Monday, March 11, 2013

Siblings

    As parents, we continued to do our best to address Mikey's needs each day with great determination. However, we also were the parents of three other children. While the boys had always been understanding and cooperative for the most part, we did have many moments of difficulty as well. What many people fail to realize is that it is not necessarily easy to be the sibling of a person with special needs. Autism affects the entire family, not just one child and the parents.
   There have been many times throughout their short lives where our boys have had to make sacrifices for their brother. Of course, none of these sacrifices have been too serious, but when you are a little kid, they can seem monumental. Many times, we have had to cut pool time, park time, or beach time short because Mikey was having a tantrum. There have been times when one or more of the boys have been late for parties or other events because Mikey may not have been cooperating.Times, when as much as we wanted to, we were unable to listen to a story they were dying to tell. I have already shared the story of Mike missing Chris' communion because of difficulties with Mikey. I have had to miss some of my boys sporting events,plays  or extra-curricular activities due to situations caused by autism. Again, nothing (at least I hope not), that will scar the boys for life, but little inconveniences here and there.
   Then there are always the questions from friends.."what's up with your brother?" " Can he speak,is he okay?"  All well meaning questions, but forever present. Not to mention the public stares. Yet, through it all, our boys have proven to us time and time again how amazing they are. They understand that we ,as a family, are not on the easiest of journeys, and that is not the fault of anyone. It is just our life. Crazy at times, difficult at times, and yet sometimes funny as hell.
   I often am amazed at their relationships. They will fight with each other to no end,yet always have each other's back. They do not discriminate either...they will fight with Mikey too, because to them, he is just one of the boys. I cannot tell you how many times I have been out with both Mikey and my son Timmy, and Timmy will see someone staring, or looking at us funny. He will look at them and say" what are you looking at? He has autism, everything is okay here, turn around." I know it sounds rude, but to hear it from a 10 or eleven year old speaking on his brother's behalf makes me smile.
   It may not sound like a big deal to some people, but when you have to tell your kids that they can't go on the ride they have been waiting for, or get the ice-cream they have been asking for all day because their brother suddenly has a problem,  it is unfair. Yet, life is not fair, so we did what we could. We learned that sometimes we need to go out with each child or just a few of them so that they can indeed do something they have been looking forward to ,and see it through. We have also worked very hard to try to teach Mikey how to wait patiently,if needed, and were sometimes successful. Like everything else, it was all a work in progress.
    As the boys have grown older, they obviously have a better understanding of things, and Mikey has become more patient and cooperative. That is not to say that they do not still get upset when these situations arise, but they are only children. I think it is natural and to be expected. They have been through so much more than many of their friends. Yet, it has not only been negative. They were thrilled to have special passes at Disney to go on every ride quickly, courtesy of Mikey.
   More importantly, this experience has taught my children to be tolerant....of not only their brother, but of others as well. They have a genuine compassion for those in need, those with disabilities, and those who are easily picked on. Those lessons alone, have made the journey worthwhile.
   

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