‘You lift him up, no matter how heavy the world seems. You’re his safe place, his best friend. You became a hero in not just one, but two sets of eyes.’: Mom thanks daughter for being ‘hero’ to sibling with autism

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“Big Sister.

You were so excited to take on that role. You couldn’t wait to meet your little brother, Landon. You even made pictures for him before he entered our physical world.

Back then, I didn’t truly know how much your role would mean. I didn’t know you would become a hero in not just one, but two sets of big brown eyes.

You’ve always been an amazing big sister to Finn. When he was diagnosed with severe autism at two years old, you were just mature enough to grasp what that meant. You wanted to help, to learn, to protect, and to care for him.

But you had practice.

And now I’m starting to realize how grateful I am that you had a relationship with your brother Landon before Finn came along–before Autism changed our lives.

You gave Landon the relationship a sibling deserves. An instant and consistent connection. You showed him love and affection every day. Over the years, he has learned so much from you.

You showed him it’s okay if life gets a little messy…You can just wash off the dirt. You showed him how to be brave; to swing high, climb to the top, and slide down fast. You taught him how to be a ‘master chef.’ You showed him how to bake pies and how to make Grandma Ju-Ju’s grits on Thanksgiving. You even love watching shows like ‘Cupcake Wars’ and ‘Nailed It’ together.

You taught him to believe in magic, how to write letters to Santa, to leave him cookies and milk, and how to make the reindeer food we sprinkle outside on Christmas Eve. And the really important stuff like how much is too much when it comes to cookie sprinkles and learning patience while watching them bake in the oven. And how many mini marshmallows to add to the sweet potatoes.

You taught him how to use his imagination, and you were always there to play dress up on Halloween or a rainy day. You were always there for the family photos, to show him how to smile for mom in your matching outfits for the holidays, and for the first days of school.

You’ve been his traveling companion for twenty-four-hour road trips, daily trips to Tampa, on an airplane, amusement parks…you have shared so many adventures and you’ve always led the way. You have been his partner in crime then and now.

You taught him the finer things in life like which Slurpee and smoothie are best, that you have to try every flavor of macarons to know which is your favorite. That ice cream is a perfectly suitable breakfast food, football games are the perfect time for mom to get you a Kona Ice, and that there’s no such thing as too much sugar when it comes to cotton candy.

You listen to him. He can talk for hours about Pokémon and Minecraft, and he will always have your ear. You have so many special interests you enjoy together like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Stranger Things, Miraculous Ladybug, My Hero Academia, and Superheroes. You both love music, movies, and ice skating. I love when I get to see you sharing your favorite things together.

You have always been his playmate. From building Mr. Potato Heads together, playing hours of video games with each other, to now dressing up and watching Anime. You’re his snuggle buddy, his safe place. And maybe he’s yours, too. You both defend each other and fight to protect one another daily. No one dares pick on him or say anything ill toward him because you always have his back.

Even when he was diagnosed late, at eight years old with Autism, it changed nothing between both of you. You have always shown him love for just being himself. He doesn’t have to pretend with you because you have always taught him not to take life too seriously, to laugh and be silly. And just like Papa taught you, everything in life can be fixed for a bit with a good laugh and some ‘pooey foot.’ You taught him to dance like nobody’s watching. Even if it’s in the middle of Target…in a hot dog suit.

I guess to some ‘typical’ families this may appear like a ‘normal’ sibling relationship. Perhaps to others, you seem ‘ordinary.’ But I’ve seen both sides.

For almost six years I’ve watched Landon attempt to have a relationship with your baby brother. To try to emulate you, to be what you are to him. I think after a few years, he just gave up. He didn’t understand why it wasn’t the same. He knew how it was supposed to be because of you.

He doesn’t even remember how excited he was to be a big brother…to be just like you. Those feelings have been washed away over the years by disappointment, anger, hurt, frustration, and loneliness. Watching the distance, the lack of feeling, connection, and social interaction between my two boys has been heartbreaking. To watch them sit right next to each other and be worlds apart.

Although I’ve seen progress, I don’t know what the future holds for them. It took years to get where we are now, for Finn to just acknowledge Landon, to say his name, and call him brother. It’s a relationship that is forced and difficult, and close moments between them are rare.

See, I didn’t know until a few years ago, that ‘ordinary’ isn’t something we are promised. That Autism can rob two boys of a ‘typical’ sibling relationship. But my heart and mind are full of wonderful memories you created with Landon. Picture perfect moments of a beautiful relationship between a brother and sister.

I’m so happy Landon has you to hold his hand and walk through this life together. You’re his best friend. I know you’ll lift him up no matter how heavy the world may seem, just like you’ve done since the first time we let you hold him like this. I know you’ll do this with both of your brothers.

I’m so incredibly thankful for you, Lilliana. You’ve always been a bit ‘extra’ in everything you do. Quite extraordinary, really. And being a big sister is no exception.”

Courtesy of Sheryl St. Aubin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sheryl St. Aubin of Three Little Birds. 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.

Read more stories from Sheryl here:

‘She fell into my arms, tears falling. ‘My boy was non-verbal. He let himself out the front door.’ She tightly clutched his blanket, and described a boy just like my own.’: Special needs mom talks anxiety, missing children statistics

‘We see you put self-care on the backburner, skipping workouts and coffee with friends for an IEP meeting. You are miracle workers, moving mountains by sheer will.’: Husband pens sweet letter to special needs moms, ‘You’re the epitome of beauty’

‘Late-night milk run, huh?’ I was standing in front of a tired momma in Target just before closing. ‘Go get that precious baby to bed. I got you.’: Woman shares act of kindness for stranger

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