“Oliver, always love your brother no matter what.”
“Oliver, I know when you take things from your brother, we get mad but when your brother takes things from you, we ask you to share.”
“Oliver, please clean up all the mess. We know you didn’t do it but we still need you to clean it up.”
“Oliver, please fix your guys’ bed.”
The other night, the kids and I were in my ‘office’ (at home). Aiden was playing with magnetic letters, Oliver was playing with finger puppets, and I was browsing through Facebook. All of a sudden, Aiden frantically runs to the bathroom sink which is across the office. I caught him just in time to tell him not to wash one of the magnetic letters. He stopped, came back to the room and then, runs back to the bathroom. He does this about 4 more times and the whole time, he was mumbling and he seemed agitated.
Then, he grabbed my hand and he wanted me to grab Oliver. I don’t know why or how but at that moment I realized, Oliver had taken something from Aiden. I asked Oliver, “Did you take a letter from Aiden?” He opened his hand and showed me what he had taken. I told him to give it back to Aiden and say sorry. He did what I told him to. Aiden was still agitated and I was trying to calm him down. In the meantime, Oliver started crying so in an effort to appease Aiden and make Oliver understand what he did was wrong, I sent Oliver to stand on the corner and face the wall.
By this time, Hubby who was in the living room playing PS4 had heard our little chaos. He came to check on us. Now, Hubby and I have this thing about telling each other everything that happens. I mean everything! Sometimes, we do try to cover for our children but – we still end up coming clean. I know honesty is truly important in marriage but as a parent, I do sometimes find that it works to our children’s disadvantage. That night was a prime example.
Anyway, I told Hubby that Oliver had taken one of the letters Aiden was playing with. Aiden is upset. Oliver is facing the wall. Hubby then gets made and tells Oliver what he did was bad and that he needed to fix the bed and just go to sleep. With Oliver clearly in trouble for what he did, Aiden calms down and goes back to playing.
About twenty minutes later – Oliver had finished fixing the bed and was attempting to go to sleep. He was still sobbing when I went to check on him. I knew I had to explain to him what had happened. He’s only five years old but I know that as a kid, his experiences will become memories. Eventually…
I reminded him that taking things away from Aiden is not good. In fact, taking things away from anyone is not good. I acknowledged that sometimes, when Aiden does take things from him, we don’t get mad at Aiden and we actually ask him to share instead. I told him we are sorry for that. We do not mean to be unfair. I explained to him that Mommy & Daddy know that he can understand well while Aiden has difficulty understanding things. I asked him to be always nice and patient towards Aiden.
I also told him that we love him very, very, very much. I promised him that Mommy & Daddy will do better in not getting mad at him. And then, I asked him to promise me that he will love Aiden no matter what.
Our sweet Oliver said, “Yes, Mommy. I love my brother all the days!” He wiped his tears and gave me a tight hug.
It continues to be a challenge to parent “fairly” to Aiden and Oliver. We are aware that a lot of times, what Oliver wants has to take a backseat over Aiden’s needs, wants, moods, etc. To be honest, one of my biggest fears in life is that Oliver learns to dislike his brother because of our mistakes as parents.
But we try. We try every day to be better. I’m sharing a few things we do to make Oliver feel he is loved just as much as his brother.
- Mommy and Oliver time. We go out on dates – just the two of us. We watch movies, eat out, or shop. Sometimes, even if he’s had a full day of Mommy and Oliver time already – if he asks for more – I do my best to give more time. I would either watch TV with him or just lay in bed listening to his stories and jokes.
- Daddy and Oliver shared hobbies. They garden together – Hubby lets Oliver water his plants and he gives him space in the backyard to grow his own beans. He loves and brags about it! Hubby also lets Oliver play with his priced possession PS4. They bond over it and talk about castles, dragons, kingdoms, and forests We didn’t buy Oliver his own gaming system. Hubby is allowing Oliver to share with his.
- Family movie time. We all sit in the living room and we let Oliver choose a movie for all of us to watch. Aiden just usually wanders around the house during this time but it’s okay. The important thing is, we allowed Oliver to make a choice for the family.
- We ask Aiden to be nice to Oliver. We think it’s important for Oliver to hear us tell Aiden when he’s wrong and ask Aiden to treat him right. Even when we ask Oliver “to share” because Aiden took from him, we follow it up with “Aiden, please give it back to Oliver, nice to Oliver.”
- We thank and praise Oliver every chance we get. It is very important for us to let him know that we appreciate him and how much he helps Mommy & Daddy.
- Lots of laughter, “I love you’s”, tight hugs, and kisses.
Aiden maybe our Special Needs child but Oliver has special needs too. I’m sure we’ll continue to make parenting blunders and every now and then question ourselves on whether or not we are doing right by Oliver. We are taking each day at a time, learning and growing us parents. We are so blessed to have Oliver. He is the calm within our chaos.
I have many hopes and prayers for my children. One of them is that they truly love each other no matter what.
P.S. There are many articles out there that may be able to give you insight about siblings of special needs. Click on this link for one of the ones I found to be practical, and yet very insightful. I hope it helps you.