Raising more than one child leads to sibling rivalry. I remember how my brother and I were. I’ve heard (and seen) how it was in my husband’s family. Two kids or more and it’s not that different from each other. You get the infamous but so and so gets to do it. In their minds it doesn’t matter that they are older. How about the whole but I want to go too despite the fact the older one is going to something age appropriate and the younger child doesn’t understand that. Or the older child and younger child playing off of you with the “they are your favorite line” referring to the other child(ren).
That’s just the stuff that ends up involving the parents. They constantly rip on each other about how they are better than so and so at doing such and such. Then there is the constant fight to maintain or gain control of the TV, iPad/iPod, the xbox/wii/game system, or computer. Just listening to it can give one a headache.
I remember the times we exchanged insults and name calling. We’d push each other with the whole “go away and never come back comments”. We’d have the whole it’s not fair discussion. I’ve heard stories from my husband’s family of how they’d have all that too. We weren’t so different. Revenge is common too. The “I did it because so and so did xyz to me first”. Yeah, you know those conversations.
Families with children on the spectrum are no different. Except that it can be louder, more physical, more interventions, and well, just more. I have noticed something about Christian and Emelie, as they get older, the interventions are less and the getting along is more. The physical stuff has virtually disappeared, unless it’s the unwanted and unsolicited hugs.
We still have the “it’s not fair” “why can so and so and not me” and the “they don’t like/love me” from both of them. And there are still days that name callings happen. However, there was a time Christian and her being there for each other was a farfetched idea. Christian and Em were going to be at each other their whole life is what it seemed like. It bothered me to no end. I just wanted them to tolerate and respect each other.
One year ago even, Em would antagonize Christian and he antagonize back. It was tears all the time. They were always pushing the other to the verge of tears. Christian so desperately wanted to be the big brother and didn’t know how to connect with Em. None of us did. There was no respect. It was a tit for tat in our house. I thought I was going to go nuts listening to them.
Em’s complaints were numerous and loud. Christian didn’t love her. He didn’t play with her. He didn’t do anything with her. He was mean to her. Why could he do that and she couldn’t? He was a jerk. He was evil. He didn’t help her. He was going away and never coming back. No explaining or consoling could help her understand it and wrap her head around it. She was set in her mindset. And it bothered and hurt Christian very much.
Christian on the other hand was frustrated with her. His complaints were very focused. She is lazy. She pushes everyone’s buttons. She doesn’t know boundaries. She always gets what she wants. She never wants to do things when I offer. She’s mean to me. She calls me all kinds of names. She didn’t want him around. She is stubborn and you can’t tell her anything. She always gets to do what she wants. Even though he cared for her deeply, he couldn’t get past how things were.
They were both arguing the same points often. Sometimes it was trying very hard to let them work it out that drove me nuts as I wanted to fix it. Yet here we are a year later. And we are all still alive. Em and Christian are respecting each other more. There are fewer days with full day arguments and more days of understanding.
Christian is more of the big brother protector which leads Em to believe that he doesn’t believe in her. That is where a lot of the communication breakdown happens. He is still learning how to let her grow up and not just be his baby sister. Respect is still coming and there are days I want to pull my hair out.
Trying to help them get through this awkward phase in their relationship can be tricky. Helping Christian understand that he has to let go and be ready to catch Em is she falls with a safety net in place. He has to learn to show her he believes in her and that to do so is showing her respect. He’s working on it. He’s a great big brother who does a lot for Em and with Em.
Em on the other hand is growing up. She still has a lot of social cues to learn. They often begin forming at home and with Christian. Once she realizes how much Christian does for her, she will be the thankful sister. She shows him appreciation and thanks when she realizes stuff now. There is hope. Respect for Christian is still a bit away but there is a glimmer of hope. Redirection and talking with her to understand his view helps but they still have to learn to work things out.
In the meantime, I’m going to take a lot of deep breaths and find my happy place. I will guide them both as I can. But like all things, this is something that cannot be forced. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink is very much like helping siblings get along. We will try to help them, but they have to work on it too. And these 2 may be slow as molasses in January in our frozen north but they are moving in the right direction.