Monday, June 4, 2018
Being the Sibling of a Child with Down Syndrome
As any parent who has children will tell you, life gets beyond you sometimes. And if you're a parent with a child who has special needs, sometimes you fall so far behind you lose sight of anything except that little patch of light filtering down through the water as you struggle to keep from drowning.
Jake's been going through some serious behavioral issues as of late (more about that on another post), which means I've taken a much more active approach to his care. Including no longer working part time as an addictions counselor. I am 100% mama (aside from the time I carve for myself to write) 100% of the time.
Within the walls of our home, I've spent an inordinate amount of time teaching Jake and Courtney to get along, which is not an easy task when he already weighs more than her and is twice (maybe three times) stronger.
Just this evening she stomped inside from the backyard, her brows furrowed and hands balled into fists. "Jacob just sprayed me with the hose. He is so mean to me! He hates me!"
I immediately sat down with her and explained that he, just like her big brother, harasses her because he loves her and doesn't know how else to show it. We discussed what was normal "brother" behavior, and what was behavior related to Down syndrome. After several minutes, I had her recite to me the most important lesson she learned from our conversation.
She rolled her eyes, tilted her face toward the ceiling and sighed. "I'm allowed to be upset when Jacob is mean to me, but he doesn't do it because he hates me. He is being a brother and loves me." She sighs again. "And I'm not allowed to be mean back because I'm better than that."
She peeks through her eyelashes at me and twists her lips, trying not to smile. "Are we done yet?"
This time it was my turn to sigh and roll my eyes. "Yeah, but not before you give me a hug."
Courtney broke into a grin and wrapped her arms around me. "Thanks for being my mom. But I like it most when it's without Jacob."
Her comment tore at my heart and I realized that in all my efforts to take care of Jacob, I'd forgotten that Courtney is in the trenches with me, dealing with all of his "stuff."
I squeezed her a little harder. "Thanks for being my daughter. And thanks for being so patient with Jake."
She smiled, this time a little less sassy, then skipped down the stairs to have a little alone time without her little brother.
I watched her go, grateful that she is quick to forgive and also sad she has to forgive so often. But I remind myself that she's learning life-long lessons often learned the hard way as an adult. She's learning that sometimes you must forgive, even without the apology. Sometimes you must be kind anyway. Sometimes you need to be the bigger person.
Yes, I can teach her to be hard, and fight back. But I think the world has enough tough women. I want someone who is kind and who lifts others up. I want Courtney to be a woman who understands that a person's actions does nothing to reflect upon her, but on the instigator and who they are.
I know, even though things are tough now, having a brother with Down syndrome will make Courtney a better person. She will have more compassion. More love. More patience. More kindness. I already see it happening. And I can't wait to see her continue to grow.