Dear O & K,
Yesterday, I watched you both walk away from me and toward your middle school. Together you walked for the first time toward a shared experience that is all yours and not at all mine.
As you walked away I was reminded of another time I watched you walk away from me, and toward a shared experience that was all yours and not at all mine. That time you were walking together, for the first time, onto the “big kid” playground at your elementary school.
When you were babies, and then toddlers, and people remarked on the closeness of your ages (16 months for those keeping track), I would say it was like having twins only one of you could accidentally cause bodily harm to the other. You may have been close in age, but there has never been a time when you were close in size! But by the time you were 2 and 3 years old, I was beginning to see that the beauty in having you so close in age, was the fact that there would be so much of life you would experience together, walking side by side. And that the older you got, you would be able to share experiences that were fully yours, and not at all mine or your father’s. I realized you’d be able to enjoy together the best parts of growing up and face together the most challenging parts of growing up. What I did not realize until a few years ago, was how much you would truly need each other.
Life’s not fair. That’s not news to you – you probably get tired of hearing those words from both your father and me. But as much as life’s not fair, there are things I would disappear in a heart beat in order to level the playing field of life for you both. Things we have faced as a family that, for better or worse, influence both how you are in the world and how the world views you – autism spectrum disorder, childhood and adolescent mental illness, dyslexia. The reality of these challenges has shaped the last several years of your childhoods and will continue to shape your shared years in middle school and high school. I wish that weren’t true. But since it is true, I am glad you have each other.
So you’ll continue walking away from me – that’s a natural part of the circle of life. And there are circumstances beyond our control that will continue to shape your shared experiences. But as you walk away from me more and more, there are a few things I want to make sure you both know:
- Be courageous and brave. The next few years are going to be full of peers trying to convince you to do things you probably should not do. That’s a given at your age. You both have an inherent sense of what is right and what is wrong, be courageous and brave enough to say no when that’s the only answer. Be courageous and brave enough to stand up for each other, for friends, and for the kids who don’t have enough friends. Be courageous and brave enough to be fully and authentically you.
- Never, ever, ever stop believing in yourself or believing in each other. Individually and together you have the capacity to accomplish incredible things.
- Try not to worry too much about what other kids think about you – or what they think about your sibling. That will be hard to do. There will be days when what other kids think will seem like the only thing that matters in life. It’s not and it never will be either the only thing that matters or even the most important thing.
- Continue to find things you can do together – both the student council and the drama club will benefit from the unique gifts and talents you each possess. But also continue to find things you can do apart from each other and cheer each other on in whatever those things might be. There is comfort and security in doing things together, but there is so much room for growth and exploration in trying new things apart from one another.
- Know that there will be days when the last thing you want to be known as is “O’s sister” or “K’s brother”, and that’s okay. But also know that your relationship is strong enough to transcend those days. The days when you think you don’t like each other very much will be far fewer than the days when you love each other. Try to remember how lucky you are to have somebody so close in age to you who truly understands the reality of a life colored by things like mental illness and learning differences.
- Above all else, know that your father and I love so much it hurts. No matter what, we will always support you and encourage your dreams. We will watch with pride and a little trepidation each time you walk away from us and toward a new experience – both those you share and those you tackle independently. But more importantly, we will also be here with open arms every time you walk back toward us.
So keeping walking away together. I love watching that happen and I love the people you are becoming.
Tears streaming down my face. Lovely. My kids are five years apart, yet so much of this relates and resonates. Thank you.
Hi Rachel, Thank you for your kind words. Isn’t it wonderful to know we aren’t alone in our feelings and experiences?