Return of the Wonder Twins

When Big and the Princess were little, I called them the Wonder Twins. They’re not twins. They’re not even technically Irish Twins – they missed that by 19 days – but they’re close enough. And the two of them together…..yeah…..two creative, intelligent, mischievous minds working together to cause as much chaos in my world as possible. I couldn’t mentally keep up with the two of them. I believe I’ve shared some of their earlier antics – him cutting all her hair off twice, running away while I was feeding their brand new baby brother, finger painting with baby shampoo all over their bedroom floors (carpeted), unraveling an entire Costco-size package of toilet paper and tossing another package of toilet paper into my full jacuzzi bathtub, making a mud pit in our backyard and basically bathing in it, climbing up on top of the fridge to reach the candy I’d hidden up there…..They work well together, what can I say?

They’d veered away from creative disasters in recent years. They do have a special relationship, though. That’s never really changed. They are both in high school together this year, and now that Big Man has his driver’s license, they have a bit of freedom away from us they hadn’t had before. I’m seeing a return of the Wonder Twins, and I’m a wee bit terrified of what they might get up to.

They are GOOD kids – both in honors and AP classes, involved in sports and other activities. They have good friends. But I remember that feeling of newly-gained freedom in high school, and I see the writing on the wall. They talk with each other about things they don’t even tell us. They have each other’s backs, for the most part. They move in relatively different circles at school, but they do have some friends that overlap.

I got completely bent the other day when I thought they might be covering for each other. I’ll admit – I’m paranoid. I was a supremely boring kid in high school – never broke the rules, never even thought about it. I was where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there, always (okay, I did skip a few classes senior year, but that’s about it as far as being a rule-breaker). I was basically a nerd. I didn’t party. I did what I was supposed to do, what I was expected to do. But I do  know what my brother and sister got up to, so I’m scared – scared I’ll miss something, so we do keep a watchful eye on them. I don’t expect them to be as boring as I was, but neither do I want them ending up in situations we can’t get them out of.

My point is, my Wonder Twins are back. It’s fun and amazing to watch, but it’s also terrifying in a good way. They’re there for each other, thank god. But look out school – who knows what these two will do.

These Two

I truly didn’t plan to have two kids twelve months apart. I get asked that a lot. I barely had a grip on having one child when I found out the Princess was on her way. I cried. Spouse laughed. Who does that – has two so close together? We did. I wrapped my brain around it, and dug in for the ride.

Big Man, being a preemie, was developmentally nine months old when the Princess was born….not walking, still in an infant seat, still in diapers, still on bottles. It was rough going. But, on the flip side, the two of them have never know anything but the other being there. They  have always been close, and it’s been an amazing relationship to witness. I thought they would brawl like crazy. Nope. Not in the least. They played together, they destroyed together, they drove me insane together. They learned together.

Last year, they were at different schools. They both seemed – at least in my eyes – to struggle a bit without each other, not that they hung out together at school, but knowing the other one was there seemed to give them each balance, strength, a base. This year, they’re both in high school, together.  They move in different circles, although they do have a couple of overlapping friends (those friendships totally intrigue  me because Big Man and P are SOOOOOOO different from each other). I still love their relationship.

I took all three to the mall a couple of weeks ago. Little Man is his own gig entirely, but the other two were asking each other if this shirt, those shorts, this jacket, these shoes looked good on them. I could see how they’ve always been, and I could see how they will be all their lives. They rely on each other. They bounce things off each other. They talk to each other about things they may or may not share with their brother, their parents, or their friends.

Their future boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses will have to pass the sibling test. They will have to understand and accept their relationship. They should know that, and just deal. To try to split that relationship apart would spell the end.

Sometimes I feel bad for Little Man – he is not as close to either as they are to each other. He’s the youngest, and just doesn’t have the same relationship with either as the older two have. I don’t know if he notices it.

I love that these two are so close. While I was completely freaked out about having two twelve months apart, it’s been the most amazing gift to them, and to me.

What’s it like for them?

I saw a book on an autism page I follow, written by the sibling of an autistic child, about what it was like to be the sibling of an autistic child. I didn’t read all the details – the book was targeted towards younger children. But it got me wondering again what it’s like for Big Man and the Princess to be the brother and sister of Little Man. How are they changed, how are they different from who they would be if not for autism being part of our daily world?

Every family has their stuff to deal with. Autism is what’s on our plate. Currently, they are in a different school than Little Man. That will be so for another year and a half. And, quite honestly, we still don’t know he will go to the same high school as they. If he does, how will that change their lives? They get that respite for seven hours a day. They get to be who they are, rather than “sibling to an autistic kid” being in their face constantly. But when they bring friends home, it’s there. Do they explain beforehand? Do they have to explain again? Does it bother them? Does it enter their minds when they’re building those outside relationships? Does it make them anxious?

Here’s the deal  – Little Man is high functioning, and while his social skills have improved immensely, his particular issues mean he can sometimes come across as just a jerk, rather than a kid with autism. Does that make sense? And then there are his quirks – carrying around stuffed animals, obsessing over particular video games and wanting to talk about them ALL THE TIME, needing to leave the movie theater multiple times during a movie when the stimuli is simply overwhelming him, often behaving like an 8-year-old rather than the almost-13-year-old he is but then frequently showing his extreme intelligence. I don’t know how new people, people who don’t really know us, know him, take that in. As siblings, do they, and how do they, prep other people?

