Sibling Needs

Attention is not evenly distributed when you’re a special needs parent. When you have more than one child, and especially when you have less than two parents, things tend to get very lopsided. I still haven’t figured out how to fix that. “You always pay more attention to him than me.”

Guilty as charged.

Even when I had two kids with IEPs, one’s needs were more demanding than the other’s. One child needed home visits as part of his EI plan; the other did not. One child needed constant supervision; the other did not. One child needed to be homeschooled; the other did not. The list goes on. And you can’t expect the child with fewer needs to be understanding. After all, that child is just as much your child as the one with greater needs.

So you try to do special things for and with the child who feels like he’s not as important. You tell him that he is just as important as the one who requires so much more of your time and attention. You write posts about him on your blog and let him read them. And speaking of the blog, whenever you’re working on it in your office and he comes in for some reason, you always minimize the screen out of sensitivity for his feelings, so that it doesn’t seem to him that you’re always writing about his brother. Even though over 90% of the time, you are.

And when he comes into the kitchen the night that you are taking a picture of the photo album, open to a spread of his brother as a baby, and he asks what you’re doing and you tell him that you’re working on an idea for a blog post, it doesn’t surprise you that he just says “Oh” in an unimpressed, disappointed tone and walks out.

And it reminds you of how damn lopsided it’s always been, and that for every post you write about his brother, you want to write one about how proud you are of him, the one with fewer needs. And not because he has fewer needs, of course, but because he is so very important to you, and you’re so sorry that it doesn’t always appear that way. And you want to tell him that you look at his baby pictures just as much, and that they are just as meaningful to you, just as beautiful. Just as special.

Even though he’s wearing his brother’s shirt 😉

15 thoughts on “Sibling Needs

  1. Corrie

    Adorable! I understand. I have two typical children, one on each side of the child who needs lots of attention. We do the best we can do and pray a lot. That’s all we can do. 🙂

  2. mama edge

    Oy. And I can only imagine what your inner child is saying to you: “When the heck are you ever going to pay attention to ME?”

    Don’t let the guilts get you down. You are doing a wonderful job!

  3. Kim

    This is something I ponder as I consider whether or not to add to our family of three. Would the next child, if less needy, feel not as important? Would they wish their brother was different? That they belonged in a different family? But I do think in the end they are better off for having these special siblings – even if they don’t think so for a time.

    I think the fact that you show him the posts you write about him and try to be sensitive to his feelings shows that you are totally aware of his needs and he knows it too. His hormones may not let him express that to you at this time though.

    I think you are doing a fantastic job! I’m sure someday he’ll tell you the same.

  4. Jenn E

    That’s why I quit my office job so Lila could have some undivided Mommy attention.

    We do the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.

    Oh and me too with the Tanya does a fantastic job.


  5. Brenda

    I have a friend who says that surely life isn’t fair, but every child is getting what he needs. You’re doing an amazing job balancing their needs. And still keeping your sanity!

  6. Nicki

    It is hard for kids to understand that a sibling NEEDS more attention, and its not that you love him more but that you’re trying to help give one child what the other child naturally has. Do you ever get to go out and spend some time with your other son without Nigel?

  7. Carrie

    Oh, Tanya. How well I know! My daughter complains bitterly, as well she SHOULD. It’s not even “lopsided,” it’s more like 90/10 around here. Guilt you could cut with a knife.

  8. Alicia

    What an important issue to write about, and i love that you do so with such vulnerable candor.

    its weird for me in that its completely flipped. it SHOULD be that CB is taking all my attention as her needs are the most “hands on” but in another way i can (and do) totally “ignore” her bc she has minimal needs to socialize with us. As long as she’s fed and changed and has her stimmy toys, she is happy enough to be left alone. and i too often oblige simply bc the 3 others (4,3, and 22 months) are so gosh darn DEMANDING and in my FACE 24-7. so, like, they get all of me and CB gets precious little. so i have reverse sibling guilt. My quietest one gets all of my heart but the least of my attention…

  9. dynamite girl

    I started reading this post twice before I could finish it. The pain of having 4 children with varying levels of need is painfully sharp today. How do I let each child know I love them, when one child requires so much more from me? I tell them over and over and pray they hear me.

  10. Goldie

    It is very complicated. Thankfully, you are aware of the unbalance & try to take steps to rectify the situation, make both children feel special. That is a gift to both of them.

    We recently had “the talk” with our oldest (4.5 years) & used the word Autism. He needed to know & try to understand as much as he could. It has been hard for him when he tries to love his baby brother & it is not reciprocated. Or his brother hurts him… or won’t play with him. Or we have to leave somewhere fun because little bro is screaming. I tried to not make Autism out to be a bad word, but rather as an explanation of how some people operate differently. But I still worry about the strain this puts on the big brother.

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