Parenting, Special Needs

“He’s Not Heavy. He’s My Brother.”

The sibling bond is a special one. I have three brothers and as I have gotten older I realize one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was my siblings.

There is something reassuring about having someone who really knows where you came from and stood shoulder to shoulder facing the world with you when all roads pointed home.

When my husband and I began discussing children– how many to have, how far to space them, etc., I knew I wanted more than one and not that far apart. I wanted to give my children a guaranteed someone to walk this world with them once I am gone. We decided on three kids all three years apart.

Want to hear God laugh? Make a plan.

We ended up with four kids– three of them spaced three years apart from each other with our youngest coming 18 months after his older brother. He’s the greatest surprise of my life and God knew we needed him.

So, we ended up with two girls and two boys. The girls are older than the boys. The boys have Autism and the girls do not.

My oldest daughter, Emma, is ten and almost eight years older than her brothers.

She loves them and she understands what Autism is. She gets how it affects the boys and how it effects our family dynamics.

Sometimes I worry that because of her age and maturity she’s too perceptive and carries some of my worries with her. She’s seen my tears and heard tough conversations between her father and me about resources and funding.

Emma would do just about anything for her brothers except maybe she wouldn’t share video game screen time.

Lily Ruth is our second born and our rainbow baby– both literally and figuratively.

Lily came after a loss. She was an answer to a prayer. She’s also a walking talking rainbow. No, seriously. She loves to dress in bright happy colors and she spreads that joy– well most of the time, just not when it’s time to get up for school.

Lily is seven. She doesn’t quite grasp what Autism is. She’s obviously familiar with the word and she’s well aware that her brothers are different, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say she truly gets it at this point in her life.

Lily is quite honestly her brothers’ best friend. She loves them fiercely and is their biggest protector. She meets them at their level and they welcome her there.

She’s a much better big sister than I was at her age to my younger brothers.

I hope that my children will remain close as they travel this life.

I know as my children grow their bond will grow and change. They may not always be as close as they are now and that would be okay. I just hope wherever life takes them they know the roads that lead them back together.

I won’t always be here to look after my babies. Time on this Earth isn’t guaranteed. This is our temporary home. That’s just a reality for all of us.

But for a special needs parent, it is an exceptionally scary reality.

It is a reality that puts me into a cold sweat at 3am when I lay awake thinking of it. Who will be there for my boys when I can’t? Who will fight for them? Advocate for them? Cheer them on?

Spoiler alert: My girls will– their sisters will.

All siblings are special and their bonds should be celebrated. But, the bond of a special needs sibling is like no other. It is simple and patient and kind.

That’s why God (and my husband and I) gave our children siblings. They will always have someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with and face this world.

Photo by PS Photography

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