Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sibling Responsibility

I've always thought that Jack is so lucky to have two such wonderful brothers. As a very shy young person myself, I know how important it is to have a sibling to help you out. I have vivid memories of my sister being asked to hang out with me during elementary school recess because she had friends and I didn't.

However, no matter how glad I am that Jack has Sam and Quinn to help and teach him, it also pains me a little bit to give them the extra responsibility of helping to take care of him.

Most of what I ask them to do are things kids would already do for neurotypical siblings. For instance, Sam paves the way for Jack with teachers, he helps Jack make friends by being such a social butterfly, and he helps Jack get to the morning school line-up spot.

I send them away from the car every morning and Sam encourages Jack to come with him. Sometimes they hold hands. Someone from Jack's school told me that Sam walks Jack to his line, makes sure he's facing the right direction, and then goes off to his own line. I'm a little bit afraid of the day that Jack refuses and Sam doesn't know what to do. I hope when that day comes that there is an adult nearby to help. Because I don't want to have put Sam in that position.

Although as the older brother, Sam does most of the leading and the helping, even Quinn seems to understand that Jack needs a little bit of extra help.

For instance, today at the bus stop. I'd taken my dog with me and she was freaking out because there was another dog with the temerity to be merely a block away from her. I'm seriously on the verge of getting the dog stuffed and using her as a coffee table, but that's another post entirely.

While I was dealing with the dog, Jack (who'd already gotten off of his bus, which arrives earlier than Sam's) and Quinn took off. Now, the bus stop is only a block and a half from home and my kids don't have to cross streets to get there, but I don't let them run off until I'm also on my way back home. And they usually don't. Sometimes as soon as Sam gets off the bus, Jack and Quinn will take off running for home. But today, they took off while my attention was on the dog not choking herself with her own collar.

Once I had the dog calmed down, I looked around and didn't see them. I knew where they would have gone, but I don't like them being out of my sight around the corner. Plus I couldn't go track them down without abandoning Sam, whose bus was due any second.

Then I saw them. Jack was running, and Quinn was trying to tackle him. Quinn knew they shouldn't be leaving the bus stop and he was trying to stop Jack. I shouted for them to come back and Jack kept going, with Quinn holding on to his sweatshirt, vainly trying to drag him back.

Fortunately Sam's bus arrived and the group at the bus stop pointed him toward me, halfway down the block. We started walking home with Jack and Quinn still ahead of us, Quinn still trying to stop Jack.

It all ended at the house before ours, where Quinn fell and scraped his stomach in the driveway. Jack obliviously ran home, where he was summarily put in timeout and then got a pretty stringent lecture about staying at the bus stop.

I still firmly believe that having an autistic brother is a wonderful thing for Sam and Quinn. And I still firmly believe that Jack is a wonderful brother and gives as much back to Sam and Quinn as they give to him.

But some days I feel a little sad for the extra responsibility my eight- and four-year-old have.

23 comments:

  1. they will be better people for it. i am sure of it.

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  2. Sweet little Q-ball! YM

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  3. And, of course, Sam. What great brothers. YM

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  4. You've got such great boys. I agree they will be better off, and I also think there's always "something." My boys are a year apart, but the younger is bigger, stronger and much more prone to running away, stubbonly refusing to buckle himself, etc. I can totally see the older one doing the same thing in an effort to help his brother and mommy out and getting hurt.

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  5. nice post. Mine are only ages 5 and 3 (my 5 year old is "typically developing"), and so far, it's just upside with no responsibility. But I can imagine that will play out over the next few years.

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  6. It's a great thing to grow up thinking about and helping other people...so much of that is missing in our society. What sweet boys you have!

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  7. I absolutely agree. All three of your boys will be better for having each other. That's just how it works.

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  8. I know I feel guilty for the extra time and attention my youngest gets. Therapy appts, doctor's appointments (like yesterday's 3 hour one), all the extra time it takes to deal with her behavior and sleep issues. I feel bad about that and my other kids complain.

