Her Brother, Not Her Burden

I was worried that my kids wouldn’t take to my new house when we went ahead with the divorce. Olivia and Lucas would be spending half their time here at my new place and, as we often hear on TV, kids with autism like routine. Lucas has autism and is non-verbal. The concern was that he would have a hard time adjusting.

Olivia took to it immediately because, as a budding designer, she got to decorate two new rooms. Both her bedroom and remote-learning office were all up to her. She threw around terms like “dark academia” when planning out her perfect space. Deep down, I knew it would be an easy transition for her.

To his credit, my son took to it all pretty well too. Lucas is cool as hell and it usually takes him one of two times of doing something to get the lay of the land. Teachers often talk about how quickly he picks up routines and how fast he can understand what is expected of him. After the first visit, where he walked from room to room like an old timey spy tip-toeing through the tulips, he was off to the races.

He falls asleep fairly quickly here too. The first night, I was really worried. I envisioned an evening of toys being tossed and the running of his hand along the bars of his gate. There were a million bad scenarios that never got to run through my head…because he had fallen asleep before I could play them out.

Since that night, he’s been pretty good in that respect. Bed times are swift and his mattress, which I picked out myself, is awesome. It does the trick every night.

The only caveat is that he often expects me to lay with him now. In our old life, I never had to. He would just lay in bed, watch Raffi, and pass out. No further work was required.

Here, he likes company and, honestly, I love being that company. I miss these kids more than words can say during their off-days. So, during Daddy Days, I’m up for whatever I can do. Lay in bed. Fight the neighbors. Eat a bowl of chicken noodle soup. You name it, I’ll do it. They deserve it.


I was laying in bed with Lucas yesterday when Olivia came barreling in as if she was the warden. She swung open his gate and marched in front of us.

Keep in mind, the last time I saw her, she was a raging pre-teen, raging at me for reasons I couldn’t understand. We have many moments like that where I have to go through a range of, “Are you mad? Did something happen? Are you mad at me?” The attitude predates the divorce by years and the answer is always a succession of “no”. Eventually I learn that it’s her hormones. It’s always her hormones.


She had one thumb in the air pointing over her shoulder. I couldn’t tell who she was talking to.

He’s going to sleep.

She repeated herself. Her gaze was fixed directly on me.



I stood up and started to leave the room. As I did, she jumped into bed and his face lit up. I could hear her as I was walking out.

Hi Lucas!

I couldn’t help but throw in one last daddly directive on the way out.

Don’t get him all riled up. He’s going to sleep. Make sure…

I looked up to see her staring a hole through me, so I let it go. A few feet down the hallway, I entered my room, closed the door, and let them have their sibling time for, what I assumed would be, an hour.

Within minutes, she came storming into my room. The door flung open and she collapsed onto my bed.


There was no way he could be asleep already.

There is no way he can be asleep already.

I was wrong.

Oh yes he is. Easy. Asleep. And, I was jumping up and down and he still didn’t get riled up. He went to sleep. Can we have ice cream?

You bet your butt I gave that kid ice cream. This one moment, done for no other reason than the fact that she wanted to be there for her brother, was easily the highlight of my week.

I used to worry about the two of them when they were younger. I knew they loved each other and could see how protective she was of her brother and how big his smile was when she was around. I did, however, worry that she would see him as a burden or a chore. I never wanted my daughter to think that, as the child without special needs, she had to take care of him like it was her job.

This one moment on this one night did more to ease that worry than any moment on any night that has come before. She didn’t come in because she thought I was struggling. She didn’t come in because I bribed her or begged her or guilted her. She did it out of love. I couldn’t have been prouder than I was in that moment.

My children are my world. They come above everyone and everything. I want them both to have the best people in the world by their side. As long as they have one another, I know they always will.

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