January 22, 2012
And the Answer is…
“Mom, why does Justin say “eeee”? Zach asks me as he colors a wooden snowflake bright red, a hue he says he chose because it’s “cheerful”. “I don’t know honey, that’s just the way your brother talks because of his autism”, I respond. I help him uncap a green marker to make the snowflake more “Christmasy”, and I think about how much I’d truly like to know the answer to that particular query. It’s been seven years, thousands of hours of speech therapy, and an equal amount of money spent on trying to elicit some consonants out of my eldest son. I’ve been a (mostly) good girl all of these years, and truly, I’m ready for someone to end the mystery for me. I look down at Zach and realize he’s ceased his artistic attempts and is looking right at me, as if I’d merely forgotten the real answer, and my response to him is imminent.
He’s turning five. The questions are starting to come.
It’s funny. So far, we’ve had elaborate discussions on what constitutes a soul, what transpires in heaven (Mommy, Daddy, and Justin are there, friendly dinosaurs are residents, and there are a lot of snacks). He’s asked me why the sky is blue (the answer for which I had to look up on the internet and now no longer recall), but he hasn’t peppered me with many questions about autism. Zach does know that it’s hard for some people with autism to talk and to make friends. He also understands that autism is the reason his big brother plays the same scene in a movie a trillion times on his DVD player, and that Zach needs to see films on our “big screen” if he wants to know the ending of anything. So far, except for loudly declaring that a few kids at POAC events have autism, it hasn’t been a huge topic of discussion.
I’m pretty sure however, that it will be soon.
Zach’s starting to really notice Justin’s behavior, how he’ll frequently seek affection from his parents (which immediately prompts Zach to do the same, no imitation issues here), but remains mostly solitary in his activities, despite our numerous attempts. He’s asked if Justin could play Monopoly with us, and seemed mildly disappointed when his brother made it clear that plastic cars and thimbles hold no interest for him. Our bowling activities have placated him a bit, afforded Zach the opportunity to cheer his brother on and hug him when he’s victorious, allowed him to feel connected to his sibling. On the rare occasion when Jeff and I have been able to get them to run around the house, Zach has thrilled to the chase, and solicited Justin’s help in conspiring against his parents. Recently there have been more opportunities for connection, for fairly “typical” sibling interaction in our house. Zach has loved them all.
But I’ve noticed that now his questions are becoming far more difficult to answer, and his requests are of a nature I can’t reasonably fulfill. Last week, it was why Justin doesn’t have playdates with his friends from school, and why he wouldn’t sing a song with him. Yesterday ended with a half-hour long discussion as to why Justin can’t sleep in his little brother’s room, with my explanation about completely different schedules (and Mommy losing her mind if they woke each other up) clearly constituting an inadequate response. He’s beginning to want more from their relationship, and he’s starting to wonder why he’s not getting it.
I personally am envisioning a great deal more chocolate in my immediate future.
So far it’s been fairly calm seas between the two of them, with the occasional appearance of mild skirmishes over toys the only time sibling rivalry has marred the surface of their relationship. Every day, Zach still asks how long it will be before Justin gets home from school. He continues his unsolicited acts of generosity toward his elder brother, leaving him books and toys at his place at the table (ones he no longer has interest in of course). According to Zach, Justin is still his best friend.
And I just hope, as we transition into the next phase of Zach’s childhood where questions and requests will dominate our days, that this brotherly love will remain.