Friday, June 5, 2009

Will she stick up for him?

Like many siblings, Sabrina and Max have a complex relationship.

She loves him fiercely. When we were on the Disney cruise and left the kids in the playroom, she'd stick around Max and make sure he was doing OK, sometimes keeping a protective hand on his back. At the beach recently, all she wanted to do was write "Max" in the sand over and over and over again. And today she asked if she could marry Max when she grew up. When I said no, because sisters and brothers don't marry, she said, "OK, you marry him."

But then, they fight and pull each others' hair. And Sabrina cannot stand it when Max touches any of her stuff. You may have heard a very loud scream the other day emanating from somewhere in the Northeast; that was Sabrina, losing it when Max innocently laid a hand on a Princess Ariel vanity table we got from a neighbor.

A few days ago, she had a playdate with another little girl. They were hanging in Sabrina's room, and Max and I walked in and he said "Hi!" to the girl. "I don't want to say hello to Max," she said. "I don't want to play with him. He drools."

A look of concern flickered across Sabrina's face.

"I don't want to play with Max, either," Sabrina said.


That's the sound my deflating heart made.

I didn't force the matter and simply said, "Let's be friendly, girls. Max just wanted to say hi!" They went about their business, Max and I left and hung out.

It's the first time anything like this has happened. Later, I said to Sabrina, "Max is your brother, and you should always be nice to him. So if another kid says she doesn't want to play with him, please don't say that, too. It could hurt his feelings."

She didn't respond, though as always, I knew those wheels inside her head were turning and she understood.

It's going to be hard for Sabrina navigating the realities of her social life and the realities of Max. I just hope that she sticks up for her big brother.


  1. I have no doubt that once Sabrina understands more about her brother, when she gets older, she will gladly stick up for him (if he wants her to)... If not, there is always judo... ;-)

  2. Your conversations with her intrigue me. Noah corrected me the other day when I called her my baby. He disagreed that they'll both always be my babies.

  3. I'm crushed for you and Max...but I'm totally crushed for Sabrina. I have the same fears for Brian's future. It has to be hard when you want to make friends and people are teasing your sibling. I'm sure there are more times like this ahead...but you handled it so well that I doubt there will be many!!

    Hope your toe is feeling better, Ellen!

  4. Hi Ellen, This is Joyce. Navigating those sibling waters is so tough. And very few of us parents have lived that role so it is hard to wear both hats. If you don't know about I would highly recommend going to the website and also seeing if there is a Sibshop in your area that Sabrina could go to. They are wonderful. They also have a listserve and a yahoo group that you can subscribe to that has a lot of helpful information.

  5. I agree with Rich. Sabrina is just young right now. Just wait until she gets a bit older. Em even takes up for the disabled kids at her school so trust me it will happen.

  6. OK, I can speak to this on a personal level, Ellen. My brother had to wear a big old hearing aid and a clunky shoe because his foot was messed up and his leg was too short. We were a year apart but went to school in the same grade.

    We had other brothers and sisters who would jump in and defend him, but I got the job most of the time because we were so close in age. I am not going to tell you I was always happy to have the duty of sticking up for him, because there were times I wanted a "normal" brother and got tired of always having to check on him and make sure that no one was messing with him or giving him a hard time. It did sometimes interfere with my relationships with my peers, but oh, well, what doesn't kill ya, makes you stronger. Plus, those stupid folks are all scattered to the four winds and some of 'em are in jail, but I still have my brother and the boys still have an uncle. So there ya go. I didn't get that at the time, but I did pretty quickly after I got out of school. It doesn't take long to get your priorities straight if you were raised right.

    There will be times when she feels the "burden" and just wants to be a little girl, not tasked with the responsibility of making sure her brother is looked after, having fun, entertained, and so on, but there will also be times when she'll be more than happy to beat the ever-loving $#!+ out of anyone who picks on HER brother.

