Saturday, May 25, 2013

Doing Right By My "Typical" Kid

I am so lucky.  I have two beautiful boys.  One of them, J, you've heard about.  "The Boy" is five, has autism, and often sets the tone for the house. He's hyper and loud and funny.  You've heard all about his crazy hijinks.

But he's not the only one.  My 10 year-old, N, is the unsung hero of the house.  He's had his room trashed, his homework ripped up, and his sleep interrupted by his brother.  He rarely has both parents in attendance at baseball games and scouting events because one of us has to watch the boy.  He's had to leave playgrounds and parties early because of meltdowns that weren't his own.  He's given up his favorite shirts and hats because the boy wanted them so badly.

He didn't sign up for this, but he doesn't complain too much.

When we're out at the beach or the playground, he runs interference between his brother and other kids.  At the lake, he warns newcomers to the dock.

"This is my brother.  He likes to push people into the water.  He doesn't mean anything by it.  Just say 'quiet hands' and he should leave you alone."

He's a master of redirection.  At the dock, for instance, N realized that what J really wanted was to hear a scream and see a splash.  So, with his friends, he made a game of it.

"Use your words, J.  Do you want me to jump in?"

And N and his friends would do screaming cannonballs into the water, and the boy would laugh delightedly.

Those are the good days.  On bad days, nothing works and we go home.

My older son is the de facto Autism Ambassador to the neighborhood.  He takes it in stride.

"Why does your brother make those noises?"
"He has autism.  It just means he's happy."
"Why does your brother do that thing with his hands?"
"He does that when he's excited."

He's also fiercely protective.

"Dude, your brother is weird."
"Yeah?  You're weird, too.  He has autism.  What's your excuse?"

He's so good at this, but he's just a kid.  N has some attentional issues himself, and often does some pretty boneheaded things.  We try not to freak out when this happens.  "Just think before you do something, pal.  I need you to think," is a common refrain in our house.  We don't want to put too much pressure on him.  When he leaves his saxophone on the bus, I don't say what I'm thinking.  I don't yell, "Get it together, man!  You are our only hope!  You will have power of attorney over all of us one day!  The fate of this family is in your hands!"

That's a bit too much for a 5th grader.

We try to make sure that he feels special, too.  The whole family turns out for his school concerts--grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles.  He has a rather loud cheering section at his games.  My husband and I also take him out to movies without his brother.

I worry that it's not enough.  Can I really say that taking him to Iron Man 3 makes up for the fact that every restaurant decision is based on whether or not there are gluten-free options?  Or that a secret ice cream cone after a baseball game compensates for the thousands of times I will drag the poor kid to the zoo this summer?

I worry that I'm screwing up my first born.  But then he'll say something like, "Mom, if being a major league baseball player doesn't work out, I think I'll be an occupational therapist."  And then I feel better.

For a little while.



  1. Thank you for your open honesty. This is a wonderful posting. It's my first time here, but I shall return often.

  2. I just loved every bit of this. I have an 18 month old who has "the fate of our family in her hands" too:) This makes me worry just a little less, sounds like you are doing an amazing job.

  3. "Get it together, man! You are our only hope! You will have power of attorney over all of us one day! The fate of this family is in your hands!" This right here had me rolling! But, seriously, I worry so much about the same thing. We just have to try our best.

  4. Oh my gosh, yes. Thank the Lord we have five NT kids, and we talk often of how they will each take dd for a month at a time when they are grown up. Or at least, mom and dad hope they will. They might just be appeasing us so we keep them in the will. Assuming we haven't spent all the money replenishing the rolls of tp that dd insists on clogging the toilet with so she can watch her parents snake the toilet.

  5. Ditto what Sanstrousers (LOL!) said: That phrase was totally priceless!


    Loved this. This is how I felt so many times when my boys were younger. One on one time, even if sporatic, worked for us too! Keep doing what you're doing. You are rockin' it!!!

  7. I so relate to this. Our amazing NT 10yo daughter could easily work as an SEN TA right now! She's amazing and we do all we can to enrich her life in the way she enriches ours. Her younger ASD brother is really lucky and he adores her.

  8. I have the same thoughts going through my head every day! My NT 9yr old is fabulous--she's his protector, translator, friend. But I do worry that so much attention is afforded to the 6yr old with autism. I try to take her out once a month for a Mother/daughter date, it seems to help.