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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Janey and her brothers

As tough as it can be sometimes with Janey, I know it would be far tougher if it were not for the luck of her family placement. She is the youngest by 7 years (to the day!) and has two big brothers, now ages 14 and 17. If she were an only child, or had younger siblings, or siblings closer in age, I just can't imagine it. The boys make life with Janey so much easier, in many ways.

In general, my boys do far less around the house than most kids do their age. I don't think it was a conscious decision at first, but as time went by, Tony and I decided that they would have minimal housework, because they were called upon far more than most kids would be to help with their sister. That's their family contribution. Janey literally can't be left alone at all. She can barely be in the next room alone. She has very little sense of danger, and could put herself in unsafe situations very easily. Barring that, she can also make a huge mess very easily, with her diaper, with spilled liquid, with pulling stuffing out of things, with most anything available. So someone is assigned at ALL times to watch her. If I have to go to the bathroom, go to the cellar to do laundry, even just take a minute to catch my breath, someone needs to be watching Janey, and that's where the boys come in. Probably 5 or more times in a typical day, we say "You need to watch your sister for a minute". They have learned we mean RIGHT THEN, and they have seen the results if she is not watched well enough. They sometimes complain a little, or say that it's not their turn, but on the whole, they are wonderful. We try hard not to overdo this. Once in a blue moon, probably 2-3 times a year, Tony and I go out for a few hours on our own, and they babysit for real. Although we don't do this much, it's GREAT that we can if we really want to. At those times, we either pay the boys or promise them a treat like a meal out the next day, because babysitting her is a real job.

I read a book once for children about having an autistic sibling. I liked it overall, and gave it a pretty good review on Amazon. When I saw other reviews of the book, I was truly surprised. Many, many people didn't like it because of just a very few times in the book where parents seemed to use the help of siblings. One child was told by her mother that when she grew up, she might want to have an extra bed at her house so her sister with autism could sometimes visit overnight. People went crazy about that, like it was being horribly cruel to that child to make her feel "responsible" for her sister. I thought that was insane. Like it or not, the boys do have some responsibility for Janey. She is their sister, and we are a family. We've always told them that when Tony and I are gone, hopefully in the distant future, they will be the ones taking care of Janey---not necessarily having her live with them, but overseeing her care. I've gone as far as saying they should keep that in mind when picking a wife. I don't feel guilty about this, and believe me, I usually feel guilty about everything. But Tony and I both have very strong feelings about family. You take care of family, and to somehow exclude Janey from that statement would go against everything we believe in.

I think the boys do get back a lot from Janey. She can be a lot of fun to be with, at times, and overall, watching her is probably more fun than dishes or laundry or the others tasks they'd otherwise have. They have learned much compassion from her, and learned not to be scared of or dismissive of people with special needs. And they appreciate her little triumphs too. This morning, using the method of repeating it over and over for her to copy, I said "goodbye, William" to her older brother about twenty times, and after that, Janey said "Goodbye, William!" in the sweetest voice you ever heard, and I think William was close to tears. Often, after they have watched her for a bit, they report "Janey was being precious!" Amid all my constant wondering if I am doing the right things with Janey, and with my children in general, I don't have that doubt about the relationship between siblings. I think the boys are only being made more of the fantastic people I feel they are becoming by Janey. And it's nice to feel sure about something like that.

1 comment:

Sabrina Steyling said...

No one should judge because obviously having a special needs child is going to be different for every family. I think you are doing what's right for YOUR family, and there's nothing to be ashamed of with that at all.