Monday, August 31, 2009

Sibling Solidarity

In our family, Seth gets most of the attention from people outside our family. Everyone was very invested in my pregnancy with him, coming along after Eli as he did, and they were in love with him before he was even born. Then he came early, and he was diagnosed as profoundly deaf, and that love just multiplied. We have been so blessed by everyone lifting our little boy up.

I don't know if you've ever had a special needs child, or one who has gone through something bad enough to warrant a little special treatment. If you had asked me before all of this, I would have told you that out of all of our kids, Seth would be the one who would feel left out, with his CI gear and with being functionally deaf about half of the time (sleeping, bath time, naptime, whenever he manages to break enough pieces on his processor...). I thought people would treat him differently because of his equipment.

I was right, in some ways. They do treat him differently. But it's not in the way that I thought it would be. He gets so much attention, and it's all positive. People say he's even cuter with his gear. They go on and on about how technology has come so far. He is a conversation piece and many times, Ava and Jace are just the older siblings who are along for the ride. We can't go anywhere without people asking about Seth and going on about him, which I means I get to share our journey with someone, many times get to share how God has worked in our lives. But the older kids undeniably get left out. They have had to tag along to Seth's therapies countless times and watch someone "play" with Seth and focus on him completely...they don't realize he's working hard. A lot of our life still revolves around getting Seth where he needs to go, even if that means the kids have to miss school or a playdate.

Sometimes it's hard for me to remember there was a time when our family was untouched by death and deafness. I know that Ava and Jace can't remember a time like that at all. When I'm feeling down about how they get the short end of the stick sometimes, it's a huge blessing to me to know that they have each other. I think if there was only one of them, jealousy would get the better of just about anyone. But together, they can be a team. I used to wonder what we were thinking having kids 1 year apart (and I know everyone else did, too!). I used to wonder if I was cheating Ava out of a babyhood, or Jace out of undivided attention.

Now I know that, just like everything else in my life, there was a design in place before I ever thought to wonder why. Ava and Jace each need a close sibling, one to stand with them and deal with how special needs can take a family over. One to be their constant when their life is unstable.

I thank God every day that he gave me both of these kids, just this close together, and that he gave us a tiny inkling of what to expect with Eli and Seth in Jace's rough start in life. Going through Jace's NICU stay was shocking for us, and looking back, it's all a blur. But if we hadn't had that first experience, we would not have made it through Seth's much more harrowing NICU stay and ongoing issues.

My first two kids, our set of irish twins, are incredibly attached to one another. Sometimes it's a good thing, and sometimes it's bad. They fight all of the time, and I'll often hear them yelling "Fine! You're not invited to my birthday party!" at each other. But at the end of they day, you can always find them shoulder to shoulder on the couch, just hanging out. I hope they continue to grow up knowing that they each have a person that they can be completely themselves with, no matter what.




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