As the school years continue, the mornings are starting progressively earlier. It gets even more annoying when my children, only about three years apart, have such vastly different start times.
Lucas still heads in close to nine while his sister, now in high school, starts her day with the farmers. I don’t know if they make these kids toil the soil or what, but it’s pretty insane. How do you learn anything that early in the morning? I routinely forget to put a cup under the Keurig at that time and flood the kitchen with dark roast. She’s expected to do algebra.
Despite his late time, my son gets up ridiculously early too. Maybe it’s because he is non-verbal with autism. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t like to sleep. Maybe it’s because he hosts secret raves. Either way, he’s up before she is, banging on the gate and waking me up. This was one such morning.
Still, Dad persevered. I got him dressed, fed them, and prepared to take off. As I did, I tried to snap a picture of the two of them. I have a million of him and like three of her. I tried to pose them. It didn’t go well.
The older she gets, the less pictures I have of my daughter. She either scowls, covers up, or complains about being late to wherever we need to go. She did all three this time and that’s when the camel’s back buckled under the straw.
Alright. Enough. Get in the car! Everyone! All I ask is one picture! Just one! Ugh!
Keep in mind, I almost never raise my voice so this was a major, and very unneeded moment. I’m not sure what set me off, but click, click, boom. It did.
They both walked towards the car and, as my daughter was getting in, Lucas brushed past her. He banged into her door, sending it flying into her head. I watched as her noggin bounced off the car’s frame before she slunk into the seat. It looked brutal.
From the front of the car, I knocked on the hood. She made eye contact and I used my awesome non-verbal communication skills. Pointing to my head and frowning, I mouthed “Are you OK?”
Her response was the ol’ “whatever” shrug she does. I figured it was fine.
It wasn’t. I could tell she was in pain and, as we drove, I asked her and she verified it. I felt terrible for her, mainly because it happened right after my fatherly meltdown. Yet, there was something else to all this. It was something that overshadowed everything.
I was incredibly proud of her. Think about it. Her brother just slammed a freakin’ car door into her head with force. There was no meaningful apology afterward as he doesn’t have the vocabulary and understanding to express it. He just hopped into the car and began playing on his electronic device while she rubbed her skull and stared out the window.
In that moment, though, it wasn’t about what she did. It’s about what she didn’t do. She didn’t yell. She didn’t scream. She didn’t curse at him or complain that he gets away with everything. She understood the reality of our situation and she forgave him. There was no anger or resentment. She was an amazing sister.
It’s something that most people reading this think, “Of course not, it’s not his fault. How could she blame him?” Well, that’s easier said than done. We all like to think that’s how you handle the situation, but as someone who has been in that situation countless times, I know that it’s not easy to stay so level-headed at the time, especially when he just leveled your head with the passenger door.
After dropping them both off at school, I went to Kohls’s and walked straight to the jewelry section. Almost immediately, I stumbled onto a bracelet engraved with the word “Sister”. I purchased it right away.
Once school was over, I told her how proud I was of how she handled the issue.
Yeah, but you got mad at me.
Yeah, before the head thing. I got mad because you purposely make miserable faces in pictures. I’m still mad about that. This isn’t that.
I reminded her that her brother loved her and would never hurt her on purpose. When we get home, I explained, he had a present he wanted to give to her.
Once the gang was all reunited in the kitchen, I had Lucas walk it over and hand her the box. She was so happy when she opened it and has worn it since she received it.
The next day, when Lucas kept insisting on more Pirate Booty, I felt my annoyance creeping up, and, after about ten refusals and him tugging my arm to stand up, I said, “Lucas…no!” That’s when she chimed in.
Hey. No getting mad at Lucas.
And she was right.
The relationship my kids have is the relationship that I always wanted for them. It’s something I feared would be impossible when his special needs began to emerge. I never wanted her to view him as a burden or a responsibility. Her brother isn’t a chore. He’s her family for life. He loves her and looks up to her in all the ways he knows how to.
What made that possible is moments like this one. It was buying her birthday gifts from him and having her help with his bedtimes. There were matching pajamas during the holidays and lazy afternoons running around the basement. She never had an autistic brother. She had a brother with autism. Just like son, friend, and other identifiers, the fact that he is her sibling comes before anything else.
You may notice there’s no picture of her wearing the bracelet in this post. That photo issue is still an issue, but that’s not what is most important. Friday morning had the potential to be awful and instead, it became something that we’ll remember in a positive way for the rest of her life. Her brother loves her and I will do everything I can to make sure she never forgets it.