Friday, October 21, 2011

The Love of a Brother

The addition of a special needs child to a family forever changes its dynamics.

There are many challenges to overcome. Daily life can be disrupted. A parent's time can be dictated by the demands of the handicapped child. These realities can be difficult - especially for siblings.

However, certain rewards are found. The virtue of patience develops when dealing with a developmentally delayed child. Interaction with these individuals fosters a greater acceptance for those who are "different". And the capacity for compassion increases as family members serve each other, as well as a growing appreciation for the "simple" things in life.

I feel my middle children have acquired many of these qualities through the interactions with their oldest and youngest brothers. However, I think this maturity is especially evident in Middle Guy, as he is at an age where the focus is usually on friends and fun. Don't get me wrong; Middle Guy enjoys having fun, but he's learned at an early age what his true priorities should be. There are also times when he is frustrated by his brothers' behavior...but for the most part, he is understanding and patient with them.

Last week, something amazing happened. Something reaffirming my belief that my middle son has been positively influenced by having two autistic brothers.

Little Guy had been having an "off" day. A day filled with many meltdowns and little tolerance for any change in schedule. A highlight of Little Guy's day is when Middle Guy comes home from school, and he was especially looking forward to his arrival on that particular day.

But when Middle Guy came home, there was something unexpected - three of his friends were with him.

I could read the emotions flitting across Little Guy's face as the realization hit him that his time with Middle Guy was about to be intruded upon. However, as Little Guy stood at the door and watched his brother talking with his friends on our porch, he tried to remedy the situation himself.

"Can I hang out with you guys?" Little Guy asked bravely, with a quiver in his voice.

Before Middle Guy could answer, one of his friends spoke up. "I don't think so," he said sarcastically. I could tell by his expression he didn't want an annoying younger brother added to their plans.

Little Guy was devastated. I moved in quickly for damage control....but Middle Guy beat me to it. He scooped up his younger brother, wiped the tears from his cheek, and said, "Of course you can, little buddy." He turned to his friends and asked them to wait for him in the garage, then spent an additional few minutes calming Little Guy down. Hand in hand, they walked into the garage, where Little Guy spent the next half hour hanging out with the "big kids".

I was so proud of Middle Guy at that moment. Proud of his maturity, proud of his loyalty. Perhaps my greatest satisfaction came from the realization that if a situation with Little Guy ever rose in my absence, he would have the love of a brother to see him through.

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