The other day I was reading a blog post about a Mom’s very legitimate concerns about what Autism brings to the sibling of an Autistic child. I truly understood where she was coming from because it’s one thing as parents that we have the responsibility for our children but what about siblings to each other? Our children will *knock on wood* out live us and family looks out for each other which inevitably means that the siblings will have to be there for each other. Will my son be able to look out for my daughter or will it be one-sided? I am an only child so the sibling dynamic is a completely new thing for me and then in our family you add a twist of Autism. So I decided to comment to let her know from our perspective what we see with our little girl.
Johnny has a sister 3 years younger then him and I refer to her as Princess on my blog. He is eight years old and she is five. She loves him so much and at times she is like another Mom to him but to his chagrin. When he was younger I sometimes wondered if he liked her baby toys more then her because they were all cause-and-effect and he really really enjoys that. He would sit by her when she was a baby and be the first person to pop her soother back in her mouth. When she is nervous about trying something new or scary she immediately finds courage if she sees him trying to do it. She will ask him if he was scared and he will say, “yes….but I want to to do it so I do it.” She hates it when if she sees him at school he literally runs the opposite way and hurts her feelings. Is it fair? No. But she REALLY LOVES her brother. Somewhere along the line he began really showing how much he loves her too.
Empathy….understanding… it’s okay to be different….responsibility, these are all things that she learns from having him as an older brother. She reminds us everyday about unconditional love and she fights for him at school and defends him to us. Her relationship with him has made her a stronger person as she navigates the social dynamics of kindergarten. She has leadership skills that are more developed at a younger age. Her genuine kindness and thoughtfulness teaches Johnny every day so now we enjoy unexpected surprises from him. There are all the ballet classes where Johnny would stay outside the door and stand on the chair peeking through the little window trying to catch a glimpse of the sister trying to dance . All the times when he was so sick with a bad cold yet he would sit and watch a ballet recital. He wanted to do it so he could watch his sister and be a proud older brother. He has huge depth of love and emotion and when he cares he care so very deeply and she loves to bask in his attention. There are days where they play with each other and days and they do not. There are all the times where they want to sleep with each other and cuddle and have a little sleepovers. The other day Princess couldn’t go to school because she got the flu. Johnny asked me, “Mommy can I stay home and take care of my sister please.”
So yes I am worried about the burden on her and what she misses because of him….but what about what she has gained?