You might think this is a scene typical of many family bathrooms—a chain of cars stuck to tiles, the sort of design a kid would make during tub time. Actually, it is a form of Sabrina sibling torture.
Max can't raise his arms very high because they're stiff (thank you, cerebral palsy). So usually, he'll line up cars way at the bottom of the wall, where he can reach them. Sabrina likes to dart into the bathroom when he's not around and arrange them up high out of his reach. When Max pulls open the curtain at night for his bath and sees this arrangement, he screeches. It's sort of like the shower scene in Psycho, but not.
There's the standard sibling teasing and tormenting. But then there's the kind directed at a sibling with special needs, the kind that involves Sabrina doing things that target Max's physical challenges. Like when she holds toys up and out of his reach. Or when he wants her to write "Max" on a drawing he made and she writes "Sabrina." Or when she gives him a barely perceptible shove and it totally throws him off balance.
I've had conversations with her in which I've explained she has to be kind to Max because she's his sister and and he needs a little extra help, love and caring.
They don't seem to have penetrated.
Sabrina did attend her very first Sibshops session last month. There were about six other little girls there, and I dropped her off then returned three hours later. They did some crafts and played games geared toward opening up conversations about siblings—like "Popcorn," in which the girls sat in a circle and each wrote two things about themselves and two things about their siblings on slips of paper. They crumpled them up, threw them into the center, and then took turns picking papers and discussing stuff. Sabrina's words about Max (can you guess?): "purple" and "spaghetti."
It's gonna take a lot more Sibshops and maturity for her to chill. I'm a little scared because I basically didn't stop torturing my sister till I went off to college. Hopefully, things will be different between Sabrina and Max because there's a very different sort of dynamic.
Meanwhile, they have the occasional tender moment. We got Max a Cars 2 Look and Find book, where you have to pick out objects in a sea of images. They've been sitting on his bed at night and examining it together, and he's doing just as well as she is spotting things. "Good job, Max!" she says.
At times like those, I feel melt-y. And then I'll hear her shouting out to him, as they fall asleep, "MAX! NO SPAGHETTI FOR YOU EVER AGAIN!"