My three older children care for their younger sibling even though his special needs don't demand this care right now. After all, he is just two and a half and was born when they were 4,6, and 7 years old. They have been great ages for learning patience and wait patiently they do. Each and every day, while I give my youngest son, Amos, a bath, fix his dinner plate, Takenhim to the half dozen therapy sessions per week. No one has been more surprised than me to see the love and kindness they offer him without my promoting.
They arguably look for ways to be helpful with him and often I will come downstairs to him sitting on the couch watching his favorite cartoon that his older sister has turned on for his viewing pleasure. Most mornings, his ten year old brother gets him out of the crib and settles down to cuddle with him until I call him for breakfast. After school his eight year old brother takes the packet of popcorn, microwaves it and then puts in a bowl, no word from me. I greatly value these children of mine that are quick to offer their own help and see that many hands do indeed make lighter work.
As Amos gets older and the words still do not come, I consider the role of my older children as possibly being permanent caregivers. This thought makes me cringe truthfully and the possibility of it being inevitable leaves me sad. Perhaps Amos will need them when I am gone and though that is not my plan for them, I am left with little choice. Life has a way of steering itself and most plans end up vastly different than we anticipate and choreograph. Our work ends in a result that we did not ponder or dream of, though perhaps more lovely. My own life has been better than I could have dreamed even if it has been circled by hardship, the death of my brother as a teenager seemed insurmountable. Yes, no one has escaped life's truths and so, I prepare my children for the caregiving that may be needed past Amos' preschool years.
I hope he won't need it. I hope he will berate his older siblings for their incessant mothering and I will relish more than anyone, his verbal demand for them to leave him alone. Oh, the joy I can imagine and the guilt of the worry I should have relinquished, floats by too in that scene of my imagination. I constantly remind myself to not worry, to continue to push forward for him to be the best Amos he can be and right now, it requires a family commitment. Some day his brothers and sister may be expected to do more than fix him a bowl of cereal or to find his blankie. I like to think this will not be a burden for them but an act of love. The world could use more compassionate souls who put the needs of others first.