…Often, typical siblings have a lot more responsibilities placed on them, especially in single parent households like mine. At times I feel like a mother figure to my three younger siblings. Not that my mom doesn’t fill that role, but with the added work of special needs children everyone does more than their share. When she has to be away or when she’s sick, I might have to care for my three younger siblings by myself because I’m often the oldest child at home. Taking care of my brothers by myself and having the day revolve around them and their needs is exhausting. I try to supply the love, calmness, and patience – LOTS of patience they need – but I never feel like I can do it. I also feel bad when I realize that I’ve spent most of my attention on my special needs brothers, and my youngest sibling, who is also a typical sibling, doesn’t get the same amount of attention. That really hits home for me as I can relate to the feeling of being the “less important” child because my siblings with special needs require so much attention. I remember once, a few years ago, my mom got sick. Normally when she’s sick she just keeps going because she is the main caregiver in the home, but this time she couldn’t even get out of bed. The only other adult living with us was one of my sisters, but she was gone frequently due to school. That left me responsible for taking care of the household, which included a farm and pets. It was an utterly exhausting week and I barely got the minimum done. Medications were never given on time, meals were whatever I could get my brothers to eat (so mainly cereal), and I think one of my brothers wore his pajamas for two days straight. My special needs siblings’ behavior spiraled out of control without our mom to regulate the day. She’s definitely the center of gravity for my special needs siblings and keeps everything in order. Even now if my mom gets sick, I feel slightly panicked that the same thing will happen again, and I’ll be left with more than I can handle.
My siblings have taught me to look at people differently. I am much more accepting of others and appreciate their uniqueness. I have also been able to help others with special needs in situations where others haven’t understood their behavior.
The man that made that comment about my brothers not holding open the door was truly just trying to encourage my brothers to be respectful. I appreciate that our church encourages us to be courteous. I realize though, that very few can completely understand the road that mental health disabilities takes you on.
My mom calls our family situation a “severe mercy” or an “uncomfortable grace.” There are a lot of really hard things that come with special needs siblings, but I wouldn’t change my family. I don’t really think of my special needs siblings as “the ones with disabilities” as many people do, but rather they are just my brothers, and I love them. Paul Tripp said, “God will take you where you didn’t intend to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t have done on your own.” All of my brothers and sisters bring joy to my life, and I can’t imagine any of them not being here. One of my little brothers has a profoundly quirky way of viewing the world, and it often brings laughter into our home. I really don’t think I could pinpoint what the best thing about having a special needs siblings is. I’m not sure at this point that I can even realize it myself, but I know that it is making a positive impact on who I am and who I will become.
Elizabeth Moore is a homeschool sophomore, born and raised in southern Oregon. She is the fifth of eight children and loves being with her family. She enjoys playing the violin, reading, being out in nature, and volunteering at Joni and Friends Family Retreats.