    BUT my kids have learned SO MUCH by having a sibling with differences. We all are absolutely better people than we would have been otherwise. Your kids too. (And I think they will all be better parents, right? And LORD KNOWS the world needs better parents!)

    I hope that makes up for the other stuff.

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  9. And I have to say, that image of Quinn running after Jack trying to tackle him makes me smile. Because I think it is awesome for both of them. (Except the part about his stomach. :-( )

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  10. It'all part of being in a family. My daughter C had to make sure her sister was OK on the bus, got to her classroom, got back on the bus, turned in her homework, and watched out for her in group situations - she was just more outgoing and confident. Daughter A prevented her sister from running into the street, climbing up the library book cases - much more cautious. They're twins, but very different people. I still boss around my adult brothers after being put in charge of "the boys" for years (trying to stop!).

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  11. As extroverted as Gremlin is at home, HRH is always his touchstone out and about. They make good brothers.

    I know that you are building good men. In part because of what they do for one another.

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  12. this is so sweet. kids "get it" don't they? we see this in our house, too.

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  13. Oh Quinn. Now can I send him $2?

    You have such great kids, all three of them. They are all going to benefit so much from being each others brothers. Of course it doesn't hurt that you're doing such an amazing job with them.

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  14. Don't be sorry for anything. Your family is magical and your boys won't resent Jack or you or the responSIBility. Hell, it's not like they work in a boot blacking factory.

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  15. The image of Quinn hanging onto Jack is awesome.

    And don't worry too much about the school line. An adult will be there. When my sister would get mad at me, she would abandon her job of opening the school door for me (it was big, I was freakishly small) and I always remember tapping on the school secretary's window and she'd come open the door with a smile. Plus, other kids will know to help out, too.

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  16. You have wonderful little boys.

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  17. wow, this post really got to me.

    they are all three of them gifts to each other, and they will make each other better people. just in different ways.

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  18. I always read the sibling posts with interest. Neither one of my boys is 'typical' but they both have their strengths and weaknesses, some of which overlap. I don't really think about one getting more attention or needing more care from the other due to their disabilities. The other day I walked in the boys' room, and Bubba was helping Mooser get dressed (holding his pants legs for him saying "put your foot in" just like I do/did for Bubba. And I've watched Mooser give a toy to his older brother at exactly the right time, when he *needs* it. They take care of each other just like brothers should, some moments one needs more support than the other...and some days their ornery little boogers conspiring to do me in...I'm sure of it.

    I have a friend who 'feels bad' for dragging her daughter to therapy appointments for her son. I asked her why that was any different (if she was worried about fairness) than dragging her son to her daughter's girl scouts, soccer, basketball, yada yada lessons. Family is give and take, along with lots of love, support, and companionship. And you, my friend, have a very wonderful family with three little boys who understand exactly what *family* means.

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  19. I have a great memory of a teenager I had watched grow up. I didn't know much about her family, but knew she was the most amazing young woman.
    I saw her when she was in college at a parade with her whole family. There I saw her with her DD brother. Watching her with him, it became clear that a large part of the amazing woman she had become was because of her immense love for him. (and the love of their family) I know all three of your boys will grow up to be amazing!

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  20. My brother had serious physical disabilities, and as the older sister I had a lot of responsibilities to help him. But I grew up fine and I know your boys will as well. I watch my three little ones take care of each other, and I think all families have their ways of working and caring for each other. You are a great mom to be conscious of the impact of extra responsibility, but know it will make them better citizens of the world.
    Love reading about your boys - gives me hope on the days I need it!

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  21. Autism or no autism, all three of your boys are awesome! Life is what it is. Sam and Quinn and Jack will all grow up with a strong love for each other and a sense of responsibility for each other. I think that makes an awesome family. I'm kind of jealous of them, really!

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  22. We all wish our kids were a little more carefree, don't we? But the challenges make them more sensitive, more aware, better friends ... they do, and they are.

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  23. It's good for them. Build empathy and yes, responsibility. But it's not like making sure the dog gets walked, this is their brother. Nothing wrong with developing a feeling of protectiveness. It makes more sensitive and sympathetic men.

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