Other than that, what is it like for them to be his brother, his sister? I know I lose patience with him sometimes. Trust me, there have been days I’ve seriously earned the Mother Of the Year trophy. Last week, the Princess had enough of his (what should have been thinking bubble) comments, and blasted him. You can bet it didn’t go over well. I completely understood her losing patience. Do they understand why he gets treated a certain way in certain situations? Why he might be allowed to not eat what we’re eating? Why he might get his phone when we’ve said no technology in some social situations? Why we still find him in our bed some nights and don’t always make him go back to his own room?

I’ve seen the Princess mothering him, managing situations to minimize the potential for meltdowns, helping him. Big Man seems less engaged that way, but I know it’s in there, I know it affects him.

If I allow myself to go there, I can nearly break with the thought their lives shouldn’t have to be affected by autism. I do believe it will, in the long run, make them more compassionate, patient, empathetic, understanding people who will defend and stand up for those who need it. I just wish they didn’t have to learn that first hand. What’s it like for them? I may never know completely. I know I generally keep what it’s  really like for me to be his mom to myself (and my blog). I wonder how much they’re keeping to themselves what it’s like to be his siblings?

How would it be?

My best BFF sent me a text this morning, the gist of which was did I ever wonder what our family dynamic would be without autism. I responded that I occasionally do, but it isn’t often I let myself go there because it can be defeating.

How would we be? How and who would he be without autism? I don’t know I can even imagine. He is who he is, and autism is part of that. It’s always been part of us, who we are as a family, even before he was diagnosed. I can’t really picture what our lives would look like if he weren’t autistic. I don’t know I can imagine who he would be, not autistic.

Would he be involved in a sport or some other activity? Would he be constantly outside, playing with his friends? Would he be a better student but with lower grades and test scores?

Autism is part of his make-up. Does it completely suck sometimes? Totally. It is often really hard? Uh, yep. Do I sometimes completely break down, wish it were any other way but this way? Yes, if I’m completely honest, I do. There are days I curse autism and the wreckage it brings. There are days autism wins in our household. When your nine year old tells you he wants to end his life so as to end the pain, you hate autism.

Do I ever ask, “What if?” Certainly. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. I don’t know any autism mom that hasn’t asked that question, maybe even begged to know why her child.

When I do try to picture him without autism, I don’t even see him the way he looks. He would have to look different, in my mind. Does that make sense?

I do worry about the effects of autism on my other two children. As difficult as it is for me as Little Man’s momma, they too deal with the fallout. I know it’s really hard for them sometimes. I also know they are much more compassionate of others with different needs, more patient and understanding because they deal with special needs first hand. Who would they be if Little Man weren’t autistic? What would their relationships be with their brother if he weren’t autistic?

This is why I don’t often think about it, ask what it would be. It leads to so many more questions I can’t answer. Would I take it away if I could? I’ve answered that question before, and I’ll say it again….I love my amazing child, and all the incredible things about  him that autism does bring, but I hate having to watch him try to navigate this world, a world which is not designed to accommodate people like him. I hate how much it hurts him. I hate watching him struggle. So, yes, profoundly yes, I would take it away if I could. But I can’t take it away, and so we journey onward. We are an autism family.

The two of them

Big Man and the Princess are twelve months and nineteen days apart in age. God, in his infinite wisdom (and humor) chose to give us two babies in just over a year, after battling through 18 months of infertility. Since Big Man was 3 1/2 months premature, he was developmentally 9 months old when the Princess was born. Yes, life was interesting. I essentially had two infants who weren’t twins. They don’t even technically qualify as Irish Twins, but they may as well have been. My point is, they’ve never really known anything but having each other around.

These two were a unit right out of the gate, as soon as Big Man got over losing my lap to his sister. Through their toddler years, they conspired to push me to my limits. When I heard either their hysterical giggles, or dead silence, I knew trouble was happening. The Princess didn’t call him by his name for years – he was simply “Bruddah.” The little boy across the street recognized them for the entity they were, calling them both by both their names blended into one name. They didn’t even, for the longest time, realize they weren’t the same sex (granted part of that is developmental in nature). And now when we ask Big Man why he, at four years old, cut off ALL of his three-year-old- sister’s hair,  he will say she didn’t want to look like a girl with her relatively long hair. Sigh.

They are now fourteen and thirteen years old, respectively. They don’t fight. They can, and often do, communicate without talking. The Princess was telling me how they are at school – they share the same lunch time and PE period – and it made me tear up to hear her telling of it. They have a special relationship. It’s pretty amazing to watch. They look out for each other. They laugh a lot at each other’s quirks. They build each other up. They will not let anyone tear the other down. They defend each other. They have their own inside jokes. Their friends are entertained by their relationship.

Sometimes it makes me sad…they  have a relationship I will never be part of. I’m their parent. They have a bond they don’t share with their little brother. He isn’t part of that unit. They don’t neglect him, nor do they exclude him. They just have something he isn’t part of, not that he ever complains. I don’t know he even realizes it.

They are at that age girls grow and boys haven’t quite yet hit their growth peak. In other words, the Princess is very nearly the same height as Big Man. They’ve been hearing that question lately if they’re twins. Big Man isn’t a fan, and can’t wait for his growth spurt.  It makes me more aware how close they are though.

I feel blessed to be on the sidelines watching the two of them together. I love the way they are, and am so happy to be able to watch them as they grow up. The two of them….they’re pretty amazing, individually, and together.

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