Ola and Jonatan feel great in their Tula. Their carrier story was not a fairytale right from the beginning but it quickly turned to a bliss. Ola’s and Koba’s life haven’t changed a lot since Jonatan was born. They still work and travel. They keep on laughing even more than before. Jonatan’s mom, Ola Więcka, a journalist, screenwriter and playwright talks to you about being close, hugging and making each other laugh.
Is it true that it is your second attempt on baby wearing?
Yes. Jonatan wasn’t a wrapping fan when he was smaller. He was too curious about the world only to gaze at his mom. He did not feel comfy when his arms were constricted. Physiotherapists would advise us against carriers because children with Down Syndrome start holding their head later as a result of increased muscles tension. But there are ways for moms to carry a child without fearing about their child health. You only need a qualified physician who recommends the best method.
How Jonatan reacts to carrying now when he is a 3,5 year old boy?
He likes it a lot more! Hot Air Balloon Toddler is a gorgeous carrier and Jo appreciates resting when he is tired of running. To us baby carrier is a handy alternative to a stroller which is used less and less frequently.
What does your typical day look like?
Jonatan doesn’t like rising with the sun. We wake him up with music, then we have a family breakfast. And suddenly we realize that we have to rush to preschool which we usually storm into at the last minute. Two times a week we spend mornings at rehabilitation and speech therapy.
What do you do on weekend mornings and afternoons?
We have a good sleep! On our Saturday and Sunday mornings, just after we wake up, we fool around in bed inventing attractions to our hero – swimming pool, theatre or a concert. At the end, Jonatan is invaded with our tickles and kisses on his feet. He is like Pulp Fiction character , he loves foot massage. When he was little we tested all possible rehabilitation methods. We met among others a girl who used metamorphic massage technique which is a gentle form of massage of the inside part of your feet, giving a deep relax. Jo asks for such a massage when he can’t fall asleep.
Was Jonatan to be Jonatan right from the beginning?
When I learned that we will have a son I chose Magnus for him. When I was a little girl, I would love “Magnus and the squirrel” and the whole cycle of novels about this Swedish urchin, a male version of Pippi Langstrumpf. But apparently nobody except me would read them and the name Magnus did not have a lot of fans. Finally Kobas had a dream, he dreamt about a skywriting ‘Gideon’s son’. Among the Gideon’s sons it’s Jotam who we liked the most who encouraged the citizens of the town of Sechem to rebel against the tyrant. And we changed Jotam to Jonatan.
What values would you like to instill in Jonatan?
The ability to question what others take for granted, openness and self-confidence.
What makes Jonatan laugh best?
Usually it is Jonatan who makes us laugh! Sometimes we mimic what Jonatan is doing and he mostly finds it funny.
And how he makes you laugh?
Jo is a real gentleman. In preschool he is taught about savoir-vivre and simple salutations as ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me’, ‘good morning’ are in daily use. Which is sometimes funny, when he walks into the Subway train with a ringing ‘good morning’. And when I ask him if he is thirsty he replies ‘no thank you, thank you’.
And everyday situations at home?
We both talk a lot on the phone and he is imitating us. He puts his hand to his ear and says ‘helooo’ and then he starts to intone the rest of the conversation and ends up with ‘Then, bye’. In general the phone is his favorite toy. He turns on the apps for kids, takes pictures. Sometimes on my mobile, I find a series of photos of floor, feet, or someone’s behind which fell within his sight.
He’s great, your three-years old.
You know the older he is the more I like spending time with him? Before Jonatan was born, my friend had told me something beautiful about her little son. It goes like this: ‘a kid is a small friend that is always by my side’. I feel the same more and more. He is my buddy. We like travelling, reading, making discoveries together. Our communication improves with time.
Where did you go for holiday?
We managed to get away and go to the Baltic Sea and to Masuria region (famous for its 2 000 lakes). It was fantastic, we could finally spend time the way we really wanted; no rush, no hours of rehabilitation and other activities. Jo made friends with his peer, a daughter of friends of ours. It was really nice to watch them playing, be together, eat delicious meals and have fun together.
What do you think about travelling together?
It is hard to imagine a better trip companion. Jonatan is excellent at adapting to different situations, he is totally interested in the world around. On the first day on the beach he was annoyed even by the sand. On the last, he used to run to the sea. He goes into the unknown bravely. We have the impression that he comes back as a different person from each trip.
Do you have all your trips planned in advance? Or you just do it spontaneously?
Planning and vacation sounds like an oxymoron to us. We put everything on spontaneity. We somehow manage not to take work with us, no computer, no tablet or smartphone. We wish we could do it as often as possible.
Are you one of those mums who have their kids sleep all night?
Jonatan is an experienced sleepyhead, it is not an easy task to wake him up! Just after he was born, I was told to wake him up every 3 hours for breastfeeding. It used to be a nightmare since he did not want to eat. Now it’s clear to me: it was dark, he wanted to sleep. But in the hospital the midwives scared me he might have hunger disorder. I would cry my eyes out over his baby bed, terrified, and he would just turn over. My concerns were only clarified by a lactation consultant who taught Jonatan feed at my breast, kids with DS have sometimes problems with this. She assured me that he knows perfectly when and how much he needs to eat. I trusted her and him. We’ve been getting enough sleep since then.
You are not going to tell me he sleeps in his own room?
No, not yet! Of course, when I was pregnant I used to imagine this was the way it was going to be. I thought that breastfeeding was to be a 2 month adventure, I was planning to come back to work after 3 months and I was not thinking about sleeping in the same bed with my kid!
Did everything work like a charm?
