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Challenge: Raising Siblings

I See You, My "Ghost Child". Raising Siblings When One Has Special Needs

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“Mom, I don’t want to be a princess for Halloween anymore, I want to be a ghost!”

This declaration hits me like a punch to the gut.I mean, Lady can be whatever she wants for Halloween; the costume itself has absolutely nothing to do with my reaction to this seemingly innocuous statement.It’s the use of the word “ghost” that makes me cringe and break out into a cold sweat.

“You’re already like a little ghost,” I think to myself, sadly.

Did you know, dear readers, that I have a daughter too?I write about Man all of the time -- hell, I write a blog called MANvsMommy, but I so rarely write about his sister, my sweet Lady who is 18 months his junior.

I did not coin the term “ghost child” myself, but I am quite familiar with it.This term refers to the siblings of children with special needs.Their parents are often required to dedicate so much time to their brother or sister that they are forced to be more independent than they should be at their age.

Lady has an unbelievable maturity about her.It is unclear if this is because she is a girl, she was born this way, or because her older brother requires so much more of my time that she is forced to be this way.It’s likely a mix of all of these factors.However, there are times when as a four-year-old, she acts as such.You can see her independence failing her and her need to have her mom’s attention pushes itself to the forefront.Who can blame her?She, like Man, is simply a child who needs her mom.

I want you to know, Lady, that I see you.

I see how amenable and flexible you are because you understand how much I struggle with Man some days.

I gaze at you happily eating all of your dinner, no matter what I put in front of you, because you see how much time I spend trying to get Man to eat.

I feel how happy you are just to sit next to me, no matter what I’m doing, just to be in my presence.

I see you pick out your clothes and get dressed and tidy your toys without me even asking.

I watch you let your brother go first… every time, just to keep the peace.

I am in awe of how long you can sit and entertain yourself, because I am otherwise occupied.

I am grateful for the smile you put on my face every day.

I feel incredibly guilty that there are some days when your needs come last.I hope one day to be able to make this up to you.

I am struck by your uncanny ability to know just when I need a random hug or a secretly whispered, “I love you, mommy.”

I try my hardest to carve out special time just for the two of us, though probably not often enough.

I admire your independence.At four, you are more independent than I, your parent, will ever be.

Your inner and outer beauty makes me exceedingly proud.

I see your sadness when I have to leave you to take Man to one of his many appointments.I hear you question why you don’t have as many appointments with mommy as he does. I listen to you beg to go with us and not quite understand why you have to stay home.

I watch your happiness every day. Absolutely nothing gets you down.Luckily, you have inherited this trait from your dad.

I take notice of the words you choose to use when you try and help soothe your brother from a total meltdown.The care you take of him is exceptional.Your understanding of his challenges, without truly understanding them, is nothing close to miraculous.

Your, “whatever Man can do, I can do too” attitude makes me joyous.

The little girl that you are now and the woman that I know you will become one day makes me proud to be your mother.

I glow as I watch the command you have over every room you walk into.You are larger than life in a most innocent and purposeful way.

I can promise you, my Lady, that I will always be there for you no matter what—that when you truly need me, I will be by your side, as I am for your brother in his times of need.

I see you.I see all of you.You are not a ghost; you are my daughter and I love you.


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