My daughter Meg is a very cool kid.
She has given me a second, very different mothering experience. She has always been independent and self-sufficient and there were just some situations I didn’t have to worry about her like I had to worry about Ted. For example, I deliberately did not meet the principal of her elementary school because – I DIDN’T HAVE TO. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about her education, it was just that I so relished the normalcy of not having to have ALL THOSE MEETINGS with school like we had to have for Teddy. Maybe I went overboard with the whole never meeting the principal thing, but, oh my, it was SO NICE!
And because she was easy, I tried not to take her for granted. Just the opposite happened actually. She became my sanctuary – my port in the storm. I had fun with her. She was a breath of fresh air. I could relax when we were together.
I also had to look out for her. Four years younger, she was an easy target when Teddy got frustrated. It’s hard to admit, but she was hit, bit, and flat-out tormented by her brother pretty much as soon as she was old enough to walk and consequently able to upset his sense of order.
How do you explain to a toddler that if she touches her brother’s legos he will flip out and punch her?
You can’t. So instead, whenever they were together, I stayed with them almost constantly. I had to.
When I went to the bathroom, I brought Meg with me because if I didn’t, I had learned, even if I speed peed, it was inevitable in those sixty seconds something would explode and I couldn’t let that happen.
Siblings of children with special needs have special needs themselves and deserve a place of honor in this world. Meg has had to be the child who adapted to keep the peace. She has seen meltdowns and other really ugly moments a child should not have to see. And yes, she has been hit, something NO ONE should have to experience. And instead of growing bitter she became the self-appointed protector of her brother. And rather than be the victim, in a way many schooled educators didn’t seem to figure out, by 3rd grade she began to meet him at his level because she understood he could not meet her at her level, at least not yet.
So she would go into his room and talk to him about Pokemon and she would play computer games even though she later told me she doesn’t like Pokemon and computer games. She did this just so she could interact positively with her brother, so they could be peers, so he could be more than the boy who lived in the room across from hers and screamed a lot.
And by meeting him at his level, by instinctively understanding his needs while honoring her healthy needs, they became friends.
And the cries of “stop Teddy, you are hurting me” were replaced by laughter and games and a mutual love of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. (Which played almost non-stop in our house for a year and a half.)
It gave me hope.
But the moment I am thinking of now as I write this, the moment that absolutely fills me up with pride and awe for this young lady was the day toward the end of her 8th grade year. I was picking her up and before I pulled out of my spot in front of school she said to me, “See that little blonde boy over there?”
My eye followed the line of her pointing finger and I saw the little blonde boy standing alone. He stood out because just as all the other kids were in their groups, he was not.
“Well,” she went on to say, “I think he might have Asperger’s. He is awkward and he tries so hard to be with everyone, and he will go up to a group and say something, but it will be weird and they will laugh at him. Or even worse, they will pretend to like him and be interested in what he is saying and set him up. I hate that they do that. It’s so cruel. So, because I know he likes plants I go up to him and start talking to him about plants and he gets so happy and talks and talks. I don’t want him to be picked on and feel alone. I want him to know someone cares. So I do it.”
Despite all those times she was on the receiving end of Asperger fueled anger she is filled with empathy and compassion and kindness and sensitivity for a child she suspected had Asperger’s. For her to notice and take action, to want to help him – she possesses an awareness beyond her years, an awareness beyond what many people will ever have, a special awareness our kids who are the siblings have.
Now think of all the gushy mom things you have said to your kids. Well, all those gushy mom things you thought of, I said them ALL to my beautiful child that afternoon sitting there in front of her middle school, pointing out a little blonde boy standing alone.