When our boys were eight and five, my husband and I decided to try for one more baby. Secretly we hoped it was a girl. But honestly, we just wanted to expand our family. Our oldest son, who has high-functioning autism, hadn’t been diagnosed yet, however he already exhibited a lot of signs of being on the spectrum and anxiety. Even though we had a lot on our plate, we decided to go for it. Two days after our son turned nine, our daughter was born.
She was born five days before my scheduled C-section, which set our son into a tizzy. When my parents told him that I was at the hospital and his sister was coming, he threw up. When he came to meet her, he cried. Things hadn’t gone accordingly to the plan. He was such a wreck that my parents kept him home from school the next day. When he came to the hospital for the second time, he turned to me and said “I only have nine years to bond with her, I have to make the most of it.” The poor kid was already worried about going away to college and leaving his nine-year-old sister alone. We had no idea how deep his anxiety went.
Every time she was awake, he wanted her to memorize his face. He asked to hold her constantly, and whenever she cried, he did whatever he thought might help her stop. He took his job as big brother very seriously.
As time went on, their relationship got stronger. When she could sit in her highchair, he’d entertain her while she was eating. When she started to laugh, he did everything he could to get her to giggle. He was the first one to get a real belly laugh out of her. He is very proud of that, and I often find him watching that video, years later. When she started to crawl, he was right there with us motivating her every move.
He was diagnosed with high-functioning ASD and generalized anxiety disorder when he was 11. We always knew it was likely, and it took us a long time (and appointments with many professionals) to get the diagnosis we always suspected. We were devastated, and it weighed heavily on us. Our little two-year-old bundle of energy kept us all distracted during that time. While my husband and I worried about our son’s future, he was happily distracted by her sweet smiles and cuddles.
Our son just turned 13. He’s been through speech therapy, occupational therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and social skills classes. Nothing, I mean nothing, has come close to teaching him important skills like compassion and patience as having a baby sister has. He’s learned how to negotiate with a toddler (something I’m still struggling with.) Their bond is a joy to watch. She calms him down when he’s upset. She can sense that he’s anxious and she gives him a hug when he’s angry.
Even though there are things I’d rather he didn’t do… like brainwashing her that her other brother is a bad guy or teaching her inappropriate movie quotes like “I see dead people,” their relationship is perfect. Some people have therapy dogs and cats – we have a therapy sister. It’s a bonus I never anticipated. All of those days we wondered if throwing a third kid in the mix was a good idea. Who could have known how much we all would gain by having her? They currently have five years until he leaves for college. He’s already done a remarkable job making sure their relationship is strong, and I have a feeling this is just the beginning.