A few weeks ago, this article was circulating- a letter to siblings of special needs kids telling them how amazing they are. It really is a feel-good, idealistic letter, and contains everything I hope and pray for Charlotte as she grows up in a family with a unique sibling situation.
Then I read the comments. Never read the comments. While there are many parents and siblings of special needs kids who absolutely loved the article, there were of course those who hated it- who felt it was unrealistic and didn’t address the real challenges faced in these sibling relationships. There are a lot of comments from siblings who grew up to suffer from anxiety and depression, and who felt “invisible” in their families. To be honest, it shocked me and kind of made me feel sick to my stomach.
At this point, I can’t imagine Charlotte feeling invisible. She is the opposite of invisible. If anything she demands and gets WAY more attention than her brother. She gets at least 6 hours a day of one-on-one time with me while Grayson is at school, and even we are all home, it’s the Charlotte Show. I know part of it is her age, and part of it is her outgoing, energetic, sociable personality.
Charlotte adores her brother, and anticipates what he needs. Just this afternoon, the first thing she did when we got home from school pickup was bring Grayson his ipad, his chew-stick, and a blanket in case he got sick. She really does have a tender heart towards him.
Case in point: I mean…have you ever seen anything so sweet?
But this sweetness is not every minute of the day. Lately, I’ve started noticing jealousy creeping in. She doesn’t like me (or anyone) paying attention to G and not her. Any toy/ipad/instrument that we try to engage him with, she wants. There are tantrums, and sometimes, even physical aggression towards her brother. Again, I realize this is an age thing and would be happening even if Grayson was a typical kid. But it brings up a point made by some of those commenters- siblings of special needs kids are still just kids. They aren’t heroes, or saints, or martyrs. They didn’t ask to be in this situation, and aren’t going to grow up to be extraordinary human beings just because of the home they grow up in.
It makes me, and I think most special needs parents, uncomfortable when people call me Super-Mom or tell me they have no idea how I do it or that they could never do it. Yeah, you could. There’s nothing special about me- I just love my kid and do what I can to give him a good life. Same with Charlotte. Yes, I hope the experience of growing up seeing what she does and will see in the future will give her an appreciation for life, an empathetic heart, and a desire to serve others, but I don’t want her to feel added pressure or expectations because of who her brother is. And I never want her to feel invisible or that she matters less because she is healthy and will have less physical needs as time passes.
It’s hard for me to imagine how Charlotte’s life and personality will really be shaped by her role as a special needs sibling, and it’s scary to think that the experience could affect her in a really negative way. But just like everything else, I’ll take it one day at a time, pray a lot, and treasure the moments of the special bond these two share.