To My Sweet Daughter, Please Don’t Give Up on Your Brother With Autism
When you think no one is looking, when you think no one is listening, when you think no one knows how you feel, I want you to always remember…
I see you. I hear you. I feel you.
I saw you. I saw you as a little girl when you tried so hard to make your brother see you. I saw you run to him with chubby outstretched arms proudly waving your latest artwork from preschool, so desperately wanting his approval. Yet there was not so much as a glance in your direction from the brother you so desperately wanted to please. I saw you beg for a playmate in a brother who shouted, “go away,” “get out,” or worst, who completely ignored you, making you wonder if you were invisible. I saw your hope tucked secretly under your bed in the form of a drawing with each waxy crayon mark telling a story of a brother and sister playing happily on the swings, playing together and smiling, like so many brothers and sisters do. I saw your persistence when you refused to take no for an answer no matter how many times you were turned away. I saw you as you wiped away your tears, confused and saddened time and time again.
I heard you. I heard you as a little girl when you tried so hard to make your brother hear you. I heard you when you called his name again and again and again, and I heard the loud silence when your calls went unanswered, knowing full well the silence was much louder to your tender ears. I heard your muffled cries soaking your butterfly pillow as you tried to understand why your brother’s words, his actions, his inactions could sometimes be so hurtful. I heard the genuine concern in your tiny toddler voice when you asked me why Ryan wouldn’t let you hug him and the even greater concern when you worried how he would know you love him without your hugs and kisses. I heard you pretend with an imaginary brother in your bedroom, a brother who played with you, listened to you, shared with you and hugged you. I heard you giggle with joy on the occasions your real brother let you in… in his room… in his space… in his heart, quickly forgetting the imaginary brother who would still be waiting for you in your bedroom when this rare moment passed.
I felt you. I felt you as a little girl when you tried so hard to make your brother feel your love. I felt your confusion as you proudly tried to teach your brother how to tie his shoes. Rather than thank you, he shouted at you, angered and frustrated that so many things come easier for you. I felt your sadness as you watched the lucky four leaf clover you found in an open field float to the ground after you shared your good fortune with a brother, who doesn’t believe in luck and proved his disbelief by carelessly slapping the lucky clover out of your hand. I felt your body shake with heartbreaking sobs on numerous occasions as you tried to understand “Why?” You were too little to understand my answers. I felt your loneliness as you watched your brother walk along the seashore with his big brother while you, his little sister, stood by alone, invisible to him yet again.
I see you. Now, I see you as a bigger girl, yet still a little sister — a sister who is trying to understand what an autism diagnosis means and trying to find your own path on this journey. I see that the desire you have to reach your brother, regardless of the countless rejections, remains inside your tender heart as you painstakingly wrap a birthday gift you purchased with your own money in hopes of just once pleasing him. I see your face light up when, on the rare occasion, your brother calls your name, talks to you and treats you in a way you once only dreamed about. I see your joy, your hope, your pride when he asks you, his baby sister, a question about Minecraft. I see you watch your two brothers laugh together, script together and tease one another, wondering if one day, it will be you.
I hear you. Now, I hear you as a bigger girl, and I hear the resignation in your voice as you’re ignored once again or are told to “be quiet,” “stop talking” or the ouchiest one of all, “great, she’s coming too” as you hop next to him in the car and glare his way and mumble, “Whatever, Ryan.” I hear the once-confused innocence in your voice replaced with anger, now that you are fed up, and I hear you shout, “Shut up, Ryan!” or “What was that for?” or my least favorite,”You’re such a jerk!” However, the words that shoot like an arrow from my ears to my heart are your grown up, well-beyond 8-years words that you mumble as you shrug your shoulders and say, “I know it’s ’cause of his autism” and then go about your business. Today, what I hear most is the silence, however, now the tables have turned and the silence is not coming from your brother, it’s coming from you. The attempts to reach your brother are fewer. The hope for him to see you, hear you and feel you has diminished. There have been too many tears, too many rejections, too many slights and too many hurt feelings.
I feel you. I feel you pulling back, protecting yourself. I feel your anger, your jealousy, your confusion, and sadly, your acceptance. I feel you slowly, quietly giving up. Before you do, I want you to see, to hear and to feel.
Just as I see you, just as I hear you, and just as I feel you, I also see, hear and feel your brother. I see him run to your side when a group of boys won’t let you play with them and make you cry. I hear him yell at those same boys, “Do you know who that is?! That’s my sister. You need to let her play too.” I feel his pride, his protectiveness and his love for you. I see him smile when you talk to one another about a Minecraft video in Minecraft language that no one else in the house speaks; that is something only the two of you share. I hear the pride in his laughter when you script a scene from his favorite show and you are spot on with your imitation. I feel his love for you when he smiles at you after you kindly share a favorite snack or treat with him regardless of how many times he has refused to share with you.
Whether it’s a group of meanie pants boys, a math problem you can’t figure out or a new Minecraft world you are having trouble navigating, your brother is and always has been by your side. You may not see it, hear it or feel it, but, I promise you, it is true. Although your brother may not ever jump next to you on the swing as you once hoped for and he may talk to you in his bossy voice more frequently than in his nice voice because you “aren’t serious enough,” your brother loves you and no matter how many times it feels like he has turned his back on you, I believe he always has and always will have your back.
You can go ahead and blame autism on the days it hurts more — sometimes Mommy does too — but, regardless of autism, regardless of more hurtful moments than good moments, please don’t every give up on your brother, I promise, he will never give up on you.
I believe in the deepest part of my heart, one day, you too will walk along that seashore with both your brothers, and they will both be grateful to have you by their side and in their heart. How they show that gratitude will be very different, but, as their little sister, you will know the love for you is there… you will see it… you will hear it… you will feel it.
Yes, my little love, you must never forget… I see you. I hear you. I feel you. And believe it or not, he does too.
This post originally appeared on The AWEnsty of Autism.
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