Written originally on March 5, 2012, the topic of this post is still near and dear to my heart. As hard as things can be on the parents, it’s imperative we always remember how things are affecting the other children in the household. They cannot and do not understand why things are so different for their sibling on the spectrum than it is for themselves. Things appear to be unfair. Things are often stressful. Sometimes embarrassing and awkward. It’s so important to make sure the rest of the children are getting the help and support and encouragement they need as well. This was written nearly two years ago. Ash is now 16 and one heck of a guy. He struggles at times. Other times he’s the most amazing young man. Patience is a challenge many days, especially as Eli is going into puberty and has developed anger issues.
Being Mindful of Big Brother’s needs too
Our older son, Ash, is such an amazing kid, and Big Brother Extraordinaire to Eli.
At age 14, Ash is five years older, typically-developing, hilarious & fun, …. an many a person have told me, “Ash has an “Old Soul”. I totally agree. By “old soul” I mean that he’s wise beyond his years, he’s gentlemanly, and … I guess I find him to be quite noble in a day and age when you don’t see a lot of nobility displaying itself in people’s actions.
Ash and Eli outside of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., posing with the Gump Shoes
I’d like to think some of these characteristics are things we’ve helped him to learn by being his parents. But if I’m downright honest with myself, I have to admit that a lot of it just comes naturally to Ash. He naturally has a strong sense of right and wrong, a loving, giving heart, and a passion to protect and defend others, especially if he doesn’t feel they can defend themselves. He has a kindness that just rolls off of him and puts others at ease.
Of course, he makes mistakes like all kids (and many adults!) but I’ve never seen anyone so humbly willing to accept his consequences without much complaint. I’ve cut short many a “punishment” because he’s accepted it so gracefully and without whining that I end up feeling guilty for making it continue! He’s far more mature than many of his peers, and he always has been. Even as a young child, he saw the world with older eyes than others children his age.
When I look at our son and really see the person he is, I’m overwhelmed by how intensely proud I am to be Ash’s mother. I consider it a great blessing and honor that God gave me this boy and I give praise for Ash more than he knows.
I guess that’s why when Ash does struggle with right choices, we’re harder on him than is probably fair. It always catches me by surprise, because it’s so out of character for him!
Today I’m overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and remorse for him. I sometimes forget the fact that he, too, is making a lot of sacrifices when it comes to having a brother who needs special consideration. I’m reminded that we are not always fair in our expectations of Ash, of how much he has endured in frustration over the years, as well as how much he gives to Eli on a daily basis.
I watched Ash struggle with a situation this weekend in whether or not to share something with Eli. To me, the answer was quite clear at the time. Eli pretty much always chooses to share things with Ash, so Ash should do the same thing. Right?
After much deliberation, Ash made the good choice and did share the item with his brother. I could tell he felt good about the decision, so it surprised me that, later when I praised him for his decision, his response to me was almost angry.
“I know Eli chooses to share most things with me, Mom, but you know perfectly well that if he decided not to, you wouldn’t make him. For once…just once…. I wanted something to be just mine and not have to share it. Maybe that is selfish of me, and yes, I’m glad I did share with him – you’re right, I do feel better that I did – but it’s not fair that I don’t have the right to choose like he does.”
He’s right. God love him, he is so right.
I instantly felt bad. I know very well that Ash makes it so easy on us to spend a lot of time focusing on Eli’s needs. He even helps us and is an extremely valuable part of our team! He gives so much love and attention to Eli, spending time with him, helping him with the math homework that I can’t help with, allowing Eli to have sleepovers in his room, playing with Eli, laughing and joking with him…. Eli absolutely adores him! What kid wouldn’t love to have, or benefit from, a big brother or sister spending that much time and attention with/on him?? Ash is so mature about it, and my heart hurts today because we completely take him for granted!
He’s right about us not forcing Eli to share if he doesn’t want to, and quite often it is because Eli is so generous that it’s a rare occasion that he chooses not to…so when that occasion comes, we don’t insist.
Ash is also right about us pretty much forcing him to share nearly everything with his brother, even when he’s against it. It is our doing this that has caused Ash to increase the number of times that he’s opposed to sharing things. He’s fighting for his right to choose! As parents, we’ve made this situation ourselves, and Ash was awesome enough to point it out to me.
The rules are not always the same, and Ash has a right to be resentful about that. Granted, every kid is different and every kid is not always going to be given the same consideration every single time. That’s just a part of family life! But I feel Ash has a very valid point in this matter. I’m going to have to make myself stop and think things through next time.
I never want Ash to feel that his needs are not as important. Like I said before, he makes it so easy on us and he’s such an amazing kid….the last thing I want to do is make him feel as if he isn’t as important as his brother. Nor do I expect him to sacrifice everything for the sake of his brother. He deserves the right to choose, to have a sense of SELF and propriety about “his stuff”, and his room. It’s important for Eli, as well, to learn that he’s not always going to get his way in life, something we work on with him in all other aspects of his world, but for some reason – when it comes to Ash — the expectations have been different. This will change now. Ash has once again astounded me with his maturity and wisdom.
Be mindful of the needs and feelings of your typically-developing children as well. If you’ve been blessed with an awesome kid like Ash, it’s even more imperative that you stop to consider them, as they make our lives so much simpler. Thank you, Ash, for your amazing honesty. Never stop! And never think Dad and I don’t care or don’t hear you. We’re all in this together and we’re going to keep learning new things. You are such a blessing to Dad and me and to Eli. Keep on being You!