It’s an easy enough thing to forget. Most of the time, I’m so busy trying to figure out how I’m going to manage the day that I don’t stop to consider that having a big brother with Autism is not exactly a cake walk. In fact, it’s a lot tougher than I give my five-year-old daughter, Cammie, credit for. Most days, she displays more patience with her seven-year-old brother with Autism than anyone should expect from a five-year-old – but she’s never known any different.
In many respects, my kids have a very typical love-hate sibling relationship. But she has also had to come to accept that there are a different set of rules and expectations for her brother, and that he is not like her friends’ siblings. We do our best to build in activities to our weekly routine that don’t involve her brother so that she gets to be the star of the show and have 100% of our attention now and again, but where she really lucks out is on vacations.
For the past three summers, my daughter and I have travelled to British Columbia to visit my folks. I’ve always thought of it as a way for me to get a break without leaving my husband to deal with the chaos of caring for two young children on his own — one child with Autism is certainly enough of a handful. This past year, it became very clear to me that the trip was also a much needed break for my daughter.
This year’s trip was a whirlwind – we left on a Thursday and flew home on the following Tuesday, but we still managed to pack in trips to the local berry farm and turkey farm, a lot of swimming and best of all, a trip into Washington state for shopping and girl time with Grandma. Cammie got to be the center of attention and get smothered with love and spoiled by her grandparents. We didn’t need to limit our activities because her brother wouldn’t be able to handle them. And best of all, she didn’t have to compete for my attention.
As a mom, it was wonderful to see my daughter truly relax and get to be a kid. She didn’t have to worry that her brother was okay, or check on him for me. And she got to enjoy a rested and less stressed out version of me, which I can only imagine is a lot more fun to be around. While I hope that by next summer we’ll be able to make the trip out west with my son, it has also become clear to me that I need to find more opportunities to spend one-on-one time with my daughter. After all, everyone needs a bit of respite!