Some time ago I had written about an experience that my teen had at the library where a few grown adult women were making fun of little Tot. We had a big talk that day. It was one of those conversations that so many of us have had with our children whose siblings might be a little different. The one where we tell them they can’t fight everyone; where we have no answer to why people are so cruel to others. It was that day that began this secret inner questioning my teen held inside of himself. Every so often he would randomly ask a question about this brother, but mostly I never knew what he was thinking about.
One day out of the blue he had mentioned to me that he was happy that Tot wasn’t in school with him. Caught off guard and a little offended (or defensive) I asked him why he would say that and he responded with, “I couldn’t deal with people if they were mean to him. I’d be expelled because I wouldn’t let it happen.” I tried to talk to him about it, but he didn’t want to and eventually wandered off into his room and never spoke of it again.
This happened 2 years ago and ever since there hasn’t been much mention of anything. He seemed to go back to his brooding teenage self who was annoyed by his little brother’s constant refusal to recognize his need for privacy. He went off to CO for the school year and talks to Tot when he will let him; Tot takes over his room while he’s away and plans a big celebratory car wash for when he returns. Everything has been as normal as it ever was; then today I called Teen to see how he was doing. He’d been kind of bullied the last week and I wanted to see if he was okay, but I wasn’t expecting his answer.
He told me he was fine, but something important happened today. He said that a Sophomore was coming out of the special needs classroom and walked up to him, gave him a high five and said, “Hey, what’s up!” before wandering off down the hall before he got an answer. This wouldn’t be anything remarkable except that this boy reminded him of his brother, an older version in high-school with him. He wanted to tell me that it made his day, that he knew now that his little brother was going to be just fine.
Here he was being picked on at school by people who he had thought were his friends and none of it mattered because his little brother was going to be okay when he got to high-school. He wanted me to tell Tot that he met someone who reminded him of him and that it really made his whole day; so I did.
It’s hard to filter the world from our older kids. They see stories about kids with autism being bullied, beaten or worse and it scares them. They see people make fun of their siblings or as they grow older, see them struggle with their differences in relation to their own. Things that might be a little odd to other people are so normal to me; so I forget at times what my oldest (who lives mostly outside of our world) might be concerned about. It doesn’t help that he is such an inward person that must be half dragged out of his shell to get him to talk about anything, but that doesn’t mean that the worries don’t exist in there.
I’m thankful for the random boy that smiled at him today and gave him a high five, who had taken the unconscious initiative to show my son that everything is going to be alright. I think in some way it showed him that despite what he was through right then, that he was going to be okay too.