Thursday, December 10, 2020

Happy Birthday, Falcon!

The fiercest girl I know is turning 13 this week. We used to call her Pink on this blog, but she has stretched well beyond the limits of such a diminutive name. I asked her what she wanted to be called instead, and she said, "Falcon, no, Dragon!" and then settled on Falcon, so that is what I shall call her.

One of Falcon's dragons.
When I found out Falcon was going to be a girl, I have to admit that I panicked a bit. What if she liked pink, and princesses, and ballet? What if she wanted to play with dolls and have tea parties? Boys I could understand, but girls? I wasn't so sure. 

In her earliest years, I did my best to limit her exposure to all the girly-fied clothes and toys, but she still came home from daycare wanting to wear sparkly shoes and live in a castle. It wasn't that I thought those things were bad so much as I simply worried that I wouldn't be able to relate to a kid who liked them. Looking back, I know how stupid I was. As a parent, I can do whatever I can to try to ensure the kids have access a wide range of ideas and beliefs and they will still pick and choose what makes the most sense to them based on a whole bunch of different influences, some of which I simply can't control.

So, I let Falcon wear princess dresses and sparkly shoes, and she accumulated so many pink things over the first several years of her life, it looked like a unicorn had barfed in her closet. Once, when she was 3 or 4, she tried to get me to buy her duct tape and feminine pads because both were pink, and it didn't matter WHAT they were used for. Lucky for both of us, I put my foot down when she wanted to paint her room in our new house pink (we went with pale yellow) because eventually, she stopped liking pink. She stopped liking it so much that if an article of clothes or a notebook cover or anything else has even a hint of it, she will refuse it on the spot.

When you're a "neurotypical" kid coming after an older sibling with autism, life can be challenging. For years, poor Falcon couldn't cry when she was hurt or upset because it would trigger her brother Sky, making it nearly impossible for us to comfort her. On her birthday, Sky would become so anxious and dysregulated, that he would insist on "helping" her open her presents and then "showing her how to use her toys" before she even had a chance to play with them. Often she had to sit and patiently wait for him to finish playing with her new toys before she could try them. She spent much of her early years catering to her older brother's needs--sitting in waiting rooms at therapy sessions and ALWAYS playing what he wanted to play exactly how he wanted to play it because he had so little capacity for flexibility.

Then along came Stow, who bookended her with even more autism, and before any of us could catch our breath, Ren's spine went south.

Last winter, when Ren was still recovering from spine surgery number seven, I tried to get the kids to help me put out the Christmas lights. Before he could even get out the door, Sky started obsessing about all the things we might do wrong, got overwhelmed, and shut himself in his room to play computer games. Meanwhile, Stow came outside with a shovel in his hand and started digging small holes in the yard. But, Falcon? Falcon was there steady and ready to help. I told her I was sorry that this was how things were, but looking at her and thinking about all the ways she has stepped up over the years, I knew that we could build one hell of a matriarchy, the two of us.

More Falcon art.

Falcon is fierce because when Stow has a meltdown, she runs toward him and not away from him, even though we've asked her a thousand times to focus on protecting herself. She runs toward him because she knows she can help calm him in a way no one else can.

And more...

Falcon is fierce because she never, ever backs down on what she believes is right, and she will go to the mat for a friend or even for someone she doesn't know all that well if she thinks they need a hand.

But, maybe most of all, Falcon is fierce because she is the most empathetic and sensitive person I know, and instead of trying to hide her feelings or toughen up, she continues to look for ways to be herself and express those feelings. Lately, that has meant that she writes and illustrates the most fantastic stories about warrior girls who go on amazing journeys to save the weak and mistreated. Her empathy reaches beyond humans--I've never met a cat or dog or horse that didn't immediately love and respond positively to her. 

Most mornings I come out to find Falcon reading or writing surrounded by the cats.

Falcon is fierce, and to me, she's also just a little bit magical. In our world of concrete, black and white thinkers who can sometimes take language way too literally or just a little bit wrong, Falcon has a knack for knowing the very thing I will think is funny. We have a long list of past moments with the boys that we remind each other of when things are a bit too intense around here. The other day, for example, out of the blue, Stow said, "My balls reflect better than anyone else in my whole class." Needless to say, it took us a minute to figure out that he was talking about his awesome goalie skills in soccer (He meant to say, "I deflect balls better than anyone else in my class.") Sometimes she just has to say a single word, and we're both rolling on the floor. Falcon also always mixes the pancake or waffle batter on the weekends, comes up with more baking and craft schemes than I ever could, and is the first cheerful face I see every morning. I honestly don't think I could be luckier.

As you're going about your business this week, please send some positive vibes for this amazing girl so she has an amazing birthday free of brotherly meltdowns!

Falcon's picture of Stow's favorite panda.

1 comment:

Liz said...

You made me tear up. What a WONDERFUL daughter/sister.