This essay is for my daughter–my best girl, who is both warrior and philosopher. She lives with milder special needs and balances that with accommodating her brother’s boisterous affection. She thinks it’s time to talk about the siblings. I couldn’t agree more. Here’s to all the sisters and brothers of special needs.
“You” by Radha Lath (Part 1 of a series on Shoutout to Siblings)
A sister like you doesn’t come along every day.
I saw you.
You tried to rescue your infant brother from his crib because you thought he’d been imprisoned.
You lined him up with your stuffed toys because he looked like one of them.
You left Elmo to nap with him so their big heads would match.
You went for runs around town with your toddler brother and me because running made him laugh.
You tripped and fell, and I couldn’t clean your bloody knee because your brother was running away, so you ran through the hurting.
You let him discover new foods from your plate, and patiently waited for refills.
You defended him when schoolmates laughed at or shrank away from his behaviors.
You went to sibling interaction groups so you could learn to play with him.
You stayed with friends when he was sick, even though talking to other adults is hard for you. I know what that cost you.
You trusted me to help you when your own symptoms made you an easy target for bullies.
You are still the rarest of sisters.
I see you. The sides you let me see.
You handle your brother with an ease that puts adults to shame.
You are his favorite person.
You say that no one else’s brother is that sweet to their sister, and you are lucky.
You accept the vagaries of vacations with autism. Or vacations with just one parent.
You accept that sometimes, only one of us can come to your events.
You shouldn’t have to. But you do.
You wear your special needs with dignity and humor.
You know what I love the most? When you say you are tired of autism, you want me to yourself, and you want a scream-free outing. I love you for your honesty.
You are much more than a sibling of autism.
You know you are the one who will have to watch out for your brother someday.
I wish I didn’t have to ask you to do that. I hope it’s a gentle journey. I hope you both fly high.