I don’t often discuss my second daughter, much.
This isn’t because I love her any less than my other three daughters but because she is… well, so much easier to parent and be with than the other three. She doesn’t have autism. She’s of an age where she is able to be relatively independent and she enjoys time to herself. She doesn’t need any support socially. She doesn’t have one single sensory issue or struggle. She eats well. She sleeps like a log. She gets along with people fairly effortlessly and she isn’t overly particular or pedantic. She goes with the flow.
Sure, she definitely has a temper. And who could blame her? She’s sandwiched between two other sisters, both of whom have special needs (and opposite triggers, at that.)
Every day I make the conscious effort to connect with her on a special level. To give her time to talk uninterrupted, and listen to her when she speaks. I try really hard not to tell her to be quiet even when I am absolutely exhausted from her other three sisters and their unique demands (one of whom is still a baby and isn’t at the point of understanding the concept of negotiation or compromise just yet).
She fulfils a vital role in our family. She is the sounding board of “normal” or “neurotypical” (aka non-ASD), if you will.
She manages so much. She is so patient. She listens and tolerates her older sister melting down for hours upon hours on end, and her first younger sister bouncing off the walls in hyperactivity and constantly encroaching on her personal space. She doesn’t comment when her older sister is laying on the floor, fingers in her ears, rolled into a ball, screaming loudly. She’s calm when her second youngest sister is hysterical about the way her dinner was presented, and hits and bites her in frustration. She holds her baby sister, lets her thwack her with a brush when it really hurts because she knows that’s her version of “brushing” hair. She reads her stories, makes her giggle, helps her get down when she’s stuck.
She does not complain. Not once.
Because this is her normal.
Having siblings with special needs means she has been raised to be compassionate and understanding by nature. She doesn’t find people “odd”. She doesn’t judge or make fun of. She doesn’t minimise struggles. She is open, accepting and kind.
She’s got a wicked sense of humour, too. She’ll need it to get through her childhood and how it’s been laid out. So we make sure that we honour and encourage her interests and pore over her strengths. They’re totally different to her sisters ones and that’s so fantastic.
She wears her heart on her sleeve – she feels all the feels, the high highs and the low lows. And when we probably should be stricter with boundaries regarding her temper and how she is learning to manage it – we usually aren’t. Because she needs to have an outlet, a safe space where she can fall apart and yell the injustices of her world. She needs to have this space where she can get it all out and know that we won’t punish or scold her because her life is tough at times. She has been dealt a card that is unique to many people.
So we just hold her space and love her through it all. It’s OK to be angry sometimes. But she will never be so angry that we don’t love her or value her in our lives, there is no limit on our understanding and compassion for her. We model that when we fall apart sometimes it’s OK – we just slowly piece ourselves back together again. And our love for each other as a family is unconditional – exactly like her love for her special needs sisters is, too.
I see her. I notice her. I love her. And I am so grateful to her. For balancing us out, for being the pull in our push. For being the fire in our at times icy world.