Will you just get him that toy?
Can you push him on the swing?
Watch he doesn't roll off the bed while I run his bath?
Yes I'll read with you in a minute after the baby is fed.
Can you pass me that cream?
Can you run and get the wipes?
Would you mind distracting him to see if he'll stop crying?
I'm sorry I shouted I was really tired because the baby was up all night.
What did you say again?
Sorry you can't sit on my lap as I am holding the baby and he's asleep.
Will you just play with him a minute while I make a quick call?
Yes we'll finish that game when he has settled a bit.
When you have a baby these are the things you may say all too often to the older siblings. It is all part and parcel of life with young children - the youngest can take centre stage for a while. Yet in a blink of an eye they are holding their own, getting their own toys, making their own mischief - becoming a little person in their own right. The playing fields level out once more.
Not so when that sibling has additional needs. The playing fields are always going to remain skewed. And three and a half years on we are still asking the above of them, often neglecting their requirements, relying on their help at times, and needing them to be patient. All the time praying they understand.
I know we have worked hard (so so hard) to try and make sure that Gabriel's needs do not eclipse that of his older brother and sister. We go to great lengths to ensure all three have their moment in the sun.
But being the fallible creatures that we are - we can sometimes get it wrong.
At just seven and six years old, we know we ask a lot of them. Stuff that is above and beyond. We have no choice.
This week is Carers Week.
Meet two of the cutest, most caring, carers in town. They pitch in of their accord, run numerous errands with the merest of grumbles and the biggest of smiles. They pick up the book for the 400th time off the floor and laugh as it's thrown at their head once more. They sing him songs when he is too tired to eat but eat he must. They take a step back from their own demands when things are getting stressful, when they know he has cried long into the night. There is always a grin, a high five, tickle or a rub of his head.
This boy is beyond lucky. In them he has his biggest champions, his shining knights. They see his world as wonderful - full of trips on a bus, swimming pools, days out, cuddles and play aplenty. They are proud of his achievements and although they acknowledge he is different and his path ahead is unknown, they only see the adventures and triumphs to come.
They believe in him. They believe one day all his battles will be won.
They are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of siblings just like them. Brothers and sisters that have to grow up that little bit faster, are expected to do more for themselves whilst also offering a helping hand at the drop of a hat to a member of their family less able than them.
If you asked me about caring, I would say it was this: to adore without seeking acknowledgement; to toil without needing reward; to focus on all the magnificent minutiae and try and pay no heed to the glaring bleak. Also to keep seeing that bigger picture when you feel like shouting "hey, what about me?"
It is not always going to be so innocent in this house. There will be times when they will rally, rage and roar "it's not fair". But we'll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, my children know what it feels like to carry an innocent smile in their pocket cherished like a first kiss. And that adversity, affliction and suffering is only a part of a story that is also spilling with encouragement, pleasure, cheer and success.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
|Gabe says: "Okay which jokers thought dressing me like a sugar puff was good fun. |
Don't you know nets do nothing for my hair."
He ain't heavy