Nic is Emma’s older, neuro-typical brother. Nic is eleven, about to enter the sixth grade and an all around amazing kid. Having Emma as his younger sister is often difficult for Nic, though he usually doesn’t complain. The siblings of children with autism are often burdened with responsibilities far beyond their years. Despite our attempts to encourage Nic not to take on the role of her personal body guard, supervisor and parent, he often does on his own accord. He can’t help himself. He worries about Emma.
Nic has witnessed horrific and violent melt downs. He has seen Emma punch herself in the face, bite herself repeatedly on the hand or arm. He has stood by helplessly as she screamed and shrieked her frustration at not being understood. He has joined in countless searches for such bizarre and arbitrary items as a missing balloon string, a piece of packing tape, a scrap of paper, a specific photograph or a microscopic shred of what is left of her blanket. He has panicked with us when one of us uttered the dreaded words: “Where is Emma?”
Nic is older than Emma by 21 months, yet he is very much the adult to her childlike innocence. In an effort to give Nic time to enjoy himself without the stresses that can come with Emma, Richard and I spend at least one day a week with Nic, alone.
So yesterday, instead of going into my studio I asked Nic if he wanted to hang out with me.
“I’d love that Mom,” he said, nodding his head. “We’ll have some Mom and son time.”
We ended up going to Elephant and Castle (a place that’s been around for almost forty years and where I used to love going when I was in college because of their bowls of latte) for lunch. We discussed the coming school year, who he hoped would be in his class and what teachers he hoped to have.
“What are the top five things you like best about yourself?” I asked.
“I like that I’m a good person, I’m kind, thoughtful, I care about people, I want to help people and I work really hard.”
“You do! That’s all so true,” I said.
“I like that I’m an average skateboarder,” he added.
“You’re a really good skateboarder. What do you mean by that?”
“I like that I’m okay, but not great yet, it gives me something to work toward. Cause like if I was really great and already knew everything, that wouldn’t be as much fun,” he took a bite of his cheeseburger. “Mom, you’ve got to try this. It’s amazing!” He offered me a bite of his burger.
“Okay, if you could change anything about yourself, what would it be?” I asked.
“I’d be a genius,” he answered without hesitation. “What about you?”
“I’d be more patient and not so quick to anger,” I said.
“I think you’re perfect just the way you are, Mom. I don’t think you have to change a thing,” he said, patting my arm.
“Wow, Nic. That’s such an incredibly kind and lovely thing to say.”
“It’s okay Mom. It’s true,” he said looking at me and smiling.
That’s Nic – kind, supportive, incredibly loving and thoughtful.
After we had lunch we went to the movies, then took a walk and talked some more.
“This was a great day, Mom. Thanks for suggesting it,” Nic said as we made our way home.
“I loved it, Nic. I loved spending today with you.”
“Yeah, me too.”
We walked together in silence for awhile, then Nic said, “Mom?”
“Do you think we could get a dog?”
For more on our family’s journey through Emma’s childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com