The side stepped child as you go to help your other child with a seizure. The child who wants to tell you about their day but your other child is crying in pain. The child who misses out on things an average child doesn’t.
Siblings of children with special needs are a special kind of child. A child that has patience, empathy, resilience and unconditional love. They are the other child who can so easily be forgotten.
Life throws us as parents curveballs with our children’s health and our children have to come along for the ride just like we do. They have to grow up much quicker and face trauma and stress like we do to.
Our girls have both had to be the other child. Having two kids with epilepsy at the same time forces that and now with Lizzy doing so well and Kenzie just recently diagnosed with Juvenile Fibromyalgia the tables have turned in our house.
I have watched countless nights of Kenzie just going to her room while Lizzy had seizures or meltdowns unable to do anything to help. I have watched Kenzie be the other child as her sister has been through VEEG’s and interstate keto trips and spend time away from us (crying because she just wanted to be with us but couldn’t). I have watched her want to help and go and get Lizzies special teddies to help her through a seizure.
I have watched both girls have Christmas days and birthdays upturned and the focus on them taken away.
I have watched Lizzy come to terms with being the other child and how hard that has been for her to realise that Kenzie needs me just as much as she does. I have watched her become more patient and have a real understanding of being on the outside and being the other child.
I have watched how these experiences make them understand the quirky kid at school and get frustrated when others don’t understand difference. I have watched them play and talk to kids with all different levels of disability and difference and treat them equally.
I wonder what it feels like as a child. I have read a few books about siblings and most have talked about the anger of their siblings getting all the attention or missing out on things because their family put their money into getting their child well. They talk about missed special days and a feeling of being helpless and stressed. They also talk about the positives that it brings them, they talk about being independent earlier and they also have insight into what life really is about and how they have used that in their life.
The last one is the one I hope the most that out of all the experiences both good and bad that they go through that they really do come through their childhood with insight and empathy for people that they never would have got if they hadn’t lived through being the other child.
And what do we feel.
“Guilt” that we can’t focus on all our children equally.
“Anger” that they may need help psychologically because of the family dynamic in a special needs household or the trauma they have seen and experienced.
“Pride” that they can be independent or help with seizures or other health issues without being asked.
“Sadness” that they have lost their childhood early.
“Helplessness” that you can’t change the situation.
Mumma Bears we can’t beat ourselves up about this but I know we all do. We are just doing our best with the resources and strength that we can muster. Our kids awe inspire us with how they cope and they are part of what keep us going. We are incredibly privileged to have these other children who just learn to make the best out of things.
So tonight when you are telling the kids it’s time for bed remind yourself to give your other child a big squishy hug and tell them how wonderful they truly are. They will become adults who will be have memories of childhood which will shape their lives in so many unseen ways and hopefully many visible ways. They will be nurses, teachers, disability support workers, doctors, health specialists, coaches, community workers and many many more professions where caring and empathy count.
Lots of Love
Ragdoll Mumma Zoe