(Sensitive Santa, Sensitive Parents: Part 1 http://www.taoofkathryn.com/2010/12/sensitive-santa-sensitive-parents-part.html)
Sensitive people create better understanding and acceptance. Sensitive parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, acquaintances and random people in the grocery store. An outsider's job is really only to be sensitive-- not necessarily understanding. But, it's a parents job to be sensitive, understanding, caring and to think quick and react in a flash to what could be a simple question to ensure it remains just as simple if at all possible.
Before Ryen and I left for Sensitive Santa, Kharter asked where we were going. On Saturday, we had planned to go to a free event hosted by our realtor with Santa Claus. It wasn't until 5:00 pm (4 hours after it was over) that we realized we had missed it. The plan was to take Kharter and Trynity to visit with Santa the day before so they wouldn't feel as if Ryen got to do something they didn't (Sensitive Santa was deterring parents from bringing siblings without special needs to allow time for all the others; of course, that made complete sense to us).
So, the time came. I had to tell Kharter we were leaving and he couldn't go with us. I didn't tell him we were going to see Santa Claus; I just skirted this issue but he was still upset. He loves to go out and dislikes when he's not the one that gets to go with whoever is going that time. About 5-10 minutes went by as were putting on shoes and coats and he kept asking. I finally told him that he couldn't go because we were going to a special event for kids with Autism and he doesn't have Autism. After that, the questions didn't stop...
"Why don't I have Autism? Why does Ryen have Autism? What is Autism? What does that mean? Do all second children in the family have Autism? Why is Autism special?"... and on and on and on. I guess it makes sense though. Since we told him about the diagnosis almost six months ago, we never really talked about it again. He asked some questions but not really more than could be expected. I will never forget his response at the end of the conversation. "I will always take care of my little brother Ryen, Mommy. Don't worry".
We've mentioned the word but details never came up in casual family conversations. This morning was the day it all hit him and he decided he needed more answers. Because of time constraints, I wasn't able to answer all the questions right then. I gave him a few simple answers, "Autism means that Ryen's brain processes things differently than yours. No, not all second children have Autism. You don't have Autism but are still special in your own way." He was satisfied with the answers for then and went back to finishing his breakfast.
Later on that evening we sat him down to discuss his questions in detail. He wasn't as interested in talking about it by then but still had some questions and we had some answers.
Having children with disabilities requires extreme sensitivity. Sometimes we have more of it than we think; sometimes less. I've blogged several times about my amazement in our children. Kharter just has that piece of him that cares for everyone and everything. But even with him we have to be careful. Everything is taken literally in this house-- by everyone. I wish I had a button I could push to pause time when a difficult question is asked so I could take care and thought into all of my answers. If I say it wrong, undoubtedly Kharter will come back to me 3 years later and say, "well, you told me..." and he'll be correct. He sure has been in the past.
I fear the day Kharter asks me about his own disabilities. I wonder if we should talk to him about them in detail now? Or, if we just discuss them as if it's just a matter-of-fact thing. Kind of like some parents tell children they are adopted. They know from the start and it's just fact-- nothing wrong, or different, or strange about it. That's just the way it is. The sky is blue. Why yes, yes it is. Your brother has Autism and there is nothing wrong with him. Yes, of course he does and I love the way he is; why would anything be wrong with him? You have some cognitive and expressive disabilities. Okay, yes, but it doesn't make me any less of a person, I just have to learn differently than some others.
I wonder if it really could be that simple. Something for our family to continue to ponder... along with everything else.
And yes, Kharter was told later that we went to see Santa without him. His response: "Did Ryen have fun? I hope Ryen had fun! Look at the picture of him with Santa! I bet he had fun! That's so cool Mom!"
I love my kids!