Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Do Siblings Owe Their Siblings with Special Needs? Part 2

I want to talk a bit about the relationships between "typical" siblings and their sibs with autism and also the expectations of their parents.

If I was writing an open letter to my mother in law (see previous post for what set this off) I would say something like this:

Dear Mother in Law:  (and you are a good person, so I say this with respect)

Being a mother, I know it is hard when you are trying to raise 4 children.  It was much harder for you back in the 1950's and 1960's when there was no support for what you were going through.

But do you truly feel that you were supposed to get that support from your own children?  Sometimes it just isn't possible.   Or you do get support, but it disagrees with what you feel would have been best.

You've said more than once that you wish your children had spent more time (especially my husband, who is the oldest) with your child who had autism.  You wanted your other children to help you with this and yes I am going to use this word, burden.

But when it comes down to it, should (for example) a 10 year old boy be responsible for his 4 year old sib?  And if so, how?   Should a young boy have to sacrifice his friends, his interests, just because he has a disabled brother?  And if so, WHY?  How about at other ages?  We've been lucky but other siblings have had parents not show up at sporting events they participated in, at concerts they played in, at school graduations, etal. because of the disabled sibling.  There could be quite legitimate reasons but all of this is a form of sacrifice. 

Many siblings have even sacrificed their careers, or at least been made to feel perpetually guilty for daring to have their own lives.

At an early age my husband was already getting up early and making breakfast for the family.  My husband also started working at the age of 12, first as a paper boy, and then as he grew older taking on other jobs such as lawn mowing and golf caddying.   Pretty much as a teenager he bought his own clothes and had his own spending money.  He bought his own first car, which was old and lucky to pass inspection.  He paid for his own college.   In college (a low cost one), he worked 3 jobs one summer and also worked nights during the school year.  Didn't that take a burden off of you? 

You never discussed with us your expectations, your hopes and dreams for bil.  More on that later.

To be continued....

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