When your first child has special needs, you question having a second child.
You worry if they too will have a medical diagnosis.
If typical, you worry about their relationship with your first child. Will they be resentful? Will they know how to play together? What kind of relationship will they have? Will they bond?
You worry about your own relationship with them – will I have enough time to devote to them, considering my child with special needs requires so much of my time?
We had ALL of these worries when we were planning for Solly’s little sister, Bea. Once she arrived, though, those worries started to dissipate. Bea is 100% typical. She’s a chunky, milk lovin’, Sesame Street obsessed 21 month old. And she loves her brother to pieces.
Sure, she gets jealous of the time I spend with Solly. I don’t blame her: caring for him is very much like caring for a young infant. He needs hands on assistance with everything and the time that should be split between cuddling with each of them is often spent mostly on Sol. She gets dragged to therapy appointments, on trips for intensive therapies, and swimming lessons. Mike said it best the other day – it’s almost like a role reversal for Bea. She’s the second child, but in many ways, it’s like she’s the first child dealing with a pesky new baby in the family. We make a huge effort to each spend solo time with her to compensate for all the time we need to spend caring for Solly, and we will always need to be conscious about how much time we give to her.
Yet, despite (and perhaps as part of) the occasional bouts of jealousy, Bea and Solly have a typical sibling relationship. Bea will squat in front of Solly, put both hands on his knees, and say, “hi, Sa Sa” – and Solly will smack her on the head. She steals toys from him. She kisses him. When we’re not looking, they’ll sit together and converse in their own language. We often don’t understand what either of them is saying on any given day, but they understand one another.
On top of that typical relationship, she’s learning to care for her brother. She brings his bottle to him when she sees it sitting on the counter. She picks up toys when he drops them. She’ll hand him his chew noodle if she sees it sitting out. And she helps him when he’s in his gait trainer.
The beautiful thing about Bea being the sibling to Solly is that she’ll never see him in the same way the outside world does: a disabled child. She’ll recognize that he has a disability, but it’ll just be a part of who Solly is. She really is such a special little girl. It makes me truly excited to watch her develop and grow up to share her compassion with the rest of the world.