This morning the sound of Ethan happily playing with his sleepover friend, Sage, would have brought me much happiness, except, except…. it made me cry. Made me cry because I almost never hear this in the morning in spite of Ethan having a twin brother. Because of Autism.
Ethan is an 8 year old boy: they talk with their friends, play games that involve a lot of conversations, pretending and planning and even their battles are all words. “I am using water smite on you now”.
And Jacob, he screeches like a monster and throws toys. It’s not that he’s non-verbal, he talks a lot (actually all the time, but that’s another long post to come), but doesn’t have the ability to keep up with the rapid flow of thoughts and ideas exchanged in typical play. He can carry on a conversation, IF it’s on his terms, his topic, and Ethan has just not signed up for that job.
Most mornings start like this… Jacob: “Ethan wake up, are you awake, Ethan? Eeeeeethan? Are you a robot? Ethan, are you a robot? Wake up, Ethan! Are you a robot?” Ethan: “SHUT UP JACOB!!!!! Mom, Jacob is bothering me, make him stop, make him shut up, he is the stupidest most annoying meanest brother in the world!!!!! Moooooom!”
And some days I am sanguine, take it in stride, separate them (as much as I can in a small apartment), get them (separately) busy, feed them (different breakfasts), get them ready for (their separate) schools or camp and summer school and their (separate) busy days.
And other days it’s hard. The woulda-been, coulda-been, shoulda-beens bite me in the ass and I mourn the family we are NOT, the family time we just can’t have, the ease of two kids the same gender and age that I see taking place in the families of twins we know and hang out with.
This morning hearing Ethan so happy playing with his friend brings it all back, the dashed expectations: My sons will not be lonely they will have each other. Instead, today Ethan is happy and Jacob is lonely. Most days they are both lonely, Ethan bothered, angry and Jacob hurt, rejected. And I can’t fix it, I just don’t know how, I feel like a failure as a mother.
Maybe if I got up at 5 am to get everything ready so in the mornings I didn’t have to be busy, I could just facilitate and scaffold their interactions with each other. But what even then? Ethan would still want to play games whose sophistication is so beyond Jacob, and Jake would still be too loud, too physical, too repetitive for his nimble minded brother, so what then? They could play successfully for 10 minutes, with me sculpting every moment, maybe, on the good days, and then, back to business as usual for the rest of the morning? And I got up at 5 freaking AM for that? Um, no thanks.
I read a lot of true and fictional accounts of families with siblings both on & off the autism spectrum, trying to feel not so alone, trying to get into Ethan’s head, figure out how I can help make it easier. And you know what? They all suck.
Not because they are not wonderful, they are, especially this one: Rules by Cynthia Lord (who obviously has a kid on the spectrum herself). But because all those boys and girls (and for some reason it’s usually girls) while they may have difficult moments, when push comes to shove, they are unfailingly loyal to their Autistic brothers. Their parents describe them as their kid’s best therapist. And that is so far from happening in our house, I end up feeling worse rather than comforted, and no more clued in to what I can do to turn things around than before.
So, the sounds of happy morning playtime in my house are so rare. They do happen from time to time, when Ethan is feeling generous and happy and Jacob is being calm, his sweet funny self flying free, not frustrated by Ethan’s rejections.
A few weeks back, on a lazy Sunday morning, they took all their stuffed Pokemon
I held my breath, tiptoeing, smiling, puttering quietly around the house so as not to break the magic yet. Like an amateur juggler holding too many balls, I knew they were going to start dropping soon, but for just a moment they were all gloriously in the air, and all was right with the world.
NOTE: This was actually written 2 weeks ago on July 11th, so that’s the “today” of the post, not to confuse anyone who might have been at my boys birthday party today, actually, and be going “huh?” I am just so overwhelmed these days, I wrote & then lost this until now, searching for something to throw up quickly to not be completely lame having gone a month without actually posting anything.