I think it must be hard to be the older sibling of a child with a syndrome.
Alyssa is very much aware of our house rules.
For example, whatever Dad puts in front of her for breakfast, she eats. And let me say right here, he doesn’t give her things she doesn’t like. But he also know how much she needs to have a good start to the day and he doesn’t let her get away with not eating her breakfast.
Olivia, on the other hand, is a little less impressed by RULES. But then again, sometimes, the rules cannot be enforced for her. Not because she’s a brat or spoiled but because she can’t physically force herself to swallow another bite of what her dad might have just fed her.
It makes Alyssa nuts. It makes her feel like Olivia is a spoiled brat.
One specific morning, the girls were on their ends of the kitchen table. Tom was trying to get Olivia to finish the toast and berries he’d made for her. She was struggling with her breakfast.
Alyssa was on her end eating her Fruit Loops (I know, so very nutritious but we’re calling it iron fortified and letting it go.) She was fussing about the milk Tom has poured for her.
Olivia gagged and asked if she could spit out her toast. Tom told her she could. She came back from spitting out the toast and asked if she could be done. Tom asked her if she wanted cereal instead.
Alyssa gasped, “That’s not fair! I never get to change my mind after you’d made my food.”
Tom wasn’t in the mood to justify his parenting decision to his ten year old. He put O’s bowl of berries in front of Alyssa and said, “Since she can’t eat these you get to.”
Alyssa put her head on the table and cried. She cried real, frustrated tears.
I was at the counter, packing lunches. I called out, “Poor Lyssie.” There was no sarcasm in my tone. I knew Tom was joking about her eating O’s berries but I also knew that Alyssa didn’t know that.
Tom went back and moved the berries from her side of the table. He told her she didn’t have to eat the food her sister wouldn’t eat.
She got up and came to me for comfort. I hugged her and whispered that I know how frustrating it can all be.
By the time we were in the bathroom brushing teeth, Alyssa had dried her tears. But she was still bothered by the unfairness of it all.
I told her that she was right. It isn’t fair that sometimes it feels like there are two different sets of rules in our house. But then I went on and explained, “It also isn’t fair that Livie was born with a syndrome that makes things harder for her. It isn’t that she wouldn’t eat what Daddy made for her today. It’s that she couldn’t. She couldn’t force herself to swallow what she was eating. She’s not just being stubborn, she can’t do it. It’s like when she can’t force words out of her mouth. She wants to, you can see that in her eyes, but she just can’t.”
Alyssa nodded, as if she understood. But I know we’ll probably have this conversation a few more times over the years.
She sees Olivia as her little sister. The kid who can often be annoying but who is just always there, always just Olivia. She doesn’t see a child with a syndrome, a child with special needs, a child who needs the rules to be modified for her.
And I love that. I want that for both of them. I want them to have as normal a sibling relationship as possible. But I also think that at ten years old, Alyssa is old enough, mature enough to be told why sometimes, the rules are adjusted to meet her sister’s needs.
Life isn’t fair. We all know that. Sadly, the older we get, the more this is hammered home to us. It’s how we deal with the unfairness that shows what kind of people we are. I am trying really hard here to be raise my daughters to rise above the unfairness of it all and make the world a better place for everyone they encounter, including themselves.