Being guilty of falling into the trap that is judgement is inevitable; eventually a thought will cross our minds that make us ashamed and guilty. Parents try to raise their children not to judge a book by its covers because you don't know what is inside, but it happens and we become guilty. Living with two little boys who struggle every day has taught me that judgement is everywhere and no amount of mental preparation will ever be enough to manage all the stares and questions tossed around. I often think of how tired I am of explaining the issues and difficulties these young boys face to absolutely everyone; it breaks my heart even more when I see them struggle to understand that they aren't the same as other children. One day I'd simply like to say, "hey, these are my brothers and they are pretty awesome."
Taking them out for a walk, going to the grocery store, a night out for dinner cannot simply happen with a special needs child; you have to prepare yourself and them thoroughly like you're walking into war. They ask the most typical toddler question of why, and continue to ask why even after you've stressed the issue. If that wasn't enough, they then begin to have anxieties of what could possibly happen (I literally have a list two pages long of all the possibilities). They continue to worry even after all is said and done; then they will ask why you can't do it all over again as if the giant bald spot on your head wasn't enough. The stress and the anxiety parents and older siblings face handling their stress and anxiety creates a massive whirlwind that never ends. I would simply like to respond with "they're eccentric, isn't it great," but I always end up stuttering and explaining that they have some setbacks and issues we are working on or some random excuse.
As if the world judging you for trying to make the best of the situation wasn't enough, you always seem to be left to manage it by yourself because nobody else wants to do it. We try sending my brother to school and they call saying, "he's having a random fit over nothing at all," so off we go to pick him up because they don't know what to do. Special needs kids have tantrums like it's a fun thing to do; honestly, it just happens whenever, wherever, over nothing in particular. So many people claim to know what they're doing, yet we are always left to handle the thrashing, screaming kid by ourselves. What's worse is sometimes they forget it ever happened; you can't punish a child for something he or she doesn't even remember doing. Therefore, you have just dealt with a tantrum, been judged cruelly by onlookers who think you need to do more, only to have your baby smile at you like nothing happened. Yes, it's tiring and yes, it's more than frustrating.
People tell parents all the time that their child needs to be exposed to other children to learn and build social skills; sure, but no one understands them the way we, the parents/older siblings, understand them, and kids are very mean to each other when adults aren't looking. On more than one occasion I have heard my brothers complain about other kids not wanting to play with them or not laughing at their jokes (which aren't funny, but you laugh anyways to make them feel better). The problem here is the kids don't understand because the adults barely get it. Sure, our special needs kids can be awkward at times, but that's because they don't understand things the same way everyone else does. It's even worse to try and get two mentally challenged children to be together; it's like a blind dog leading a deaf man down the street. At times it works, a few bumps maybe, but it works; mostly it's just a hurricane colliding with a tornado that you have to try and sort because no one else seems to want to deal with it. I've tried on more than one occasion to explain to my brothers that they aren't the only kids with disabilities, but it's next to impossible. You're left wondering, "now what?"
I cannot count the amount of times I have explained and re-explained a simple topic twenty times within an hour on one hand. Our dog passed not too long ago, and my brother would simply say, "well go and get him, he's at Mama and Papa's house." Yes, we were hurt by his passing, but we also understood that he was old and ready; my brothers did not get that. They did not understand that he wasn't just at our grandparents' or sleeping in the basement, they could not understand that he was gone forever now. A person hates to admit, but eventually we all find solace. My brothers still ask where our dog is. Death is not a simple topic, understandable, but I've also had to explain why we can't go visit Paw Patrol, who are fictional cartoon characters, and I've fought with a four year old about why his shirt was backwards. To be frank, you forget what a decent conversation is at times because you're so used to explaining left and right, white and black, and good and bad. Again, people start to judge you in stores or at restaurants when you explain the easiest thing because it sounds condescending. For the record, special needs kids are absolutely smart; never underestimate their thinking abilities even when it seems like they don't get it. Eventually they will come out with something that makes you breathe with relief because they're understanding now, it only takes years of blue-faced, white-knuckled, tear-jerking arguments, but they get there.
Sometimes I wonder why we put up such a struggle, handle the stress, deal with the messes; that's why I am guilty. I have judged and I have been judged. For what? Being a big sister to two incredibly awesome little brothers. I dislike having to explain that they have issues, I'd much rather like to say that they are my brothers and leave it at that. Society doesn't like that; lots of people have to have a reason for why they say what they say, do what they do, act the way they act. At the end of the day they are two boys who are growing up, they just see a rainbow when we see rain or hear music when we hear annoying crows. Are they different? Yes, they are, and that's pretty awesome if you ask me.