There are times when I realize that my oldest knows too much.

Like the other day when Howie was bouncing off the walls after school and Gerry asked me if he had had a good day at school.  When I answered “Yes” he replied with “I could tell.  He held it together all day at school and is letting it go now at home where it’s safe.”

Yeah...

And then there was tonight.

**********

I was working on dinner.  We had just received the call that school was cancelled for tomorrow due to the hurricane.

Gerry was on the couch about to start a game on the Playstation.  Howie was rocking back and forth in his beloved green chair right next to the TV.

The verbal stimming had started.  For Howie, this is his “silly words”.  He yells out a string of nonsense words while he sits in the chair.

For the sensory avoiders in our house (my husband, Gerry and myself), the sounds are our trigger.

I’ve worked hard with Howie to remind him that he can make his silly words but he needs to either do it quietly or in another room if someone is trying to watch a show or play a game.

Many times, this scene ends with Gerry yelling at Howie to stop.  Conflicting sensory overloads.

Gerry started. “Hey Howie!”

I braced myself.

“Hey Howie.  I’m about to start my game.  If you have silly words, can you let them all out now before I start a new level?”

I froze.

“Okay,” came the answer.  Followed by a thirty second long string of loud sounds and words.

“I’m done.”

“Thank you.”  And Gerry started his game.

I still didn’t move.

About five minutes in, Howie looked at Gerry and said “Wait!  I have more.”

Gerry paused his game.  Howie let another string of sounds and words out.  Then stopped.

“I’m good.”

Gerry turned to Howie. “Thank you for warning me.  I appreciate it.”

He glanced over at me.

I mouthed “Thank you.”

And game playing started again.

**********

I know I ask a lot of Gerry.  And a lot of what I ask is conflicting and confusing.  I ask him to understand his brother and tolerate his behaviors, yet I reprimand him when he steps into the role of parent.  I want him to know why his brothers do what they do, but then ask him to do things that go against his own sensory sensitivities.

My kid takes on more than he should and yet I need him to.

Tonight, he showed acceptance and understanding.  And in the most loving way possible.

His way.

My boys in pink. For breast cancer awareness day at school. Gerry told Howie that his tie was “awesome”. I think they both are pretty cool kids.

Not enough love and understanding
We could use some love to ease these troubled times
Not enough love and understanding
Why, oh why?

We need some understandin’
We need a little more love
Some love and understandin‘” – Love and Understanding by Cher

Ten.

How are you ten years old?

I feel like I need to write something poignant.  Something meaningful.

Something about how you changed everything for me.

Something about how from the very moment they handed you to me, I knew you would teach me more than I could ever teach you.

You taught me that you have more understanding of what it means to be a big brother than most siblings do.

You taught me that being different isn’t wrong.  And showed me through your paper snowflakes.

You taught me it was okay to panic about having your brother in school with you because it was out of love and care and your need to protect him.

You taught me the way out of the meltdown the day when I was stuck in a moment.

You taught me that you need me to advocate just as fiercely for you as I do for your brothers and that you feel the stress in the house just as we do.

You taught me to put the spotlight back on you and showed me how to recognize when you’re in pain.

You taught me how much you are like my dad when you wrote to the President asking him to turn The White House blue.

You taught me that your brother deserved to know that  he was autistic because you knew he deserved to know why he was special.

You taught me that sometimes a brother knows best and wowed me with your “inventions” to help him, and.

And you taught me that ten years later, you are still my best travel companion.  And that sometimes a hug says more than words.

**********

Ten.

How are you ten years old today?

The title of this post is “The Man That You’ve Become”.  It seems an odd title perhaps for a kid just turning ten.

People say you have an old soul.  You have had to grow up fast here.  Your interests are “older” than many kids your age.

But you are still my little guy.  My buddy.  The amazing big brother who will still sit and watch “Blues’ Clues” and run laps around the house and pretend to lose the race.

I have no doubt that you will change the world.

You’ve already changed our little corner of it simply by being you.

Happy Birthday to my favorite ten year old.

Doing what you do best…being a brother

Big wheels, hot wheels
Little trucks and cars
Skinned knees, climbing trees
Wishing on the stars
Moments may be lost somewhere in time
But the sweetest memories are never left behind
Now you’ve grown so fine
And come so far…” – The Man That You’ve Become by Molly Pasutti

(my oldest has become quite interested in what I’ve been writing on my blog, and asked if he could write something sometime.  He was having trouble getting started, so we thought we’d begin with me interviewing him.  These are his responses – some he wrote down himself, some he told to me – but ALL his words.  The boy is wise beyond his yearsI hope he’ll be a frequent guest writer here.)

(and yes, I know he doesn’t have any sisters.  I just love this song from Free to Be You and Me and I thought it fit.)

Interview with a Big Brother

Tell me about yourself

I’m 8 years old going into 3rd grade.  My favorite school subject is reading, my favorite sport is baseball and my favorite video game is Lego Star Wars.

What’s the best thing about being a big brother?

The best thing is that your little brothers are looking up at you as a role model.

What’s the hardest thing?

The hardest thing is that my 4 year old brother can be a little annoying sometimes.

What’s your favorite thing to do with your 4 year old brother?

I like it when my room is clean enough and he can come in and play.

What’s one happy time together with him?

He likes to run and jump over a small couch, so most of the time I do it with him.

What was an unhappy or hard time?

When he is eating he chews with his mouth open which annoys me.

What does it mean to you that your brother is autistic?

It means that his brain developed differently than normal people.

What’s the hardest thing about having a younger brother with autism?

He can’t really control certain situations.  It’s  hard for me because if I’m sitting in the green chair and he wants to sit there, he pretty much gets his way, otherwise he goes off screaming or unhappy.

Is there anything you would change about your relationship?  What would you keep the same forever?

I wish he could control certain situations, so if he was making his silly noises, and someone asked him to stop, he would and ask where he could make those noises.

I would keep what he likes – his Hot Wheels cars and the food he likes – the same because I like them too.  I don’t really want to change his personality.

Imagine it is 20 years from now.  What do you see you and your brothers doing?

I would be 28, and my brothers would be 24 and 21 years old.  So we’d all probably have a car.  I think we’d be sitting on a couch – well, one of us sitting on a chair – watching baseball together.

Brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers
Each and every one
Sisters and brothers, brothers and sisters
Every mother’s daughter, every father’s son

Ain’t we lucky, everybody
Bein’ everybody’s brother
Ain’t we lucky, everybody
Lookin’ out for one another
” – Sisters and Brothers from the Free to Be You and Me soundtrack

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