Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stuck in the Middle...and Loving It!

*** Ok, this is my longest post so far. It is about the relationship between Elise and her brothers. I tried my best to keep it short, but that was impossible! ***

My family took a walk the other day around our neighborhood. Does it get any better than that? Everyone together, talking, laughing, racing, holding hands. It dawned on me that evening that Elise is in the perfect placement in our family. A big brother to look out for her and a little brother to look up to her (if only in the literal sense!)

Lane was not yet 2 when Elise was born. He doesn’t remember life without her. I definitely hold the memories close to my heart of the time where it was just Lane and I. Those were the innocent days of a life dreamed about. A life with a husband, a child, a house, and a future filled with brothers and sisters (I wanted lots of kids!) After the birth of Elise, everything shifted. Lane became an instant big brother to a sister who would never mentally grow out of infancy. Although he grew up through his earliest years with her, I’m sure there were times that he still felt like an only child. There was a total lack of any play, communication, or even fighting between the two of them. Of course, there was always the competition of needs. She may not have been taking his toys and competing for my attention in the playroom, but so much of my time was spent with her in therapy, at appointments, and caring for her special needs at home.

Lane and his Sissy

After Elise’s birth and the realization of our new future, we settled down with the thought that we would not have any more children. As a matter of fact, a certain surgery was scheduled for my husband! It was ultimately canceled the day before it was to happen, because I developed a major case of cold feet at the prospect of no more kids. Who knew? If Elise were to pass away in her first few years, we would most likely want another child.

She didn’t die, and life became easier. We had achieved a new normal. Knowing that it was important to both my husband and I that Lane have another sibling with whom to share his childhood as well as his adult life, we decided to ask God for another child. Ty came along at the perfect time. He injected our family with a much needed dose of God’s grace. He was a breath of fresh air, and the house was again filled with the typical adventures of a family enjoying a newborn baby. We began putting him in Elise’s lap from the very beginning, letting her feel his fuzzy hair and plump cheeks.

Ty and his Sissy

To this day, Ty has never acted like anything odd is going on with Elise. I’m sure he believes that there is a kid like her in every family. Why not? If we had a unicorn in our house for all of this time, he wouldn’t know the difference with that either. Neither of my boys have a “Before Elise” perception of the world. What they know has always included her. I pray that Lane and Ty feel as if Elise has a definite part to play in our family. Maybe not for moral support or as a role model, but as a sister.

Lane will be her protector, her defender when words are used against her. He knows exactly how she likes to be patted on the head when upset, and he can accurately explain her situation to anyone that asks. As a smaller child, he would tell people, “When she is in heaven, she will see, hear, run, jump, sing and play!” That made him feel better about all of the things that his baby sister was missing out on here on earth.

Lane loving on Elise

Lane watched his sister grow from being a baby to a little girl, but Ty has only known her as the big girl she is now. I think he sees her as an older sis, even if he passed her up at around the age of 3-months-old! He loves helping her in from the bus. “I’ll do it!” he yells, as he shoos me back toward the house, as if he could personally push her wheelchair up the sidewalk and in the door. He feels a responsibility toward Elise. When she cries, he runs to find her paci. Looking in my rear view mirror, I will see him holding her hand, in a display of brotherly love.

What must it be like to grow up with a sister that you can’t share memories with? The boys will have to hold on tight to the ones they have and share them with each other as they grow. My brother and I have always been able to share our memories of childhood.

"Remember when we slept side by side on Christmas Eve and told each other what gifts we knew the other would get in the morning?"

"Remember when you dared me to climb that tall pine tree and I got stuck so dad had to get me down?"

Unfortunately, this cannot happen with my boys and their sister. The “remember when's” can come from me, though. One day they will only have their memories and photographs as a reminder of their relationship with Elise as they were growing up. In these pictures, I can see a big brother and a little brother who have shared their lives with Elise in the most unique fashion. Never a song sung together, nor a toy shared. No reciprocation from the little girl that they know as Sissy. But, apparently, when that is all that you know, it doesn’t seem to matter. What must it be like to know that this person that you shared many of your childhood experiences with will never understand or remember them? Is an experience any less important and lasting if only remembered by one of the people involved?


Happy New Year!

Brother and sister bath time

Although we have often talked about the perks of having Elise as a sister (no fighting over toys and games, an abundant supply of cool toys in her room to play with…), I’m sure that the boys would welcome the regular perils of a brother/sister relationship in exchange for a sibling who is whole and well. And, oh, what I would give to have to break up a fight or yell into the backseat, “Lane don't touch your sister again!”, or, “Elise get out of your little brother’s room.”

I know that each of my boys will grow into men that were shaped by something very different than those around them. The life of their sister, and their position as her brothers, will etch a deep groove into whom they become. After years around Elise, you can’t help but develop empathy, patience, a certain amount of tolerance, and a greater kindness toward others. These are the gifts that she can give her brothers.

I asked Lane recently if he ever felt as if he is missing out on something when it comes to his sister. He said, “No, because I’m fortunate that she’s different. It has caused something in our family.” I asked him what that meant. He continued, “We’ve grown more in God by it- we have more faith.” I knew exactly what he meant by that. I know these words sound like those of a child who has listened to his parents talk a time or two around the kitchen table. Whether he is echoing what he has heard or not, I know that he truly feels this in his heart. We have taken the role as teachers and trainers very seriously with our kids. Often, though, so much of what they say or feel comes from their hearts alone, untouched by what we have so lovingly poured into them.

So, I got to thinking-- what is a sister? A female who has the same mom and/or dad? A friend for life? Someone to laugh with, fight with, play with and cry with?

Well, our description of a “sister” has to be tweaked quite a bit. You won’t find our definition in the dictionary. A sister in the Haden family means a one-way relationship. It means loving someone even though you’re not sure that they even know you. It means finding that connection between siblings even though there is no communication or basic “give and take”. I hope that what my boys see from us as her parents is an unconditional kind of love. It’s not a reciprocation of what you are being given. It stands on its own, with nothing in return. That’s a love that isn’t experienced by most.

Elise will always hold a special place and position in our family unit, as well as in the hearts of her brothers. And I bet if she could tell us, she would definitely say that, yes, she is stuck in the middle… and loving it!

We can share!

Hang on tight, Bubba!

Family walk in the neighborhood

1 comment:

  1. You guys are an amazing family and such an inspiration to so many and are truly a picture of God's love. Thanks for sharing your life with all of us. Brooke