I feel that as my son grows up, he will have his own journey in coping with having a sister with special needs. What I am not certain of is if he will go through the stages of grief like any parent coping with the reality of raising a special child. Will he go through Denial? Anger? Bargaining? Depression? Then, eventually Acceptance? Is he currently going through one of these stages? Or, with the pure nature of his child-soul and child-love, he will jump straight to acceptance? While it may be pointless to think of these things right now, they do cross my mind, but my biggest hope is that he copes with the reality of it much better than I did (I am?).
As I have written before in a previous post/s, we have exposed Eloi to children with special needs ever since he was small, and we have had conversations with him telling him about children being “special” and his sister being “special” I know that in that little mind of his, he is still trying to understand why his sister is “different” and what the word special really means.
A big part of me wants him to not see that his sister is “different”. My wish is to be able to raise my children without the conscious thought that “this is my special child” and “this is my normal child”… they are my children, period. I don’t want him to try and compare her with other children nor do I want to run a household parenting each of my children differently, with the other one getting “special treatment” because of her “special needs”. My wish for Eloi is to look at Isabella as his sister and not be defined as his “special sister”, with the reference of the word special being “different”, “irregular”, “abnormal”, “non standard”, “uncharacteristic”, “strange”, “deviant”, “weird”… if ever that it is unavoidable for her to be defined “special”, I’d want the context of the word “special” be that of being “unique”… just like each and everyone of us.
But what is special? And how do you really talk about it with a 6 year old, in a way that does not degrade nor show division? How do you talk about it with a child without crossing that line? How do I go about discussing what is special and ave him understand the way I wish for him to understand?
Then, one morning on our way to school, we had this conversation.
Eloi: Nanay I have a classmate and it is his birthday tomorrow. It is also his brother’s, who is in a different 1st grade class at our school, birthday. Nanay, how come his brother and him are the same age and they have the same birthday?
Nanay: Because they are twins.
Eloi: But how come they don’t look the same?
Nanay: Not all twins are identical or looking the same. Anytime a mommy has 2 babies in her belly, those babies are twins. Sometimes there’s even a boy and a girl twin.
Eloi: But how come the one in my class does not talk too much, and the other one talks a lot and he does not really listen to us well when we talk to him. He just likes to talk over and over about cellphones.
Nanay: Because that is what he wants to talk about.
Eloi: But he talks about it all the time. It's the same thing all the time. It's always about cellphones.
Nanay: (I can sense some annoyance in his tone)Why don't you try talking to him about something else?
Eloi: I do, but he only wants to talk about cellphones.
Nanay: Maybe it's just because he likes cellphones so much and people like to talk about the things they like. Much like the time you liked talking about wrestling, or Starwars, or Legos. He likes cellphones so he likes to talk about cellphones.
Eloi: He is weird.
Nanay: ( in my head > OMG, the words he learns from his peers!) No. Don't say that. He's not weird. He is special (The boy has Apsergers), and that is okay. You know, much like your sister is special. Do you think she's weird too?
Eloi: No! But Isay does not talk a lot.
Nanay: They are both special but in a different way.
Eloi: Oh, so you mean something is wrong with him?
Nanay: Why do you say that? Nothing is wrong with him. Cause when you say that, it's almost like saying that when we say your sister is special, something is wrong with her. Do you think something is wrong with your sister?
Eloi: No! (very defensively) She’s okay.
Nanay: Yes. She is doing ok. She is just going to take longer than other children her age to learn things because God made her that way. Like your classmate’s brother talks a lot because God made him that way. Do you think anything is wrong with that?
Eloi: Noooo! Nothing is wrong with that. God made them that way.
Eloi: Am I special Nanay?
Nanay: Why do you ask that?
Eloi: Because I talk a lot.
Nanay: Yes you are special. You talk a lot because you have a lot of ideas in your head and that is okay because God made you that way. All of us are special.
Eloi: So, I’m special cause I talk a lot, and Isay is special because she is small and cries a lot, and you’re special ‘cause you work a lot, and Tatay is special cause he eats a lot.
Nanay: (Chuckle) Yes.
Eloi: We are all special, ‘cause God made us this way.
Nanay: Yes, ALL of us are special.