A little over a week ago I published a piece sharing the angst of our eldest daughter moving out for her freshman year at college. Yes, I cried like a baby. Yes, I had an awful time sleeping the night before. No, I did not worry about her for a single minute.
What really caught me by surprise was the reaction of her brother. I would say that his emotions and behavior rivaled my own on moving day.
Reflection has been a frequent visitor to me at this phase of parenthood. As I look back, I see so many years concerned about how my son's diagnosis would affect his older, "typical" sister. For too many years of her youth, our eldest squawked about the inequity of her brother getting to stop at McDonald's after his tortuous, 5 hour hematology clinic visits. She was livid that he would get candy or other rewards if he could push through his trauma, sitting still for the needle jabs of every-other-day intravenous infusions.
I did everything the experts recommended for kids like her who have siblings with a diagnosis. I spent intentional time making special outings alone with her. I listened and validated her feelings. I never shamed her. I also established regular Sib-Shops in our area, so that she could connect to other peers who understood her frustration. Even so, it felt like the animosity she had for her brother would never end.
I was so grateful when the resentment and confusion did wane in our daughter's teen years. Many things added to her shift in attitude beyond the personal I steps I took. She was diagnosed as a carrier of the same disorder that belabored her brother. This qualified her to begin attending hemophilia camp where she built new and cherished friendships of her own. A sense of gallows humor developed between our eldest and her brother, where she unwittingly normalized a bleeding disorder in our household. When she began to experience the onset of her own joint troubles, her brother understood and joked about all of the blood tests and medical mayhem to which she was subjected. They actually started to like each other.
Adversity, as it turns out, has made my children closer... MUCH closer. My son had such a strong reaction to his sister's move to college because she has also become one of HIS best friends. Aside from his parents, his sister is the only person who has been there at his side from day one. She was there when he needed to be readmitted to the NICU after birth. She was there to comfort him through every hospitalization. Once the hurdles of jealousy and perceived inequity had been overcome, they shared a love of strategic card games, running with the same local crowd on the weekends. The two of them founded a Cardfight Club at our local high school together. They shared the love of certain television programs. Our house was alight with their laughing, passionate banter and conversation.
Now her everyday presence here is gone. Since she spent much of her senior year of high school largely working or with friends, it never occurred to me that her siblings might miss her as much as I. They do, especially her brother.
I want to encourage those of you who are earlier along in your journey, worrying about the siblings of your child with a chronic illness, disability, or special need. You may be concerned about those issues creating a great divide between your children. Most of us parents struggle with that same concern. You are not alone. Yet, if you persist in doing the right things for your children, following the experts' advice, those complex issues can actually end up bringing your children CLOSER together rather than pushing them apart.
Praise God for such every-day miracles!
PRAY: Jesus, you warn us to be anxious for nothing, but to bring our requests before you in faith. You see our deep concern for the siblings of our affected kids. Holy Spirit, grant us wisdom, guiding our every word and deed. Increase our long-suffering with our children's sibling rivalry. Keep us from adding fuel to any negativity. Thank You for making it possible for our children to draw closer together through life's hardships.
~ Barb Dittrich