Previously, I mentioned my big boys, Caleb and Christian. Caleb is my second oldest child and has been accompanying Christian the longest on his journey. It is for that reason, I honor him first.
Oh Caleb, my dearest Caleb where do I begin? My pregnancy with you was hard for multiple reasons. It was while pregnant with you I learned your brother was having seizures. We had no idea. Christian had been making these weird motions with his arms, but we assumed he was playing. I was pregnant with you. My dad, your grandfather passed away. It was at this time, Christian digressed from pointing out his head, shoulders, knees and toes to not saying a word at all. I was pregnant with you, when fear grew within my heart about the future of my boys.
We named you Caleb John because Caleb means ‘Faithful, whole-hearted’ and John, after your late grandfather means ‘God is gracious.’ We knew that regardless of what was going on with your brother, and in my life at the time you were chosen and special. When you arrived a week after your due date, I knew you were going to make your own mark on the world. I was filled with so many emotions! You were bigger and longer than your brother, with popping brown eyes and a head full of curly hair. We were overjoyed.
Now, fast forward a couple years and you have surpassed your brother in the way of speech. Even though you were two years apart, I was potty training you both simultaneously. And oh, boy do I remember those days so vividly. You were wearing pull ups and because Christian was so much bigger he had to wear Goodnights bedtime all throughout the day. You were catching on so quickly. We had the small portable toilet with Sesame Street on it, and you would run with excitement to sit on it! Christian was extremely reluctant. I spent so much time with Christian, cleaning up his accidents during the day and evening. I was just so relieved you caught on so quickly. I kept anxiously looking for signs you would digress, but you did not. You retained everything that came your way.
Caleb, I can recall specifically once when you were 4 and Christian was 6. We were at the one of Christians’ Special Olympics events with his school; you turned to me and said, ‘Mommy, I want to do that one day.’ I looked at those bright brown eyes staring at me so proud of your brother! You were so happy to be with him and see him get ribbons for placing in the track and field event. I thought to myself, I pray this never ends. I pray you always see Christian as your brother, an individual, without shame or concern for the world and their judgement.
You would follow Christian around even after he pushed you to the side. I had not told you he was autistic or epileptic. You saw him taking medications, you witnessed numerous doctors’ appointments and testing, and you sat patiently in waiting rooms while he underwent therapy all very young and with a smile. Hindsight, I did not see the frustration and jealousy building in you. I was so consumed with making sure Christian survived another night I completely missed the signs of discord in my two precious baby boys. I knew you were on track and I just assumed you knew mommy loved you too.
Speed up, another two years, and you are all in primary school. Christian is taking a different bus than you, Christian is sent to an alternative school because they do not offer his class at yours, and Christian is being taken to therapy three afternoons a week that we all have to attend together. We play outside, and discuss your day while he is in his session, but one fall day it is different.
One fall day, I see you quieter than usual. I approach and ask you what is wrong. My strong, loving, silly boy seems so distant to me. I just wanted to know what is troubling you, so I ask again. I ask you to look into my eyes, and I say “Caleb, Mommy loves you. Please, talk to mommy.” You look at me and your eyes begin to swell. Then I repeat, “Caleb, Mommy loves you. Please talk to me. What is wrong?” Tears burst from your sweet and innocent face and you say, “Mommy, you love me?” Now, I am crying and a million thoughts flow through my head. How can you ask me that? Why would he feel this way? Where did I go wrong? I hold you tightly and gently turn your head to face me and say, “Caleb, baby, of course I love you. Of course, Mommy loves you.”
He goes on to explain how he wishes he were sick, and he got to do special things, and I just felt so lost. I felt like all this time he has been excelling, he has been so talkative and happy, I missed it. I failed him. It is then I had to set aside time to explain the differences between him and his brother. It was then at the tender age of six, I thought I was doing all I could to protect Christian I let Caleb slip through the crack. Afterwards, we talked and talked some more. I let him know he does not have to apologize for his feelings, but he can always come to me or his father and let us know. We will do our best to answer any questions and clear up any uncertainty.
Caleb is an extraordinary child with a special brother. Caleb is a special brother to his special brother! They are now eleven and nine, respectively, and although they fight, argue, and nitpick. Caleb no longer wants to be his brother; he wants to be there for his brother.
He has moments he does not understand why Christian has to do things a certain way, for example, there is only one seat at the dinner table he sits at. He will not eat from another seat, so one evening Caleb made it the topic of conversation. Caleb asked, “Mommy, why does Christian get an assigned seat at the table? Why can’t anyone else sit there or he gets mad?” My response was, “Caleb would you like to pick your own special seat at the table?” “Yes! Yes! Mommy, I want my own,” he replied. I was happy to do it. It was simple and I took the time to listen to his requests.
Now, a few weeks pass by and his sister Jada, who is seven, is choosing a different seat every night. She just refrains from sitting in the two ‘assigned’ seats. She is very funny and witty as well. She said to Caleb one night, “I do not want only one seat. I like being able to switch. If Christian wants that one that is okay with me because that means I have to sit in the same seat every day. Boorrrrring.” I chuckled inside. Later that week Caleb came to me and asked if he could just sit wherever he wanted again. He liked having more options. I laughed and gladly granted his request.
I will discuss Jada on another date because she is a character all her own. I just wanted to share with you all some personal struggles I have dealt with and continue to deal with concerning raising siblings, more specifically special needs siblings. I went through my periods alone and doubting my mothering capabilities. It was not until I began Special Needs Siblings that my eyes were opened to other families in similar situations.
Caleb is super protective of his big brother now. He is still his biggest fan and biggest annoyance. They are brothers. They are not perfect, but progressing just like their mother. We stumble and it gets messy, but we are all here enjoying this ride. There are so many stories over these years, and there will be many more to add on! I hope you will take this all with a grain of salt and lots of love. If you choose please write to us and allow us to share your Special Needs Sibling story. We would love to interview you from a parent perspective or siblings point of view!
We are small community with a large heart and overflowing with love.