Siblings and Sleepovers

I’ve been thinking today about siblings – specifically, Aaron’s siblings – Andrea and Andrew.  I guess these thoughts are on my mind because of the family time of year this is, and also because tomorrow Andrew is not only coming home from college for the Christmas break…………..but it’s also his birthday!  My youngest is turning 22 and for some reason that sounds impossible to me! 

Andrew and Andrea

When a child has special needs, the entire family is impacted in many ways.  The needs of their special brother or sister can be overwhelming to them as well as to the parents.  We’ve certainly had our ups and downs adjusting to life with Aaron over the years.  We know that God put each of us into this particular family for a reason, and God’s reasons are always good.  His sovereignty in our lives gives us peace even when circumstances don’t make sense.  However, each of us has had to grow in our reactions to Aaron and in our reactions to God…………..because life with Aaron has had its challenges, especially during Aaron’s puberty.

Aaron is only 18 months older than Andrea.  His adjustment to her addition to our family was seamless.  He loved her from the first day and they were very close as they grew.  When Andrew was born three years later, Aaron had a more difficult transition.  I believe a big part of his uncertainty was due to the fact that Aaron was five years old and was very used to our family the way it was.  Andrew was a little interloper who intruded into Aaron’s time and space.  We knew when Gary brought him and Andrea to the hospital there in Germany to see me and Andrew that Aaron was struggling.  We understand it better now in hindsight.  We were encouraged when I got home with Andrew because Aaron ran to his room, brought me his favorite stuffed bear, and told me that he wanted to give it to Andrew.  How sweet and touching that was!

As the three of them grew and matured, the differences between them was more and more noticeable.  Aaron’s seizures took their toll, and the autism made him a misfit socially.  He would take out his frustration by hitting Andrea or Andrew, or yelling at them, etc.  Of course, they resented that behavior.  All of us were struggling to figure out what was going on with Aaron and why he was so different and miserable.  There were times that Andrea and Andrew thought that Gary and I didn’t discipline Aaron enough – that we let him get by with things – and they certainly didn’t respect that.  Aaron’s behaviors in church, restaurants, shopping – wherever we were – were embarrassing to them.  And sometimes family trips were ruined because of Aaron, or were at least altered as we had to manage him.  It wasn’t all gloom and doom………….we had plenty of fun…………..but the hard times were certainly tiring for all of us.  Siblings of special needs children do struggle, though, and need a higher level of understanding than those in families who don’t face these issues. 

Aaron has always been jealous of Andrew.  We believe it’s because Andrew is a guy, so there’s the competition that Aaron feels on that level. I remember when Andrew got his driver’s license, a privilege that Aaron will never have.  We decided to downplay it in front of Aaron so as not to hurt him.  One day Aaron saw Andrew get in the car and drive away.  Aaron looked surprised and said, “So Andrew has his license?  He can drive now?”  When I told him yes, Aaron was silent for a minute and then softly said, “I wish I could drive.”  That one little sentence spoke volumes and it broke my heart for Aaron.  He showed how much it mattered to him that he would never be able to drive, and that his little brother could do that now.

When Aaron was younger he thought the ultimate friend experience was to have a sleepover.  He did plenty of that when he was younger but as he got older those experiences were few and far between.  Our dear friends in Arizona, the Eatons, made sure that Aaron got to come over and stay at their house.  All three of their children, two of them boys, gave Aaron so many wonderful and fun times.  Here in Kansas, as Andrew got older and had friends over, it was hard for Aaron to handle.  He’d express his frustration sometimes by being rude or mean to Andrew’s friends.  And then there was the day that a good friend of Andrew’s – a very sweet girl – came over one afternoon to see Andrew for a few minutes.  Aaron bounded out of his room when this girl came in the front door, stood at the top of the stairs, and loudly asked, “Andrew, is she sleeping over??!!”  Thankfully, she was very understanding and we all laughed and our faces turned red – except for Aaron, who totally didn’t get it!

As the three of them began entering their late teenage years and early adulthood, their relationships have changed.  Aaron sees Andrea as more of a mother figure.  He’ll ask her permission about doing things and talk to her excitedly when she comes home.  When Andrew comes home from college, Aaron will say, as he did this morning, “Oh no!”  But today when he said that he looked at me and we both started laughing.  He doesn’t really mean that anymore.  He’ll say that we like to talk to Andrew more than we talk to him and we remind him that we haven’t seen Andrew in ages.  Aaron is rather selfish that way.

Last May, when Andrew had come home, Aaron came into the kitchen and tried to hit Andrew on the back.  Andrew swerved and Aaron missed.  Andrew turned to Aaron and laughed and then said, “Hey, Aaron, how about a hug?”  When he started to come Aaron’s direction for the hug, Aaron backed up and said, “Uh…..uh……uh…..”  HaHa!  That show of love really threw him!  Today I see more love and understanding from Andrea and Andrew toward their brother.  More patience and more warmth in their eyes.  They’ve grown even when Aaron hasn’t.  The irritations are fewer and farther between, though still there at times. 

Gary and I love all our children equally.  We are very proud of the growth that we see in Andrea and Andrew, and know that someday they will be able to look back and realize how having Aaron for their brother has been a blessing and a teacher of many life lessons. 

And the cause of many red faces!

Author: Patty hesaidwhatks

I'm Patty and I write about our adult son who has Epilepsy and Autism, who still lives with my husband and me, and who is a package full of many surprises and joys and challenges and TALK! Lots of talking, which creates laughter and some other reactions as well. I also write about how God shows Himself to me in everyday life.

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