Not exactly! I was breastfeeding almost over a year. I worked at home and the separate baby bed was not used at all. Jo would wake up lying crosswise with his legs tangled between the bars. We finally found a publication of an American physiotherapist Glenn Doman. A simple thing that we were enlightened by: little child moves a lot if he is given a chance and is placed on his belly and has enough space. We found a way and we have been using this tip. We have two huge mattresses put together which gives 4 square meters all together! One of them belongs to us and the other to Jonatan. It suits us for the time being but we do dream about our own bedroom.
How do you get ready to sleep?
This is one of our favorite rituals. First a bath, and then an obligatory part of the program, that is reading. Jonatan chooses books himself and even ‘reads’ some of them. While falling asleep he holds me or his dad by the hand.
What do you usually read to him before sleep?
„Auto” by Janek Bajtlik it’s our blockbuster, no matter the time of the day. Jo can read himself almost all the words from this book: wind, mechanic, car, daddy, tires. We also appreciate the series about Simon by Stephanie Blake. Simon is an urchin, he doesn’t want to go to school and says ‘poo bum’ all the time. I see no reason to hide that, we love Simon! However we have lots of books piled up next to our bed; ‘Pinocchio’, ABC’s, art albums, ‘Pod Ziemią’ (Undergound) and ‘Pod Wodą’ (Under Water) by Mizielińscy. There is always a book to read.
Do you fall asleep together and sleep until morning?
When I’m lulling him I hope that ’this time I will certainly succeed’, but I am totally not resistant to the charm of falling asleep together. It happens to me to wake up in the middle of the night thinking that I have not done the washing, the cleaning, I have not written something… But when I can I put on a pajama and do not resist.
And when he has bad dreams or is sad or angry – what are your ways to soothe his fears?
Jonatan is a brave boy. Even when he falls, he grumbles for a little while, then he cleans his hands and continues walking. When he needs support he shows he wants a hug. He stretches his arms out and he snuggles me. Of course, we have worked out some swift reactions for hard times. We used to visit various doctors, run hundreds of appointments. When he was little we knew how to drag his attention away from examinations. Now we have to treat him as a serious man – talk to him, explain what is being done and why it is necessary. Then, he feels reassured and we feel we are fair with him, that we do not take advantage of his trust. I think that it is better to reach an agreement with your child and not shun difficult problems.
How does he react to music?
He loves music. Wherever we are and he hears music in the background he runs to find its source.
Is he learning to play an instrument?
In preschool he has piano lessons but he also likes drums. We would like to buy him drums. He loves analyzing sounds, finding out how they emerge. What sound does a spoon make when hitting a plate or a table? Does a knife sound the same? He is also attracted by echo.
Is there a lot of music in your home?
From dusk until dawn. We also go to concerts and music lessons with Jonatan.
Does he like experimenting?
Oh, yes, it’s all him. A real world explorer.
Does he often act rebellious ?
He is an adventurer with his own plan. I think he does not want to cause problems. He just doesn’t like when somebody interferes with his plans. Such situations are a good ‘gentle determination’ training for me.
Is setting limits necessary in your opinion?
Yes, it is, but only if they result from real needs and mutual respect and not from some norms and principles.
Do you think Warsaw is a cool city for kids?
Warsaw is a cool city for people in general! Mokotów district, where we live, is our little paradise. Probably, only New York is better.
What are you doing in Warsaw when it rains?
We race to The Theatre of the Little Spectator. We saw there a play entitled ‘Vegetables are out of this world’ which fascinated Jonatan. We also attend various workshops, we regularly go to Smykofonia (music concerts for kids). Copernicus Science Centre is our second home. We have never been told there that there are things which cannot be touched. Jonatan always watches light dispersion, he plays a laser harp, compares our speed to the one that cheetah has – we are pale by comparison in this competition. His favorite place there is an installation where you listen to animal sounds.
What type of family you are?
We want to be a family with no limits, for which everything is possible. When Jonatan is with us we try to give him the most opportunities to development as possible, not too much rigor but looking for adventures and challenges together.
Now, my favorite question: how do you do it? Where do you draw your strength from?
It was in hospital, I was given there a brochure which was to teach me what I should have felt, what to do, how to act as a mother of a child with DS. On first pages, a psychologist explained that I was going through mourning leading a passive acceptance leaving no hope that this child will be smart, sociable and independent. All this was featured with sad, ugly photos. This brochure was terrible, I cried while I was reading it. But I found one light at the end of this tunnel. It was a conversation with a mom of a child with DS. She said that not very much changed in her life after her child was born. Everything is fine: she is working, she goes on holidays, she has fun and laughs a lot. This was the first moment when, in all this weakness, I found a sign of strength in me. I didn’t want to become an uncared mother, dragging a disabled child as if it was an unloved suitcase. I was not going to accept the advice of the psychologist.
Bravo, girl, you succeeded.
First year was definitely the hardest. My boyfriend, my family and our friends were an exceptional support. Lots of people were coming to visit us, everybody wanted to meet Jonatan. We would even have parties! Finally my friend brought us cinema tickets and offered to take care of Jonatan.
Did you go?
Yes, sure. In cinema, we watched ‘This Must Be the Place’ , I realized that the world did not end. Today I’m under impression that Jonatan changed our lives the way I would never expect. He gave me courage to take risk, to be myself, to choose what I really want. My life is more interesting thanks to him.
I heard today in the morning radio broadcast that one needs to get at least 8 hugs a day to feel good. How many do you have left?
We have already exceeded minimum quantity and it is only noon.
Interview by: Dominika Janik
Photos: Monika Lenarczyk // www.kaszkazmlekiem.com