Wednesday, August 16, 2017

This is his big brother who takes care of him, and that's how he'll always see him

We inherited a swing set from friends this summer. Ben loves the swing, and Max loves pushing him. It makes me really happy to watch the two of them together, and see their relationship blooming. Unlike some people, Ben sees Max for who he is.

Max and Sabrina are always watching over Ben. "No, Ben!" Max informs him when Ben tries to use the couch as a jungle gym. "Benny! You're going to get your fingers stuck!" Sabrina says as Ben opens and shuts all the doors. "Benjamin! Eat the pasta!" Max cajoles him at mealtime. 

Ben doesn't yet see any difference between his older siblings, other than the fact that he's now able to point out who's a boy and who's a girl. Perhaps he never will. All Ben knows is that he's got a brother and sister who look after him, play with him, squeal when he does something cute and generally love him to pieces.

As he grows up, Max will be that same person in his eyes: a brother who is there for him. He will likely have questions about his cerebral palsy, but he won't think of Max as special or treat him with kid gloves, as is true of Sabrina. (Hopefully, he will stop trying to bite Max when he gets on his nerves.) He won't think of Max as someone who can care for him "despite" the cerebral palsy—how it seems people sometimes view people with disabilities.

I've heard it implied so many times over the years:

Wow, he can play tee-ball! [Despite his disability.]
And he can ride a bike?! [Despite his disability.]
And he can use Google and email? [Despite his disability.]
And he's learned to read and write! [Despite his disability.]
And he's so happy! [Despite his disability.]

Thinking that someone achieves things "despite" a disability unintentionally demonizes disability, making it out to be a nefarious force when, in fact, it is an organic part of a person. Having a disability is not all of my child, but one aspect of who he is. Too often, people can only see that one aspect.

To be sure, Max has challenges to overcome. And it's true that as his mom, I don't take his accomplishments for granted, something instilled in me from the doom-and-gloom predictions at his birth. Still, the way I see Ben treating Max makes me wish that people treated Max more typically. Not someone who succeeds "despite" his disabilities, but someone who is the whole package of challenges, competence, abilities and potential, like any one of us. 


  1. Earlier this summer my Max volunteered at the local nursery school camp and he loved every minute - partially because the 3 and 4 year olds didn't question him about his disability and seemed to accept and love him just because he was fun. They even understood that Max did things differently and they were completely fine with accommodating him and often suggested ways that Max could play with them even easier. I only wish I could say the same about 13 and 14 year olds!

  2. We've had the same matter-of-fact treatment from our younger brothers. They see us in a way that so few people do in the world - as people they look up to. To them, our disabilities are an inextricable part of who we are - not a game-changer in any way. It is a great gift.


Thanks for sharing!

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