“Being an older brother to a sibling with severe autism has not always been easy. It’s a job you never asked for but you took with stride. At times it was a very difficult job, to put it mildly. Thank you for loving your little sister wholeheartedly. You were her light in the darkest of times, when her life was filled with sensory overload, and nothing made sense to her little body, and she was completely overwhelmed by our world—when she would lash out and hurt you just for saying my name, and I would have to send you out of the room for your safety, you never got mad at her and always adored her.
Thank you for letting her follow you around, and for always being there to hug her and tickle her whatever made her happy. For getting down on the floor with her and playing her way. For connecting with her in any way you could. Thank you for being a loyal big brother, and for always protecting her when others had no understanding of autism. For loving her and trying to reach her, even when she seemed unreachable. For never giving up and for understanding her brain worked differently, and it wasn’t her fault. How could you understand this at 5 years old? I don’t know how, but you did. You never stayed mad or blamed her.
Thank for being the happiest, easiest-going little boy when my heart was breaking into pieces, trying to come to grips with a life-altering diagnosis. For sitting with early-intervention and helping them engage with her. For understanding we couldn’t go to play dates because her behavior was so unpredictable. For sometimes being disappointed, but for never taking it out on her. For understanding how much extra care and supervision she needed, and never complaining.
Thank you for going along with me when I needed a picture. You know, the ones where you had to smile for fifteen minutes while I chased and all but wrestled her down. Thank you for holding her tight so I could take it, while she would be trying push you away, kick or roll over you, but you took it in stride. You couldn’t have known how much it meant to me to get a picture. I just wanted a picture of my two beautiful children. I needed some kind of normalcy, even though it was anything but. There are a thousand examples of how things went awry, things you lost out on, gave up, had to leave in the middle of. And yes, it was disappointing at times, but your love for her, your connection, never wavered.
I tried my hardest to make it up to you. I tried to spend alone time with you, have others take you, so you could get a break. I tried to bring you places, spoil you. You had every video game and Pokémon card able to be bought. Your nana, your grandparents, and aunties saw it, and they tried to make it up to you, too. I am forever grateful for that as well. But how can you make up for a lost childhood, for having to grow up too fast? You can’t.
I felt torn in two at times. My love for both of you is so strong, but her needs surpass yours, and there was nothing I could do to change it. And then came your sisters, two girls, two years apart. A whirlwind, you could say. Again, you stepped up. Thank you. Thank you for bottle holding, baby loving, and all the madness which went along with it. And then things got better, a little easier, and you got to be a different kind of big brother.
I read about siblings of special needs children—they are sometimes referred to as ‘glass children.’ I thought, ‘That makes sense, because you become so strong, but are also fragile.’ It is not the meaning of a glass child. It means parents are so consumed with the special needs child, they look right through you and don’t even see you—as if you are a piece of glass. I immediately thought, ‘Did I do that!?’
Did you feel invisible, like you didn’t matter? I have handled a lot, but this I don’t think I can handle. My mama guilt is coming on full force, and I already have so much already. So, I came to you and asked you. Looking you right in the eye as I tried to hide the fact my heart was shattering again even considering this. I asked you to be honest, I needed to know. You told me you felt like you missed out on opportunities you could have had. If it wasn’t for having a sister with special needs, your life would have been different.
I know this to be true, but it still hurt like hell to hear. But you went on to say it’s okay, and it’s not her fault, and it’s not my fault. It’s just what is. Thank you for your grace. I cry as I type this because it feels like an impossible job to be pulled into all different directions for all these years, and feeling I didn’t get it right. There is no easy answer. But today, it doesn’t matter to you. Today, you just love her for who she is—just like always. Today, you make time to hug her, to make her laugh.
Thank you for that. I know you don’t need thanks, or even expect, it but you sure deserve it. I am sorry I couldn’t always be the mother I wanted to be for you, I was pulled into the uncharted waters of having a child with a disability, and some days I could barely keep my head above water. Thank you for being my life raft, even though it was not supposed to be your job. I know this has made you stronger and more compassionate. You are a better person for loving her, for having her in your life.
When I called you and asked you if you would be willing to be her guardian if anything ever happened to me or Dad, you laughed because you didn’t understand why it was even a question. You made it seem like I was asking for something so minor. Thank you for being the best big brother she could’ve ever had, and the best son I could’ve asked for. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kimberly McIsaac. You can follow their journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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