Operation Slobber Puss

Apparently, according to my children, I have been failing at this parenting gig.

Now, if I had force-fed them nothing but the dried up rosehips dotting the shrubs around our home, I could perhaps understand this. But since they have a healthy diet consisting of popsicles, sugar cereals and jam I'm a wee bit confused.

Or, if I locked them in their room with nothing to do but chew on their toenails I may be in agreement with their judgment. But in order to lock them in their room I'd have to drag them out of the swimming pool or off the trampoline and let's face it, my kids are slippery little devils. For the most part I happily spend obscene amounts of money on playthings to keep them out of the house. Having them locked in their rooms would mean subjecting myself to listening to them fight and whine. Contrary to my blonde hair, I'm smarter than that.

So it was with a bit of confusion that I looked at my kids, who were standing side by side, frowning at me as I held Jumby in my arms, and asked just how I failed at parenting.

"It's no fair!" One whined.

"You don't play with us!" The other complained.

"Excuse me? Don't play with you? My retinas are still blurred and my lungs are on fire from all the chlorine I ingested yesterday when you ganged up on me in the pool and tried to drown me, repeatedly. For hours. The blisters on my hand from holding the Wii remote are threatening to fester if I play anymore video games with you and might I remind you how I whooped your arses in Scrabble this morning?"

For crying out loud, the only thing I have done since my children went on summer vacation is play with them. I'm tired of playing. If I worked as hard at cleaning my house, or um, blogging, as I do at playing with my children I'm sure my life would be far more successful. Or at least my toilet wouldn't be fuzzy.

"No, that's not what we mean," Frac said. "We mean you don't play with us the way you play with Jumby."

"Ah, well if you want sweetie, we can play Patty Cake right now," I teased.

"Very funny Mom."

"Well of course I don't play with you the same as I play with Jumbster. He's six. You're almost 13 and 14. He's developmentally delayed. Your report cards indicate you are on the bright side of smart. He's a quadriplegic; the two of you walk on your hands for fun. Are you seeing the difference or shall I go on?"

"We know all that MOOOOM," my daughter countered. "It's just, um.." she trailed off.

"It's just that you cuddle with him and not with us," Frac finished the sentence his sister started.

"Ahhh. I see. You're jealous. Of your blind, deaf brother who eats from a tube and will never walk." I took a moment to nuzzle Jumby's neck.

"We're not jealous! We love Jumby! It's just we want you to cuddle with us like you cuddle with him."

"I cuddle with you all the time. Heck, I can't even sit on the couch by myself because you two want to sit beside me."

But the words sat with me, long after the conversation ended and my kids moved on, satisfied they had been heard and that I had listened.

Do I cuddle Jumby more than the older two? To some extent, I had to admit to myself, yes. For the past year I have slobbered more on Jumby than I do on my husband, whom I'm legally required to slobber on. I've been trying to establish a maternal bond with him, trying to reassure him through my touch that I will be his forever mommy, always.

Had I neglected the older two kids in the process? Have I made them feel lesser in my efforts to make Jumby feel like this is his home? Mommy guilt haunted me. Yes, I kiss and hug Fric and Frac every day. Our house is an affectionate household. Even before their brother Bug passed away, I dribbled my mommy love onto my kids through my hugs and kisses. I didn't grow up with parents who openly showed affection and I have always been careful to make sure my kids feel my love through my touch.

But have I been committing the cardinal parenting sin and blatantly favouring one sibling over the others?

This called for an immediate investigation. So I called my husband.

"Do I favour Jumby over the other two kids?" I immediately asked when he answered his phone.

"Um, hello to you too. Why yes, I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

"I'm serious Boo. I think your kids think I love Jumby more than I love them," I worried aloud and then explained the situation with him.

My husband, ever the rock that keeps me grounded, laughed. "Um, no. They are just being brats. You abuse them equally. You're fairly fair in your distribution of maternal slobber. I think you are worrying for nothing."

Clearly my husband would be of no help with this.

So I asked my Dad. He's here almost every day and has an inside view of the maternal-child relations. He's a straight shooter. He'll tell me like it is.

"Dad, do I spoil Jumby? The kids think I love him more than them."

"Ah, just put a boot up their arses and tell them to go clean their rooms and stop bothering you."

Right. Perhaps my father isn't the foremost authority on tactful parental relations.

This meant I only had one choice left.

Operation Slobber Puss.

I decided I would make sure every time I kissed or held Jumby to make sure I immediately shared the affection with his older siblings.

At first, my kids lapped it up. It was a free love festival around here all the time. My kids couldn't walk past me without me stopping to hug them and lay a big smooch on them. My lips were getting chapped from all the kisses I was doling out. Apparently, I cuddle with Jumby a whole lot more than I was aware of. But since the kid doesn't walk and requires me to carry him everywhere for his basic daily needs, he tends to be in my arms a lot. Which meant, since I was insistent on equally sharing the love, seeking out the older two for random moments of affection.

It didn't take long for my kids to begin to grow weary with the constant cuddles. Apparently interupting their game of tag or making them stop their video games in a critical moment to kiss me can get a bit annoying. Who knew?

The weariness quickly grew into aggravation and it wasn't long before my children would twitch every time they saw me walk towards them. At one point my kids even held up their hands in the sign of a cross and hissed at me like they would a vampire. "Enough Mom!"

Still, I persisted. It's always been an active concern of mine that in my quest to parent first Shalebug and now Jumbster, that my kids would be neglected as my maternal efforts are swallowed by the needs of the disabled child. It's always been a struggle to find a balance at parenting the healthy children when their disabled little brother waves his overwhelming needs in our faces. It isn't always easy being the healthy kid in a family with a child with special needs. I recognize that and want my healthy children to know that even though I can't always be there for them, I see them.

If my kids want more cuddles, than darn it, cuddles they will get.

Then the straw that finally broke my camels' backs finally dropped. I was trying to be an affectionate mother with Frac as he was trying to read his book. As I leaned in and blew a raspberry kiss onto the side of his neck like I do his little brother, he stood up and slammed his book down.

"All right! Enough! No more kisses. Just leave us alone!" His sister, who was in the other room, sauntered in and nodded her agreement with her little brother.

"It's too much Mom! You're always touching us. It's driving us bonkers," she said.

"But I'm just cuddling with you like I do with your little brother!" I insisted, somewhat taken back.

"But we're not six! And we're not a baby in our brain like he is! It's different!" They both retorted.

I looked at them, as Jumby rolled around on the floor in a little patch of sunlight, softly cooing to himself and then I smiled. Wickedly.

"Well, thank heavens that is over! Come on Jumby, let's go play Patty cake," I said as I scooped him up and into my arms.

I mean, showing maternal love is all fine and dandy. But there comes a time when giving your child raspberry kisses needs to come to an end.

Because let's face it. No matter how much you love your children, once they have body odour and pubic hair, smooching on them while making monster noises just ain't the same.