Collateral Damage

by Mel

The Girl has a friend over. They sit in a nest of pillows, giggling, singing, whispering. They eat Cheez-its out of the box nestled between them and talk about being rock stars. And I can see them from my chair, dancing, cartwheeling, and I can hear the laughter. And I am thankful for this one bit of normal in my daughter’s life. Then my son, peeks his head down from upstairs and makes a funny noise at the two girls, and they all dissolve into loud belly laughter. And I am thankful for the one bit of normal in his life. Normal brother-sister interactions that most people would never give a second thought make me stop and exhale.

The Girl doesn’t get to see a whole lot of normal behavior from her brother. She sees the yelling, and the anxiety, she feels the sting of his words, she sees me cry. She knows to come whisper it into my ear if her stomach hurts, so that her brother does not hear and start to panic. She learned this at 5 years old. She runs and sobs when he has his meltdowns, and takes the brunt of his criticism. She sits alone quietly in the waiting room of the psychiatrist’s office each week. And yet, she sticks up for him when he is being lectured and would give anything to be granted access to his room, or asked to watch him play PS3. Then she will break down…”Mom, I just don’t want him as a brother anymore. It is too hard. I just don’t want to live with him anymore. It is not fair. I just want a normal brother!I hate his Asperger’s!”  And who can blame her? It is not easy, I know. And she is so kind and so easily wounded. And I worry every day that she will be broken somehow, between her brother and myself. That she will look back on her childhood, and these moments of “normal” will stand out to her as much as they do to me, because they are so rare. With all of my own fumbling through, can I help her to deal with her brother? I know I have to try.

She has asked for her friend to spend the night this Friday. There is nothing about that that says fun to me. I get all anxious when people are in my house, and I don’t like my routine messed with. I will worry about keeping The Boy from doing anything that could scare The Girl’s friend. Calm, please. Please no meltdowns. But I will make popcorn, and watch their dance routines, and let them eat ice cream at midnight. I will let them stay up late and only shush them a little. I will step outside myself, and I will give The Girl her normal….one sleepover at a time. She deserves that.