A letter to my son . . . a thank you letter to my son,

Being an older brother to a sibling with severe autism has not always been easy. It’s a job you never asked for but you took it in stride. At times it was a very difficult job, and that is putting it mildly. 

Thank you for loving your little sister wholeheartedly. You were her light in the darkest of times. When her life was filled with sensory overload, and nothing made sense to her little body, and she was completely overwhelmed by our world. When she would lash out and hurt you just for saying my name, and I would have to send you out of the room for your safety.

You never got mad at her and always adored her. 

Thank you for letting her follow you around and always being there to hug her and tickle her . . . whatever made her happy. For getting down on the floor with her and playing her way. For connecting with her in any way you could.

Thank you for being a loyal big brother and always protecting her when others had no understanding of autism. For loving her and trying to reach her even when she seemed unreachable. For never giving up and for understanding that her brain worked differently and that it wasn’t her fault. 

How could you understand this at five years old? I don’t know how but you did. You never stayed mad or blamed her.

RELATED: Dear Sibling of a Special Needs Child, Your Heart is Full of Beauty

Thank you for being the happiest, easiest going little boy when my heart was breaking into pieces trying to come to grips with a life-altering diagnosis. For sitting with early intervention and helping them engage with her. For understanding that we couldn’t go to playdates because her behavior was so unpredictable

For sometimes being disappointed but never taking it out on her. For understanding how much extra care and supervision she needed and never complaining.

Thank you for going along with me when I needed that picture,  you know the ones where you had to smile for 15 minutes while I chased her and all but wrestled her down. 

Thank you for holding her tight, so I could get that picture while she would be trying to push you away, kick, or roll over you. You took it in stride 

You couldn’t have known how much it meant to me to get that picture. I just wanted a picture of my two beautiful children. I needed some kind of normalcy even though it was anything but.

There are a thousand examples of how things went awry, things you lost out on, gave up, had to leave in the middle of. And yes it was disappointing at times, but your love for her, your connection never wavered.

I tried my hardest to make it up to you. I tried to spend alone time with you, have others take you so you could get a break, bring you places, spoil you. You had every video game and Pokémon card that could be bought.

Your nana, your grandparents, and aunties saw it too, and they tried to make it up to you too. I am forever grateful for that as well

But how can you make up for a lost childhood, for having to grow up too fast? You can’t. 

I felt torn in two at times. My love for both of you so strong, but her needs surpassed yours, and there was nothing I could do to change that, 

And then came your sisters two girls, two years apart—a whirlwind you could say. Again you stepped up. Thank you. Thank you for bottle holding, baby loving, and all the madness that went along with it. And then things got better a little easier, and you got to be a different kind of big brother. 

RELATED: The Sibling of a Child With Special Needs is Forced to Grow Up Faster

I read about siblings of special needs children, they are sometimes referred to as glass children. I thought that made sense because you become so strong but are also fragile  That is not the meaning of a glass child though. It means that parents are so consumed with the special needs child that they look right through you and don’t even see you, as if you are a piece of glass.

I immediately thought did I do that!? Did you feel invisible like you didn’t matter? I have handled a lot, but this I didn’t think I can handle.  My mama guilt was coming on full force, and I already have so much already. 

So I came to you and asked you. Looking you right in the eye as I tried to hide the fact my heart was shattering again even considering this.

I asked you to be honest, I needed to know.

You told me that you felt like you missed out on opportunities you could have had. If it wasn’t for having a sister with special needs, that your life would have been different.

I know this to be true, but it still hurt so much to hear.  

But you went on to say that it was OK and it’s not her fault and it’s not my fault, it’s just what is. Thank you for that grace.

I cry as I type this because it feels like an impossible job to be pulled into all different directions for all these years and feeling that I didn’t get it right. There is no easy answer.

But today it doesn’t matter to you. Today you just love her for who she is just like always. Today you make time to hug her to make her laugh. Thank you for that.

I know you don’t need thanks or even expect it, but you sure deserve it. 

I am sorry I couldn’t always be the mother I wanted to be for you, that I was pulled into the uncharted waters of having a child with a disability, and some days I could barely keep my head above water. Thank you for being my life raft even though that was not supposed to be your job. 

RELATED: An Open Letter to the Special Needs Sibling

I know this has made you stronger and more compassionate, you are a better person for loving her, for having her in your life.

When I called you and asked if you would be willing to be her guardian if anything ever happened to me or Dad, and you laughed because you didn’t understand why it was even a question, you made it seem like I was asking for something so minor. 

Thank you for being the best big brother she could of ever have.

The best son I could have asked for, and I love you more than you’ll ever know. 


Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

Kimberly McIsaac

Kim McIsaac resides in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. Her passions are writing, advocating, spreading autism awareness, and spending time at the beach. She blogs about all things autism and following her daughter's journey on Facebook.