I See You: Raising Neurotypical and Autistic Sisters with Love
When we brought my seven-year-old stepdaughter with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to the hospital to see her new baby sister, her eyes filled with awe. She sat gently at the foot of the bed, somewhat afraid to touch the wriggling squeaker in daddy’s arms. Throwing glances to my now-deflated belly and back to the wrapped bundle, her eyes filled with uncertainty, but she eventually smiled at our new addition. Sensing the baby was part of our tribe, she bent down and anointed her with a kiss.
Within weeks, our big girl realized she was no longer the baby of our family, but a big sister—a teacher and wide-eyed guide to this constantly squealing, crying, and gurgling mess of a person. There was now someone else that needed help—and seemingly with everything!
She curiously watched me breastfeed, sitting beside me as her baby sis nuzzled and sucked, fascinated as to how her baby sister was getting her dinner. She helped bring her booties and burp cloths, gleefully plugged her with soothers, and filled her big sister shoes so charmingly and unexpectedly it brought tears to my eyes. They were instantly comrades in diapers, as they both wore them.
But now, my baby is turning two, and my big girl, at nine, is being left behind. As a mother, it is simultaneously heartening and heartbreaking. For I see what it means…
I see you, my baby, as you fork your lunch with agility and delight. I see you, my big girl, as you struggle with keeping food on your spoon.
I see you, my baby, independently taking your pants off when getting ready for your bath. I see you, my big girl, struggling to navigate your T-shirt and socks.
I hear you, my baby, stringing together words into beautiful sentences, gleefully asking for what you want. I see you, my sweet girl, struggling to find the words to let me know you’re upset, only able to offer ‘I don’t want to’ as your all-encompassing phrase of discontent.
I see you, my baby, attacking new things with a curious vigor, exploring and learning to make your way in this world. I see you, my big girl, timidly approaching the unknown, standing back, retreating to the comfort of the familiar.
I see you, my baby, proudly hoisting a cup and taking a sip. I see you, my big girl, your two front teeth crooked from years of sippy cups and straws.
I see you, my baby, proudly using the potty and exclaiming ‘I did it!’ I see you, my big girl, hiding in the corner because you’ve had another accident.
I see you, my baby, running to put on your boots as we head outside to build a snowman. I see you, my big girl, sitting and waiting for your baby sister to bring you your shoes.
I see you, my baby, as you problem-solve and troubleshoot, your spongy brain absorbing all that is around you. I am excited. I see you, my big girl, standing at the top of the stairs as I call you for dinner, unable to let me know the baby gate is locked and you need help. I am scared.
I see you, my precocious baby—your future, your potential, your flurry of growing, your daily changes, and your effervescence that is so infectious it makes me smile. I see you, my sweet girl—your gentleness and purity of spirit, knowing your limitations, but seeking ways around them.
I see you, my baby, helping the big sister that not too long ago helped you. I see you both, in your struggles and successes. In your sisterly world, sharing and laughing, teaching and growing, surpassing and staying still…
I see you, my darling girls, for you are my joys and my sorrows, my never-ending hopes and my swelling-yet-breaking heart. The reality of what is, next to the reality of what may never be.
But I see you, and no matter what may come, I promise I always will.
This article was featured in Issue 64 – Teaching the Skills Your ASD Child Needs