July 15, 2011

Sibling Issues

One thing I've always loved about my kids is that they are a team. I've tried very hard to foster that. I think it's a significant part of my job as a mom to make sure the kids know they have each other, now and always. They lift each other up, back each other up, because that's what siblings do.

A few years ago, when Peabo was maybe 9 and his sister not quite 6, they showed me they got it. Peabo was playing his first season of basketball, which he loved. And loves. He was sitting on the bench in maybe the 3rd period, watching the game, when he spotted a gaggle of very tall middle school girls in a part of the gym where people are Not Supposed to Go. So, being the rule follower that he is, he got up from the bench (did I mention he picks and chooses his rules?) and followed them in there to tell them to leave. I didn't notice this. I was watching the game. But my diva did. She went in after her brother. Good thing, too. Peabo asked the big girls to leave. They told him no. He asked them again, because that's what he does. In fact, he insisted. They said no. One of them pushed him. And then my teeny little diva, still in Kindergarten, planted herself in front of those big scary girls and said, at the top of her lungs (and she's got really big lungs), "Don't you touch my brother! He's a GOOD. GUY."

At which point an entire gym full of grown-ups turned to look, rescued my kids, reprimanded the tween-to-teens, and went back to the game.

That's having your back, is what that is. That's what sisters do, right? I mean, my sisters do. Both of 'em. My brother, too. It's the awesomeness of siblinghood.

And I think my kids have forgotten that.

These days, Peabo is heading headlong into puberty, and I think it's changing the chemical mix that defines who he is and how he responds to his world. Some of his behaviors are suddenly things he can manage. And some are ones it seems he no longer can.

And, despite being more than three years his junior, I think his sister is in much the same boat, with puberty on the not-so-distant horizon. Which means that now, suddenly, her brother embarrasses her.

So she watches him like a hawk. Did he brush his teeth? Wash his hands? Is he chewing with his mouth open? Talking when it's full? Is he drumming or singing or singsonging? Is he dancing at the table? Is he repeating his favorite phrase ad nauseum? Which is, oddly enough, "OBAMA!" ... which just recently supplanted "WAFFLES!" ... I really don't know why.

But she hovers, waiting to catch him. Which she often does. And then she's on him like white on rice. Only it's a snide, nasty, and even physical kind of rice. Or, um, white.

Bad metaphor.

The redhead isn't much better right now. He's figured out that Peabo doesn't always listen, or that he can't. ADHD can do that to a kid. So when the readhead really wants his brother to hear what he's saying, which is usually when he's mad, and often when he's not, he doesn't just say it. He screams it. Very very loudly.

It's like Peabo's siblings are angry with him 24x7. And they have no hesitation to let him know it. They're not exactly nice about it either.

And it hurts. It hurts him, and it hurts me too.

They love him. I know they do. And I have a lot of faith that they will come back to that, and to being a team. I'm trying everything I can think of to foster that. But right now, it's not working. And while I'm blaming pending puberty for the changing dynamic, it could just be the way they're handling Peabo's kind of special right now. I've always believed having Asperger's in the family is a good thing for all of us. We learn patience, tolerance, and a new way to look at ourselves and the world. We see difference in a different way. But this is their home. And maybe they sometimes need a little less difference, and a little more same.

I've started a new thing, because the old tricks aren't working. If one of my kids says something mean to another, we all shout "Rabbit!" and then the culprit goes back and starts over, only this time she has to come up with something nice to say. Got everyone laughing last night over dinner and thinking of things they like about each other.

This morning, though, it was back to the screaming and the cranky not getting along.

Can I get a "rabbit," too?


  1. So my step kids are two almost 14 year old twins. Boy and girl. Puberty has hit us hard and I feel like I am in the middle of the perpetual arguments. The only time they are a team is when it is against the parents. As the step-mom, I quietly excuse myself a lot. When someone gives you the magical answer, I would like to hear it, too. I send my love and peaceful thoughts.

  2. Only if you promise to do the same for me! I'm actually starting to think my diva is hitting puberty early ... she just passed her brother in height and now wears an 8 1/2 women's shoe. So mine might as well be twins. I don't know how you do it! Love & peace backatcha, dear.