I wrote this post early in the summer but didn’t manage to publish it until now. I’ve added an update in italics at the end.
I managed the unthinkable. I got my teenager to talk to me. (*gasp*) I know. I’m just as shocked as the rest of you. Now, to be fair, I don’t know if the things he said are true, but at least he said something.
I also managed the thinkable. I was completely and utterly wrong (if the things he said are true.) It’s not the first time, and certainly not the last. I should have known, of course, because it’s always about Yoshi. This time that part isn’t even my fault.
My last post [before my apology post] was about normal parenting problems with the regular, “normal” kid in my house. I made a rash assumption in that post that those problems he’s having are not induced by his brother this time. I really felt confident about that.
The problem with having a special child (the problem—ha!) is that tricky bit of comparison. It’s always there, and in everything. As a parent, we try not to use Big Brother as a gauge for Yoshi, because, of course, Yoshi’s scale of life is different. But, in some degree, we do. Even if it’s as simple as saying, “Big Brother did that so much younger,” and not feeling bad about it. It’s still a comparison.
Sometimes we do feel bad about it. It’s human nature. Sometimes we try to reason it away with rationalization and justification from the other side—about how far ahead of the curve Big Brother has always been, so Yoshi probably isn’t that far behind. We think about their futures, and put them side by side. Whose is brighter?
As the parents, we often feel guilty about the situation, even though there is little we can do to change it.
Other people compare them. I think (just conjecture here) when friends are asking for a side-by-side comparison of my kids, it’s merely to get a picture of Yoshi’s situation. It’s easier to see where he actually is by looking at where he should be. They’re looking at how the boys behave. But family is a little different.
Our family tends to compare the way we treat the boys. It’s more of an external comparison of the way we behave towards the boys versus an internal comparison of the boys’ behavior. We do this too, but I think we spend less time analyzing it. All children need different things from their parents, and I think a lot of parents treat their kids uniquely, responding to the way each child needs to be cared for. There is a really big gap between special children and “normal” children.
It’s impossible for us to have the same standards for Yoshi that we do for Big Brother. Well, we could. In order to do that, we would have to lower our standards for Big Brother. Honestly, I would rather treat my children differently and see them both succeed to the best of their own ability than to let one of my children lag because the other isn’t up to it.
Big Brother doesn’t see it that way.
It was silly of me to think that the issues we are going through with Big Brother right now weren’t somehow connected to Yoshi. It’s always about Yoshi. Which is the exact reason that this is about Yoshi, according to Big Brother.
*Side note: in my defense, I had good reason to think something else was in play this time. This year, (objectively) it really was not all about Yoshi.
Being the sibling of a special child is unfair. That is the plain truth. As the parents, we often feel guilty about the situation, even though there is little we can do to change it. Okay, nothing we can do. Yoshi needs more: more time, more attention, more energy. I will be the first one to admit that Big Brother got the short end of the stick.
This year, of all years, should have been the year that he did not go into a death spiral because he feels neglected.
We are currently dealing the fallout of pushing Yoshi to the back burner. I can see that it did actually happen—even if Big Brother can’t. I don’t blame him for not being able to see it. For years, he has been conditioned to expect to be left to his own devices. We know we can count on him to take care of himself, and we let him. One four month period isn’t going to undo all of that.
I would love to say that my problem is… like I only have one problem at the moment. One of my problems is that no matter how we got here, we’re still here. It’s almost worse now that I know the reason is something that I can’t do anything about. This year, of all years, should have been the year that he did not go into a death spiral because he feels neglected. And yet… he did.
We made great strides. We got him to talk. We were calling this summer the Summer of Punishment (dun dun dun!!) but after some great conversations, we’ve taken out some of the sting of “punishment”. Okay, we’re still calling it the Summer of Punishment. (It’s catchy, it stuck.)
We talked a lot about being on the same team and finding solutions to problems together. We want Big Brother to come to us when he is in trouble so that we can help him get out. Sometimes getting out of trouble will seem like punishment, because consequences and punishment are similar. Sometimes getting out trouble will seem like punishment because fixing the problem can take a lot of work and that can be hard. The point is that we are not trying to punish anymore. We are trying to help.
Now we wait to see if it made any difference.
While we’re waiting, my poor brain will continue its dichotic struggle between my sons. Right now they need me equally and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around.
At this point, obviously, the Summer of Punishment has reached its conclusion. I’m hesitant to be optimistic, and yet I’m optimistic. I feel like Big Brother grew a lot over these months—which is exactly what we were hoping for. High school has gotten off to a great start for him. I can’t directly attribute the strength of character progress I observed to the strains he suffered this summer, but a mother can pretend that she had some hand in her son’s successful development.
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