Sibling Saplings (at The Squashed Bologna)
Sibling Saplings – by Spectrummy Mummy
I was born and raised in the same place. My roots grew deep into the soil. I shared a childhood with my friends, and with our years of shared experiences, we remained friends as we became adults together. My chosen sisters.
I wasn’t close to my brothers growing up, but planted side by side, as we’ve grown older, our branches have intertwined. Though I live on a different continent, I feel that we’re probably closer now than ever.
It is different for Third Culture Kids like mine. My little saplings are transplanted from one country to another every two or three years. Their roots don’t get a chance to bury into the ground, but spread like vines across the world.
Many Foreign Service children find it tough to make friends, and instead rely on the closeness of the sibling relationship-friendship with the only person to understand and share their life. It is not uncommon for such children to describe their brothers and sisters as best friends. That is how I imagined things would be for Pudding and Cubby.
The seeds were planted two years ago, when Cubby was born, but the signs of autism were emerging in Pudding. Pudding’s sheltered little world was disturbed by this chaotic, screaming, routine-breaking, parent-snatching, attention-stealing, unpredictable bundle of need. From the very beginning, she was conflicted about his arrival in her life, resenting and pursuing him at once.
Sensory-seeking Pudding was too boisterous in her attentions, and the sensitive-avoider Cubby would scream whenever she came near. Pudding would lash out at him, or withdraw into herself. A relationship between the two of them seemed impossible.
I would try to come up with games or sensory play that they might share in together. Inevitably, it led to fighting and tears. Everybody felt frustrated and miserable, myself included. Pretty pathetic for what was supposed to be fun for all. So I gave up.
I’d concentrate on one child at a time. Finding something else to occupy the other, or making the most of Cubby’s nap time, or the times that my husband was around so we could, at times, divide and enjoy our only children. I let go of my expectations of the kind of siblings they’d be, and let them just be.
Now things are really starting to change. Since Cubby turned two, the developmental gap between the two of them is closing. They find each other funny, get into trouble together, blame each other for their mischief, and fight too, of course.
But mostly, they play; sometimes side-by-side, sometimes even together. I didn’t need to teach them, they are figuring it out together, dare I say, like ordinary siblings. Ordinary being a word I don’t tend to associate with either of them.
I think of Cubby as a sort of hybrid plant. He has sensory processing differences, like his sister, but without the communication challenges. He can already tell us with his words the things that bother him, which Pudding would only show through her behavior at this age. The more I learn from and about one child, the more I can understand, and apply it to the other.
They are still very young, of course. I don’t know what will happen when Cubby’s development surpasses that of his sister. I don’t know if autism will create distance, or if moving will bring them closer.
All I do know is that they are experiencing the world together in a way that nobody else is. They have a unique connection. The shoots of a budding relationship have appeared.
It is a connection that grows organically, and is cultivated by the two of them alone. When Cubby couldn’t bear to be touched by his tactile-loving sister, she was the one who covered him in stickers, and he let her. Pudding struggled to do her yoga homework for occupational therapy, and Cubby was the one who motivated her.
She was the one he sought for a hug when he was distraught at his parents for a blood draw that went wrong. I just have to leave them to it, which is the part I find difficult.
In amongst the thicket of squabbling and demands, they are flourishing. They are still very young, and they have plenty of time to grow together. My hope is that if I can just stop trying to propagate a relationship between them, a beautiful togetherness will blossom. Perhaps it will be perennial.