Siblings, But Really Two Only Children

I’m an only child. It’s a state of life that I know well, but have always wanted a sibling.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many benefits of being an only child. And when speaking to those that aren’t, they’ll often “wish” they were one or talk about how frustrating their siblings are.

The benefits are the obvious ones: you get all of the focus of your parents, you often get more material things, you don’t have to share, there is very little fighting as there’s no one to fight with.

But then there are the cons: you get all of the focus of your parents, there are less people to play with on those rainy days, there are no footsteps to follow in, you struggle to stand up for yourself as you have no practice, no one to help defend you and there is no way to ever know what it feels like to have a sibling.

Someone who has your back, knows your parents just as well as you. No way to know what that kind of love is like.

I vowed to never have only one child. I didn’t want my children to miss out on that feeling, to be able to have that very important person in their life.

I didn’t want them to be alone in all decisions when my husband and I are elderly and then gone.

We had our son, Elliott, first. We jumped right into having our second child because of my age. Evelyn was born 12 months after Elliott. Elliott was diagnosed 2 years later.

He is pre-verbal, follows his own agenda and has little engagement. He will play in parallel to other children but not with other children.

In my opinion, he loves his sister the most. But without the ability to speak to or play with her, they are no where near the typical brother/sister relationship.

What has happened is that she has watched us work with him and in many ways become a little therapist. She’s 5.

This is not what I expected for her little life. I have two only children.

So, not only did I fail at accomplishing my life long goal. Now I’ve created a situation where I’ve doubled what I feared.

I’ve put two children in this position in some ways.

Elliott will not feel the effects as much as his life is lovely in his eyes. He will not have the same responsibilities as my daughter.

He will not have to take care of me when I’m older – I will still likely be taking care of him.

Evelyn however will have our focus, our normal parental critique of her teenage choices, no one to complain about her parents that knows them just as well, and the pressure of making the difficult choices when we are late in life.

She may feel that we put more pressure on her than Elliott. And now it’s possible that she will also have to make all of the decisions on her brother’s behalf without help.

Yes, she may have a partner and she’ll have friends, but no one that has the same responsibility as she would so that she can share those tough decisions.

Today, she tells me that she wishes she had a brother that understood. Today, she tells me that she is bored. Today, she wants a playmate.

In order to try to help, I schedule as many playdates as I can. I want her to have someone that plays with her toys with her – someone that is her age.

It’s something that is so important to me. But, it isn’t ever going to fill that void.

That void that is filled only when you are in a typical sibling situation. You may ask, why not have another?

And, honestly, it’s because I don’t think I could possibly risk having another autistic child that needs more than Elliott.

Today, we feel we put more pressure on him as there is a strong desire to ensure that he is as independent as possible. Isn’t that our focus for all of our kids?

The difference, of course, is that there is no concern that Evelyn will get there.

She speaks, she comprehends, she philosophizes and meets her independent markers in lightening speed. She needs less intervention from us.

She learns by watching others. Picks it up with ease.

Elliott is the opposite. While he is more independent than some of his autistic peers in many ways (toilet trained at 3 years old, can fully dress with minimal help and will often work to get his own food and drink rather than ask), he is still very far behind his sister and other neurotypical children at his age.

He works from the moment he opens his eyes and we work all day long to try to get him up to speed.

Although all of this work is done, it is still my fear that he will need help every day once we are gone.

This may sound odd, but I do not want Evelyn to be that person.

I want her to travel, live where she likes, be free from autism. But even though her current existence is one in which she often feels like an only child, she loves her brother with all of her might.

And he loves her with all that he is. I just know it.

Written by, Nikki Eagers

I’m an American originally from Louisiana living in Ireland for the past 11 years.  My husband is Irish and we have had two lovely children 5 and 6 years ago, Evelyn & Elliott.  Elliott was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 3 years and 2 months.  Ever since then, we have been on quite a wild ride.  My page where I document our adventures is Entering Elliott’s World.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!


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When my son was first diagnosed with autism no one was talking about it. Autism was hidden. I vow to change that.

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