In honour of my baby girl’s forthcoming 20th birthday and the fact I’m off to visit T for my Birthday celebrations next weekend I’ve decided to blog about the relationship between G and his sisters.
There’s is a special relationship in the true sense of the word special.
As parents we often focus on all the tough things that siblings have to deal with when they have a disabled brother or sister. It’s easy to feel guilty and I look back at their childhood and worry that they missed out on “normal” family life. I confess to having done that, especially when they all left home and I realised how quickly the time goes and how short their childhood actually is. I can’t change the past, nor could I do anything about it at the time but it still makes me feel guilty because I compare it to my own childhood.
They however don’t appear to see it this way… they had a childhood and it was, to all intents and purposes, a pretty good one. It was a normal childhood for them because they have nothing else to compare it to… it was simply their childhood and that’s all.
I spent a while grieving for the fact that G would have a lifelong learning disability. Unlike me, they never had to come to terms with his difference and had no such grief. To them he was only ever G. They accepted him from the get go because he was just their brother.
I’m not going to try to explain their relationship from their perspective because they’re both young women who will probably have a completely different take on all this than I do. And, I’m not going to focus on all the crap stuff either. Instead, I’ll tell you (and them) what I love about the relationship they both have with their brother.
I love how they always included him, even from a very young age and helped him to be part of their games, played with him and made him laugh. This taught me what inclusion really meant.
I love how right from the start they instinctively helped him without being asked, took his hand and guided him, helped him when he struggled and watched out for him to keep him safe. And, when I asked them to watch him or fetch me something (and I did this a lot!) they never complained, they just did it without question.
I love that when I picked them up from school, instead of being worried what others might think they proudly took him for a walk into school and took him to meet their friends and their teachers.
I love how they never cared what other people thought. When strangers stared, they stared right back…”if you look them right in the eye and stare right back mummy they soon look away!”
I love how they BOTH put me right sometimes, tell me how they see it and how they think he would too. It stopped me from thinking about him differently than I do them and helped me to be more person centred in my thinking.
I love that when they both left for university they both took a framed picture of him to display in their rooms.
I love that when they come home to visit they want him here too, because they miss him and they know the only relationship they can have with him is face to face.
I love the way they talk about him to their friends and that their close friends always ask about him and I love the fact that they tell me their new friends want to meet him because they have heard so much about him.
I love the way they talk about him to people who don’t know him in a completely matter of fact way, telling them the daft things he does or the often age inappropriate things he likes, without telling them he has learning disabilities.
I love the fact they don’t care that he still sits on their laps and they still want his cuddles.
I love the fact that nothing seemed to faze them and they have always taken everything in their stride and with a laugh and joke. I love the fact they make fun of him too…because that’s what all brothers and sisters do with each other.
I love the fact that when I told them (when they were 18 and 14) that I didn’t want them to always feel responsible for him, they told me not to be so stupid, because of course they’d always feel responsible, he’s their brother and they love him.
I love that they’ve NEVER shown any resentment towards him, even when he broke their toys, spoiled their games, trashed their bedrooms….. and sometimes having him as their brother meant they missed out on doing things their friends took for granted. Even in their teenage (“it’s not fair”) years they never threw the fact they had a disabled brother at me.
I love lots of things about this special relationship (far more than I can convey here without embarrassing them and being really gushy!) and whilst their relationship is probably the same as other siblings, one of a shared history, a shared childhood and a sibling bond, in many ways it asks so much more of them than it does him and always will.
Most of all though I love the fact he loves them too and that when I’m no longer here to watch out for him he will have two beautiful, amazing sisters who completely accept him for who he is, love him to bits and will always be in his life.
When I was growing up with a disabled brother who broke my toys and trashed my room and took a whole load of my parents’ time what I reall resented was the fact that everybody thought the right thing to do was to keep him apart from his sisters. Although our parents didn’t take the really dramatic steps recommended like putting him in a hospital or sending us (state funded – they were so sure of themselves those 1960’s social workers!) we got sent off to stay with relatives to give us a break when he wasn’t being sent off to some sort of respite prison. I knew that wasn’t a normal childhood. What your family has is amazing, and oh so ordinary. Makes me wish my two were closer in age!
Thanks Liz. I think things have been so much easier for our generation than it was for your parents.Thank goodness societies attitudes have changed. I think your parents and others like them made an amazingly brave decision given the circumstances of the time. I think my girls know there childhood wasn’t normal either, but it was their normal x
I have 2 daughters – 16 & 14 – the eldest, E, has Downs syndrome. Loved your article and can so relate to what you say. I feel so blessed when I watch my girls together. It is a very special bond as you say and you described it perfectly. I would add that I love how my youngest considers herself so lucky to have E for a sister.
Thank you Liz, that’s so lovely. I honestly think my girls feel the same. x
It’s definately loads better for our generation, here’s hoping that everything we are working on now makes it even better for those who follow. It has only ever been systems that take the normality out of our lives. They’ve even given us a different label – other kids have brothers and sisters, ours have siblings!