A typical moment in our family life consists of:
1. Me making lunch.
2. Me calling the girls to eat it. Them getting off the sofa and coming into the kitchen.
3. Delphine pausing to get herself a drink.
Lulu: ‘Delph, can you get me a drink too?’
Delph: ‘Ok.’ She goes to the unopened bottle of fizzy water. It’s too heavy for her to handle. She tries for a few moments before giving up, and pours Lulu a glass of normal water instead.
Lulu frowns at it: ‘I don’t want that kind of water, that kind of water sucks.’
Lulu: ‘Are you calling me a dick?’
Lulu rolls her eyes. ‘If I called you a dick, I would get into super trouble. But of course you can say it to me and nothing happens to you.’
Me to Lulu: ‘Do you think that you upset her by refusing the water she gave you in the first place?’
Lulu: ‘Well, I didn’t want that water.’
Delph: ‘That’s why you’re a dick.’
Me (quickly): ‘Delph, I don’t think you need to give your opinion right now.’
Lulu stands up and storms off outside with a full washing basket in her hands. I’d asked her to hang the clothes out after lunch. ‘And that’s why I don’t get a fair deal. All the blaming only ever goes one way in this family!’
Me and Delph are left staring at each other.
Me: ‘I would have drunk your water Du.’
Delph shrugged. ‘Next time I’ll throw it at her.’
That’s it. The other side of living with disability. It can create a unevenness, a sense of unfairness in a family that runs down into the middle of your bones.
Of course, it might help if Lulu doesn’t mind drinking tap water. Lulu came back into the house a few minutes later. Strangely calm. I wondered if she’d hung the washing or threw it over the fence.
I let that one go, ‘Lu, I do not love Delphine more than I love you. But what would might help is if you stood up for your sister some time.’
Lulu stopped and frowned. ’What do you mean?’
’Well, take this as an example. You know when Delph dropped her pizza on the floor before lunch?’
‘Well, when I bollocked her, you don’t need to join in. I’m fact, instead of supporting me, you could turn against me. You could stand up for her.’
Now Lulu looked really confused. ‘But she dropped the pizza on the floor. It was annoying.’
I took a breath. ‘Yes, but it’s my job to tell her. You don’t need to worry about that part.’ I was thinking fast now. ‘And in fact, if you stood up for your sister, I would never shout at you for it. I would never be mad at you for standing up for Delphine.’
Lulu scratched her head. It was looking like a struggle to see the light. ‘How would I do that?’
‘Well, for example, when she dropped her pizza, you could say to me, “Leave her alone! It’s not her fault!”’
‘Yeah, but it was her fault.’
‘Just try it. We’ll do it together. I’ll use another example. Ready? “Delphine, why do you always let your hair get so tangly?”
Lulu narrowed her eyes. ‘Yeah, Delph. You’ll have to cut it off if you leave it like a bird’s nest.’
I paused. ‘Maybe I’m giving a bad example. I’ll try something else. “Delph, I can’t believe you made such a mess in my car!”’
Lulu smiled like she got it. ‘Yeah exactly Delphine, your messiness is close to disgusting.’
I shook my head. ‘No. You can go the other way. You can say instead, “Mum, leave Delphine alone. She’s trying her best.”’
‘But she isn’t.’
‘Well, maybe she is. Maybe we’re too tough on her.’
With this, Lulu stared into space, really concentrating. ‘We are?’
I smiled at my beautiful eldest daughter. ‘Maybe. What do you think?’
Was it a mental breakthrough for her? Would she finally feel the balance in our family dynamic? The seesaw of unfairness being pushed the other way?
Lulu’s cheeks were round fruits. Above them, gleaming green coins. ’Nahhh,’ she cooed confidently, ‘this is Delphine we’re talking about.’
I tried not to groan. Urggghhh.