Little Man went off to spend the night with his grandparents Saturday night. Big Man and the Princess could have gone too, but they both decided to stay home. At first, I was disappointed for my in-laws. Then I realized it has nothing to do with them, but rather with needing a break from their brother. It dawned on me, siblings need respite too.
It can’t be easy for them. They didn’t ask for this. They had no voice in the decision to add another child to our family. They have their own stuff going on. They hardly ever complain, although we do get some eye-rolling at times. They are teenagers after all. As much as they are involved in their own activities, friends, and school, much of their day is affected by having an autistic brother. Their lives are different for it.
Our kids are old enough for us to leave without a sitter when we go out. We still don’t go far, nor for long, but the older two are older than I was when I started babysitting. So, we’re there. We’re at that stage. However, leaving them means they are in charge of their brother. They are asked to watch his food intake, to make sure he goes to bed, to give him his melatonin. I worry that Little Man will have a tantrum his siblings can’t manage (hasn’t happened in over a year). On a day-to-day basis, they have to live with him…..his needs, his tantrums, his emotional fails. They will help without me having to ask. But I see it wearing on them. They get tired too.
When the opportunity came for them to have a night at home, without their brother around, they took it. I get it. They need a break too.. They need respite. They need a few hours to not be just the siblings of an autistic child, but just to be themselves…normal teenagers without any extra demands being placed upon them. They spent the evening playing video games, watching television, eating pizza and ice cream, and just being lazy. They’ve earned it.