young children

Seven Going on Seventy

In New Orleans, we had the great fortune of meeting with one of the kindest, most caring, families we have met thus far. This Louisiana family has 4 children, 3 of which are triplets. One of the triplets has autism, ADHD and a seizure disorder. The triplets are seven. Claire and I spoke with the two triplets while Renee spoke with their parents. Very early on into the conversation, Claire and I realized that we were speaking with some very special children. We began our discussion with the two by asking them to describe their sister. “If you didn’t know her, then I am sure she would make you happy. She would make you laugh,” one of the boys told us. These two showed us true compassion and charisma. Let alone the fact that they have not even begun second grade, the two boys spoke of their sister with the eloquence of men much more weathered with age and wisdom. They told us about how much they care about her and how they feel when they are apart from her. Even at such a young age, they depicted how they worry about her when they are not there to protect her. “We worry a lot. Like, if [we’re] in a different place, even across the street. [We worry] that she could get hurt, or bullied and we won’t be there to help her.” We asked them what it looks like when they stand up for her. “If she’s getting bullied we take up for her.” Wise beyond their years, and even though they expressed wishes to “punch [bullies] in the face,” they use their words to stand up for their sister, and merely explain that she is special. They are truly her greatest bodyguards. Though she has separation issues, it must be wonderful for her to know that she always has these two young men standing behind her with commitment and love.

They also spoke to their family dynamics and how all three of them interact. We asked them if they fight a lot. They quickly assured us, “we’re not trying to fight, we’re trying to tell her, so she can learn.” It appears that many of the activities the boys enjoy, they try to also invite their sister to join. “We love to ride bikes with her. She doesn’t really know how yet so we like to help her.” They told us how she cheers them on at their baseball games and how happy it makes them to see her in the stands. They are proud when she is proud of them.

Part of a family that revolves around family time and togetherness, these two boys truly understand the meaning of family commitment and undivided love. Though, they assured us that they choose their friends wisely. “We have good friends… that are our friends and her friends.” They, like the rest of their family, accept, understand, and appreciate their sister and they want to make sure that the people they interact with do the same. For them, it’s a lifestyle. They brought up the fact that they are hurt when others bully or make fun of their sister. “Boys and girls, and especially adults, don’t know how she is. They don’t know she’s special, what’s inside,” they told us with utter sincerity. What was even more incredible about these two boys was that, though many sibs we have spoken with are embarrassed by or ashamed of their siblings, these two don’t hesitate to stand up for her in any situation. They spoke of an incident on Christmas Eve at church where a woman became very aggravated when their sister was having a fit. She told them that she would take their sister outside and spank her because “she was trying to learn about G-d.” They spoke with astute insight about the incident, recognizing that accepting and embracing their sister is a part of being a family, which is, down to the core, what they are.

From this inspiring family, we learned about the power of true acceptance and familial devotion. From speaking with these two young men, we learned about the potential of the innocent and the vigor of fellowship. The whole family is so incredibly open about their situation as they wake up each day not condemning or complaining about the hand they have been dealt but taking it on with full speed, preparation, and fidelity. I can only aspire to be as kindhearted and thoughtful as all of them are every day of their lives.

“We always love [her],” they told us, and it is as simple as that.

~Ellie

My Conversation With The Parents Of Our Two Little Sages

After talking for just twenty minutes, it’s clear how one little girl ended up with such loving, caring, and protective twin brothers.  When I initially inquired about their daughter’s diagnosis, they explained that though she has mild Autism, a seizure disorder, and ADHD, “it’s just the way she’s always been,” according to Dad. Unprompted, Mom continued, “It’s who she is and I wouldn’t really change it if we could because that would change her. Obviously, it’s difficult at times, but I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.” Their language provided me with a small window into their parenting approach. Not once did they attach the word “disability” to their daughter. She has a diagnosis, she has strengths, she has weaknesses, and she has a distinct personality, but she is not defined by her disability.

That attitude has carried over into their children, particularly their two sons. The four siblings interact like normal siblings would, fighting at times, yet always loving one another. Dad says “they all have a special affinity to look out for her and care for her.” Though the children all know their sister’s diagnosis and her challenges, they look past all of that and focus on her personality, which has been much stronger recently since her language skills are improving. The boys know she loves Justin Beiber, like her older sister, and that she loves to be social. Their parents have taught them that everybody’s different, that “everybody’s got good things and bad things and [they shouldn’t] single people out because they’re different.” As one of the twins says frequently, “Her brain is different than ours.” Thanks to this attitude, the family doesn’t hold back on activities just because of their daughter’s diagnosis. They go to church together regularly, go out to dinner, and even attend the boys’ sporting events and their eldest daughter’s dance recitals, just like any other family would. They’re “not going to use [her diagnosis] as a crutch” and they’re not going to hide anything. They’re not ashamed of her daughter, only proud. Their mother told me, “I’m the kind of mom where I would tell the whole wide world because I would rather people learn about it. We just feel like by talking about it there will be a better understanding because it is who she is.”

Though the twins are only seven and their oldest daughter is only twelve, their parents have preconditioned them to understand that one day they will be responsible for their sister, and it’s something the siblings have embraced. The boys are still very young and aren’t entirely aware of the choices they will have to face in the future, but given their current bond with their sister, I feel confident that they will remain loyal and protective brothers. One of them once said,  “Mom, one day when she’s living with me, I’m gonna paint her room pink because that’s her favorite color.” I find the bond that these boys share with their sister incredible and inspiring. They’ve learned from their parents that each person has his or her own range of abilities and that everyone deserves to be loved and included in the community.

-Renee