Nathan and Joey

It is amazing to see the difference between the way Nathan looks at Amelia and the way Joey looks at Amelia. I have no doubt they both love her. But Joey, being nine, knows there is something different about her. He often asks, “Will she walk? When will she talk? What is she going to be like when she gets older?” He often sees a disabled child in the store or on the television and compares them to Mia.  Teachers have noticed that he will go out of his way to play with the special needs children in his classroom. He will tell the teachers that they are just like his sister. Society has taught him there is a difference between himself and children with disabilities. From where they sit in lunch, to which classrooms they learn in, to the transportation they take home from school, he has observed the differences between his life and their life.

Nathan, being four and only two when Amelia was born, does not see any difference between Amelia and other children. He often tells me that Mia told him she wants him to pick her up and that Mia is laughing at him while he is dancing around the living room.  Nathan hands her toys in the bathtub and does not notice she can not grasp them for longer than a second. Or if he notices, he continues to keep handing her toys as if he knows one day she will play with it.  He continues to talk to her, to sing to her, and to play with her even when the rest of us notice she is not responding but the reactions are getting better these days. He pushes on as if one day she will look at him and say, “Will you play with me today?”

I wish I had just an ounce of his innocence about her syndrome.

But recently, that magic disappeared. When you ask Nathan how old he is, he replies with, “Four and a half.” That half of a year dissolved the unconditional acceptance he used to have for his sister. The other day I overheard him tell his friend that he has a sister too, but she is “different.”

Crushed, I felt as if I was four again and someone just told me there were no such things as make-believe, fairies, and birthday wishes. I needed him to always believe in what she can accomplish, for my sake.  Even though he has lost the innocence, he will always have that special bond with his sister. Both of my sons have taught me so much about caring for a child with special needs!

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3 Responses to Siblings

  1. This was such a touching post. Eventhough the world gets in the way sometimes I think all the siblings really do hang on to some level of hope and innocence about our special kids. I always look at Jim and Dulcie’s Nat and know that having a special needs sibling will affect Izzy in a beautiful way – just like it has for your sons, Nat and all the others.

    Hopefully, eventhough Nate recently turned the corner, my Izzy gave you some of that innocence back, if only for a few moments, when she was laying with Mia and when Carter and Izzy actually got in a pushing fight over who got to stand by Mia’s carseat when you were packing to leave. Mia was the VIP as far as they were concerned. It blessed my heart.

    Again, amazing post. You are a beautiful writer and MAMA.

  2. KevinO says:

    You’ve touched on something Cathy and I have thought about: at what point will the other siblings realize that something is different? Well, a few months back, Carsen (turns 4 in June) told me that ‘Cailen (our 1 year old) and me are the same and Kendall is different’. We all know that kids get it long before we give them credit. Carsen gets it and so do most of our little ones.

    Very nice post…

  3. shirley bidnick says:

    I love the photo. At age 4 1/2 Nathan may have figured out his sweet sister is different, but that doesn’t seem to to be a negative discovery for him. For some reason we have learned to associate different with bad. This eventually leads to bullying, and discrimination. Families with children with disabilities can help turn this around. We can demonstrate that different is good. When we embrace out child with WHS, we show the world there is a better way to respond to our differences and limitations. This way is much better than the old way of denying their existence and trying to hide them in institutions. Different enriches our lives, families and the world.

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