little sister becomes big sister

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A completely gratuitous picture of Katie from last weekend

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So where were we?

We left off yesterday’s Spotlight on Siblings post with Katie and her ‘big sister sib’ Ali excitedly e-mailing one another. They had begun to forge a connection over their shared experiences. For the record, that connection only deepened yesterday when Ali told Katie that she’d like to take her to Dylan’s Candy Bar sometime.

Have you ever been to Dylan’s? It’s quite literally a candy department store. Three FLOORS of sweets. I took Katie there on our trip to NY last year. I’ll never forget when she bit into her first piece of candy. I looked over and asked what it tasted like. With her eyes rolling back in her head she whispered, “Happiness.”

Yeah, when Ali mentioned Dylan’s, I’m pretty sure the deal was sealed.

Anyway, long before any of this had started, Katie had come to me with a proposition. “Mama,” she said, “can you please help me spread the word that I want to babysit?”

I took a deep breath, not sure where to begin explaining that she might want to consider her qualifications as a babysitter (since she had none) before beginning a mass marketing blitz.

“Um, sweetie?” I had said. “Don’t you think you might be a little young to babysit? You’re only nine, honey.”

She’d apparently already thought this through. “Well, nine and a HALF really,” she said – because that obviously changed everything. “That’s why I was thinking we really should make sure to tell people that I can only babysit for kids under nine. It might be a little awkward to be telling a kid my own age that they need to go to bed and stuff.”

Um, yeah.

I explained that perhaps she ought to think about getting a little experience under her belt first. I suggested asking around to see if we had any friends who might want a mother’s helper for a couple of hours here and there. Considering that she’s never stayed home alone for more than an hour and has never been responsible for another human being for more than – well, ever – we agreed it was a good place to start.

And then fate stepped in.

Out of the blue, I got a note from a mom who had heard my speech on Back to School Night. She was new to our school and I’d yet to meet her, but she’d already volunteered for the Inclusion Committee, so what was not to like?

She wrote to say ..

Hi there-

I was really touched by your speech at open house. We moved here last December, so my son has been in the school since last year. Our diagnosis is only a couple yrs old, so we are still learning a lot about everything, especially how a real SPED dept functions and how [Zach] can get help etc …

… thanks so much for blogging about your experiences. It’s overwhelming to move to a new community, and to do it with a child who has challenges is even harder. It’s nice to read about how you do it. I’m especially interested in the sibling aspect. My daughter [Chloe] knows there is something different about [Zach] but is not quite old enough to understand it all.

We spent some time talking about the kids and I suggested that when they were ready, perhaps we could get Katie and Chloe together. We met face to face and chatted some more. And just like that, Katie had her first official gig as a mother’s helper. Of course, she needed to tell Ali.

Ali,

… Tomorrow, i have a job actually. I’m going to be a mother’s helper because there’s a little girl named [Chloe].  She’s in kindergarten. I’m expecting that she’s adorable but you just can’t guess that and be like, “Oh, she’s going to be adorable!” and then you usually end up with some really, really not adorable kid when you think like that. BUT, if you think like, “Oh, well, maybe she’ll be adorable, but who knows?” then she’ll probably be pretty adorable. Haha!

Anyway, her older brother has asperger’s. I’m really excited to hang out with [Chloe]. She likes to do everything that I like to do with little kids. She likes being read to and playing play-doh and drawing – which I LOVE doing with little kids!! …

I’ve got to get ready for bed now, so bye bye!!

[Katie]

Katie gathered a stack of books to bring to Chloe’s house. She brought everything from Pinkalicious to Jazzbo Goes to School. She even brought George Hogglesberry just in case she was into that sort of thing. She couldn’t wait.

The day before Katie was scheduled to come over, Chloe’s mom left me a message saying she was thrilled to have met Katie that morning. I was confused. It turned out that Katie had gone to Chloe’s teacher, asked where her locker was, and had waited to introduce herself.

The day was a huge success. Chloe got some sibling style attention, Chloe’s mom hopefully got a few minutes to breathe and Katie got some little sister love. Heck, she even got four dollars an hour which she had spent seven ways to Sunday on the car ride home. She’s headed back again this week.

I talk a lot – OK, fine a LOT – about building awareness one conversation at a time. You’ve heard me preach time and again about the myriad benefits of speaking openly about what autism means for your child and your family. It looks like we can add another one to the list.

Siblings finding each other – forging friendships in a common language, finding out that they are not alone, guiding one another down this rocky path and helping each other to recognize the good stuff along the way. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The About Diary of a Mom page reads .. because it is a sense of community that makes the good times sweeter for the sharing and the hard times more bearable for knowing that we’re not alone.

Shouldn’t our children – ALL of our children – have that too? By talking to one another, we might just be able to help them find it.

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19 thoughts on “little sister becomes big sister

  1. This baby is heaven sent, sort of like her mother. You know Jess, even if we have a child that is intuitive and sensitive to the feelings of others as well as so very smart,it takes a rare parent(s) to direct that potential to the heights. I guess we could say you are a sucess at another thing in your life sort of like the other million things you are incredible at doing.
    She seems so very much like you in thought, feelings, and intelligence. Oak trees and acorns are never far apart are they?
    Love you,
    Dad

  2. geez, I had held it together again until I read your dad’s comments…You have raised an amazing young lady.
    This week of posts has given me a lot to think about in my own home. My oldest had been doing really well with tolerance and understanding with his little brother…until this school year. I have to figure out what’s going on, and maybe the key is helping him create a friendship for him with someone who understands.

  3. We have just started a SIBshop here at Camp Pendleton (Marine base in Ca). It is for siblings of special needs. We have 2 groups 8-12 and 13-18. Sometimes they just hang out with pizza and talk, sometimes a basketball game, a Wii tournament, etc. Basically it’s the siblings meeting peers that understand and relate. There is a family psych and adults onhand to help some of the talks. Sometimes they’ll do crafts during the talks. Parents of the sibs aren’t allowed during the SIBshop. It has been a really positive group. Our 10 yr old comes home more positive and upbeat. This really has been a blessing.

  4. LOVE that girl. Being such an amazing sister (and person) comes from having such wonderful parents (and grandparents) supporting you. I am constantly inspired and amazed.

  5. my son’s ABA specialist has a 13 yr old son. He is now my mother’s helper for both my PDD-NOS son and my 2 yr old. He is in awe of my kids as much as I am in awe of him. I’m feeling better about how my son will be accepted when I see the teens take an interest. PHEW!

  6. Ok, I’m late reading this series- and I want to echo what others have said about Katie… she is phenomenal- and that is something not to brush off.

    But beyond the whole sensitivity part- she’s also a phenomenal writer! Her language skills for 4th grade are really quite something. Hmmm- sensitive, and a good writer. Sounds like her mama!

    And has she/you considered her hosting a blog (with strong protection of course)? A place for her to write and find and share and form that community of siblings? It’s worked for you- and you are a integral community-builder! Just an idea… She’s got strengths. Nine (and a HALF!) is a great time to start to learn to use them! :)

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