I am an only child. The concept of sibling bond was often lost on me. I could never quite grasp why siblings put up with each other no matter what.
When we had Chase, I knew that while I would have been totally content to have him be an only child, my greater desire was for him to have a sibling, mainly because I never had that.
When we planned on having a second child, nowhere in our planning did we account for getting pregnant with twin boys, losing a twin boy, and having our survivor end up with a significant disability. Chase was only 20 months old when Maclain was born, so he really had no sense of what was happening. He didn’t grasp the concept of Maclain being in the hospital. But from the day we brought Maclain home, Oct 25th, 2007, I have been witness to the natural development of a lifelong sibling bond.
I don’t know if it is because this is the only experience Chase has a a big brother, but his love and devotion for Maclain is deep and unwavering. They adore each other, and their connection is intense. Chase has had to deal with so much being a brother of a special needs sibling. He has endured appointments, therapy sessions, out of town programs, assessments, and numerous pieces of equipment. He has learned how to put Maclain’s implants on his head, feed him his pudding, operate his bath system, and roll him over onto his back without crushing Maclain’s arm. Yes it is true that older siblings are often called upon to fetch diapers, keep the little ones occupied, help with homework, and share toys, but there is a different level of expectation put on the typical sibling. We work really hard to make sure that the demands on Chase are not too great, so that he never resents his brother. We also have made arrangements for the future so that Chase will not have to bear any burdens with caring for Maclain. I hope of course that Chase will want to help ensure that our plans for Maclain’s future are being carried out, and that Maclain is being loved and cared for and happy. I hope they are in each others lives forever. But I don’t want Chase to be responsible for taking care of Maclain. It really gets to me when people say I am lucky that Maclain has a typical brother who will take care of him when we are not around anymore. It also bothers me when people ask why we didn’t have anymore kids so that Chase could have a typical sibling. What should we consider Maclain then, the consolation prize? Sorry about your luck Chase, but you are going to have to make do?
I don’t think anyone has celebrated Maclain’s accomplishments as much as Chase has. He is literally his biggest cheerleader. He involves him in as many activities as he can, and he never gets frustrated with him. They share a bedroom, which was what Chase wanted, so he would be able to watch over his little brother.
He knows Maclain is different, he asks questions that we sometimes don’t have answers to, he wants to know everything about what Maclain’s future will look like. He tells us that he wishes that his brother could walk, but he is true in his words when he says that its ok if he never does. He loves showing him off to his friends, and bragging about the new things Maclain has learned to do.
There are times when he becomes very overwhelmed worrying about how Maclain will get by at school, and camp, and who will take care of him when he is away from me all day. He has spent many nights crying about things that he is too young to worry about, and that weighs heavily on me. I have moments where I feel sorry for him because he doesn’t have a typical brother. And yet, when you ask him, he says he loves Maclain so much, and he says he has the best little brother and wouldn’t want him any other way.
I think what I am most proud of is that Chase not only embraces Maclain and his disabilities, but that he embraces all kinds of kids and people with special needs. He brags about Maclain’s special needs peers just as much as he does about his brother, and he treats them like they are his siblings. He steps up at school to befriend the exceptional students in his class, and he helps the kids at the park when he sees them struggling with walkers, or waiting for the adapted swing.
We were at a hockey game several months back, and a teenager with CP came up on the big screen to promote an Easter Seals telethon. His speech was a bit hard to understand, but of course Chase and I understood every word, we are used to the way Maclain talks. My friend’s son made a comment about the kid talking funny, and not being able to understand what he was saying. Chase immediately turned around and said ” if you make fun of that boy, it is the same as making fun of my brother”. It was the first time that I saw Chase make a connection like that. My heart just about burst open.
I am brought to tears at some point almost every day when I see how much they mean to each other. It makes me realize very quickly that while this wasn’t the way I planned for things to be when I decided to have another child, it is exactly the way is was supposed to be.