A Letter to My Son About His Big Brother With Autism
My dear sweet Peter,
I love you more than any words can express. Above all I want you to carry that in your back pocket. You’re my baby — my last child. You made us a family. You’re sensitive like me, and although sometimes that trait can bite us in the butt, it’s a trait I hope you can learn to honor. It’s what opens you up to new opportunities, people, relationships. It’s at the core of who you are. It’s what will draw people to you and one of the things they will love most about you. It will make you vulnerable to some meanies along the way, but if you truly honor it within yourself you will handle them just fine.
You often feel like you were given a bum deal by being the little brother of a boy with autism. And in some ways you’re right. Before you were even a year old, your entire schedule was dependent on your brother’s schedule. You were driven from appointment to appointment. You were stuck in the house as teachers came and went through our revolving door, carrying cool looking toys and games that were not meant for you.
It wasn’t easy.
You were understandably angry a lot of the time. I wish for you that it had been different, even though this constant work of our entire family is what has made your brother as independent as he is today, with so many successes behind and ahead of him.
I wish your toddler years had more playgrounds.
I wish the focus could have been more evenly split between you and your brother. You’re right — you got the shaft a lot of times when you were little. I wish I could have made that different for you.
I hope you understand, my sweet Peter, how having a brother with autism has been wonderful for you. You’re stronger than you think you are — at almost 13 you’ve already learned lessons about joy and success and failure and compromise that most kids your age haven’t had the opportunity to learn. And it’s made you the fun, kind, thoughtful boy who is a friend to the new kid in school, and the boy who stands up for the other special needs kids who cross your path.
When you make a friend, it’s done with so much care and thoughtfulness. These kids know that. Some may take advantage of your sensitive thoughtfulness, but you’re already recognizing these kids as bad for you and already have some of the tools you need to sort those who are worth your time from those who are not. This is a skill that I, at almost 45, am still working on! I admire this trait so much in you, and if you didn’t know, you’re an inspiration. To me, to your dad, to your brother and to all those other kids who see you face your struggles with your growing confidence.
I know in a lot of ways, dealing with your brother’s autism is a daily struggle. For this I wish for you patience, patience, patience. Don’t try to be perfect every day! There’s a time and a place for perfect! You’re entitled to every single feeling you have. You’re right — a lot of the time, life isn’t fair. But it’s how you handle the unfairness that counts. I’ll tell you what — if you promise to work on this for yourself a little each day, I’ll make the same promise. Because, Peter, this is something you will continue to work on your entire life. Just when you think you’ve got it, something changes and you have to start all over again. But that’s the joy of life — all the wonderful changes and challenges that come your way. Some are real toughies, but I’ve found that it’s those toughies that are our greatest teachers.
And finally, my boy, try to remember that even though your big brother sometimes annoys the crap out of you (yes, there is a time and place to say “crap”), he loves you more than anyone. Your dad and I have always said that you each are the best thing we ever did for the other one. You have strengths your brother looks up to, and your brother has strengths you look up to. And you both help each other through those weaknesses you both have. Autism or not. There’s nothing in this world like a brother, no matter what shape that takes, and we think you both hit the jackpot in the brother department.
I’m prouder of you than you could ever know. And oh, are you loved.
This post originally appeared on I Don’t Have a Job.
Read more from Lauren Jordan on The Mighty:
When I Had to Follow the Same Advice I Gave My Son With Autism
Autism and High School: What to Do When the Honeymoon Period Is Over
What This Popular Story About Disability Doesn’t Tell You About Disability