are feelings that exist outside of herself. She is interactive and loving and all sorts of wonderful things, but awareness of others is not one of those strengths. It falls into that pesky category of abstract concepts that she doesn't have a handle on. But this one, unlike the others, is a bit problematic in every day life. It creates a situation that is very hard to mediate fairly. I won't discipline her for something she can't understand, but I also don't want BubTar to continue having his wee heart stomped on repeatedly. It is a tough spot.
The thing is, and feel free to chime in on this, I don't know if this is a KayTar-specific problem or an age-appropriate problem. The diagnostician at her Big Eval said that emotional awareness isn't usually present at this age, but I know from my experience with BubTar it was, at a much earlier time no less. However, he has a giant heart and a strong emotional awareness in general and it might just be him. From literature I've read, it does seem to be something acquired between the ages of two and three, and from my experiences with other kids KayTar's age it does seems to be something typically present. Most kids, I think, are showing some sort of concern for others by now. If they saw a loved one crying, they might attempt some sort of unprompted comforting. Or maybe just say, "Are you sad?" Or if someone fell down and got hurt, they might acknowledge it in some way. If you have a NT (neuro-typical) child KayTar's age, do they have any sort of emotional awareness outside of themselves yet? Do they acknowledge the feelings of others in any way? Or attempt to extend comfort? If your child doesn't have this sort of awareness, how do you navigate these kinds of situations? And you know, any other sort of information you think would be helpful. It takes a village and the Blogosphere makes a pretty nice little village, I think.