Emma’s Brother

Emma’s school has a sibling group that meets every other week.  The neuro-typical siblings meet for an hour, eat pizza, play games in the gym and generally just hang out for an hour or at least I think that’s what they do.  Nic, who turns twelve in another few months, has no interest in going, so we have never been.  For the past few weeks though, I’ve been encouraging him to give it a try.

“Why not?” I asked him the other day.

“Why would I want to go to her school and be with a bunch of kids I don’t know?” Nic looked at me and then asked,  “Will she be there?”

“No.  That’s kind of the point.  It’s time you can spend without her.”

“Why would I want to do that?  I’d rather go if she was going to be there.”

“Well, you might meet some other kids and find you liked them.  You might make some new friends.”

“But Mom, I have all the friends I need right now.  I don’t need any more friends.”

“What about the idea that you might meet some kids you like who also have a sibling with autism?”

Nic stared at me, seemingly dumbfounded.  “Why?”  he finally asked.

“Well, so you won’t feel so alone.  Because it might help to feel you could talk about it with another kid, because, maybe…”

“Mom,” Nic cut me off.  “I don’t feel alone and I can talk with you and Dad if I feel like it.”

“Don’t you ever want to talk to someone else though?”

“No.”

When Nic was in Kindergarten, less than a year after we received Emma’s diagnosis, we took him to a child psychologist where he did “play therapy.”  This was in the days when he was drawing lots of bloody monsters who ate people.  He would spend hours on a drawing or painting, which he would then present to us proudly.  Red, one of his favorite colors, predominated as the depiction of blood was a prevalent theme.  Blood, carnage, gore, guts, people being decapitated and eviscerated, huge, frightening monsters almost always with severed limbs hanging from their mouths, were common subjects in his earlier work.  Then he went through a phase of depicting serial killers, chain saw murderers and any manner of brutal and horrifying creatures.  Richard would proudly shake his head and mutter something about how the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  And it’s true, Richard and Nic share their love of horror and gore.  But when Nic’s second grade teacher called us to inquire if everything was all right at home because Nic’s graphic artistry was seen as being extreme, we had to have his psychologist speak with the school, assuring them that all was well.

A few years later when Nic’s homework load increased, he chose to stop going to the psychologist with the understanding that he could always go back.  However he has never wanted to.

Still, the sibling group seemed like a good idea, so I’ve been encouraging him to give it a try.

“It wouldn’t hurt to go just once.  You never know, you might find you like it,” I told him.

“Yeah, maybe,” Nic said, though it seemed like he was saying that so I’d stop pestering him more than because he thought it was a good idea.

“They’re having another one in two weeks.  Maybe you’ll feel like going to that one,” I suggested.

“Yeah, maybe.”

For more on our family’s journey through Emma’s childhood of autism, go to:   Emma’s Hope Book

2 responses to “Emma’s Brother

  1. I remember being like Nic. At about the same age my father moved out. It was somehow announced to everyone I knew, teachers, extended family, friends, etc. My dance teacher pulled me aside after class one day and very graciously told me I could talk to her about it whenever I wanted and how sorry she was. Talking to her about this personal hardship was the last thing I wanted. Dance was one of the few area of my life that was free of family and (for a time) free of stress.

    The idea of going somewhere and talking about something that was such a huge part of my life and a largely negative subject, was not thrilling to me. I imagine this is even less so for men as they don’t have the same need to share as women do. (Case: I asked my boyfriend how is male coworker was doing after the birth of his first child. I was told he was fine, my boyfriend had neglected to ask the baby’s name or even the gender, this was somehow not important in their interaction.)

    I think the goal of this group is to create a place where kids like Nic can create relationships that they can trust in and rely on. Why not encourage him in a different way and sign him up for a soccer league or other outdoor sport. Fresh air, manly togetherness, development of teamwork and physical skills. Also, no autism, no icky inner feelings.

    • When I was nine, my father had a terrible horseback riding accident. A couple, who were good friends of my parents took me out with them one Sunday and mentioned that they were there for me. While I never did discuss my feelings or even commented on his accident, I have never forgotten their kindness and have held a special place in my heart for them. We all respond differently to events and things that happen to us. Sometimes offering and consistently being there for another, should they change their mind, is enough.

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