    The important thing is to let her have some time where she doesn't HAVE to be tied to Max at the hip. I sometimes didn't get enough of that, and that's when the irritation would build. Fortunately, my mother "got it" eventually and if I had an after-school activity, she or my daddy would come and get my brother and take him for ice cream or something, instead of having him sitting with me waiting on the sidelines for me to finish my softball game or whatever and come with me on the late bus (he would get beat up bad if I wasn't with him on the bus--the kids in my school were pretty mean, and the school administrators were pretty pisspoor, too, pardon my language--the kids didn't mess with me, though, or I would kick the crap out of them).

    It's a balancing act. Sabrina's figuring out that Max is really different, and she's also figuring out how she feels about that--and it won't always be sunny feelings, that's just the truth. There will be some resentment along the way.

    You'll find your way, it'll just take a little time and a lot of little conversations, too (and if her playdate friends are too unkind or downright mean about Max, and don't respond to the little nudges toward understanding, maybe switch some of those little b-words out, too, if you know what I mean).

    You'll get there. It won't always be easy and there will be some hurts and pouts and what-about-MEEEEs, but you'll get there.

  7. If I had to guess then I'd say that she'll do the right thing most of the time and mess up every once and a while like we all do.

  8. Ellen, my heart broke a little when I read your story. That must have been really tough for you. But I really think that Sabrina will be Max's constant protector when she gets to be a little older. When I was young, I was friends with a girl whose older brother had severe CP and was unable to walk. She always defended him and even banished one of our other friends from her home for making cruel comments about him. In addition, I have a brother who stuttered as a child. We may have fought like cats and dogs, but I wouldn't tolerate anyone making fun of the way he talked.
    Sabrina really is a great little sister. I hope that Daniel has a sibling like her someday.

  9. My heart would have broke in a thousand pieces and it would have took all my might not to put the little girl on the doorstep and call her mother.
    My sister was Down Syndrome and as a child I was very (maybe too) vocal about my sister. When she was a child she was trached and to most people this unknown and caused frequent stares, I will always remember sticking my head in their way to block the stare and asking 'do have have any questions?'. Even when we were at Disney I told a young child to stop staring at my sister and her grandmother was quite annoyed. Sabrina is young and maybe unlike me she will choose her battles and let others slide.

  10. Wow. These comments are really heartening. Kate, don't feel bad for Sabrina, the event was insignificant to her, though obviously it was a big deal for me.

    Joyce, I've heard about Sibling Support, I think Sabrina might be young for it, but I will at least look into that.

    Felicia, you literally could write the book on this topic. Your brother was lucky to have a strong kid like you, your kids are lucky to have a strong mom like you. Excellent point about having private time with both kids. That is actually going to start this weekend, I think, as Max is out of sorts and I may just grab Sabrina tomorrow and head up with just her to my college reunion.

    Angi, I hadn't even thought about talking to that girl's mom that day, maybe I should have. Something to keep in mind if it ever happens again.

    Jo, Rich, Jenn, you are right, Sabrina is young. She's a strong spirit, I am trying not to read too much into this one incident. TRYING!

  11. hmm this gave me an idea for a story about nick

    My siblings well it is sticky like u said in the first sentice. I am sure S will stick up for her brother when she understands why he drools and stuff that he can not help because of CP give it time. i think sibshops will be useful for Sabina. there are also books on the topic. I do belive A view from my shoes is a good book for S. I am not sure though how old is she again?

    good luck


  12. Oh, how this must have broken your heart! I think she will grow to be a fierce protector. She has you for an example of how Max should be treated/protected and you will teach her the right way to go. Yes, there will be times that she messes up, but you are setting a good foundation for her.

  13. She will figure it out and love will be fierce.
    My older kids actually argue over who will "take care of Jake" later in life.
    It warms my heart to hear how much she loves her brother at a young age.
    Navigating teen years might be hard in spots but she will always love him.

  14. I have the same worries for my kids. I think it might take Sabrina time, but she will find her balance. Especially with you there to guide her in the early formation of her peer relationships.

  15. wow, i really resonate with your thoughts. sounds like you handled it beautifully. i think our typical kiddos will be so much stronger for having special needs siblings. and our special kiddos will be so much stronger for having to deal with their typical silbings. i firmly believe that siblings are the most amazing gifts we can give our kids. sending hugs to you!! xo


Thanks for sharing!

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