Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"The Talk" with Blake

So tonight was pretty monumental. I had "the talk" with Blake. Where I get into more detailed specifics of why Julianna acts the way she does. More than just saying, "She's just a little different, that's all," which is what I usually say when she does things that are not like other kids. So yes, I told him his sister has autism, and tears were shed, and I think he feels much better, and so do I.

It all happened when they were going up to bed. Blake was already brushing his teeth, and Julianna went up after her. It's always a huge effort to get her up those stairs, and for some reason, when she did get up, she threw herself to the ground, and did what Blake thought was a huge no-no: bite her hands. We've been through that stage, we've celebrated her "graduation" from the hand-biting stage, and she knows it's something she should never do again without certain consequences. So when Blake calls down the stairs to me, toothbrush in mouth, "Mom, Julianna is biting," it sends her into a complete meltdown, which of course sends me into a complete rage (hey, it's the end of the day...not much patience left.) And I was mean to Blake, because I was mad that Julianna had a meltdown, and might wake Nathan, who is not going to sleep very easily these days, and I marched up those stairs and told him to go to bed, and he ran there, and started sobbing. So while he's sobbing, I go back to Julianna and she tells me that she wasn't biting, and she needed to hear Blake say this to her in order to be okay. So I demanded that Blake say "You weren't biting" to Julianna, and he does, very grudgingly.

And by this time, I am so worked up, but Blake is still curled up in his bed, crying. He doesn't do this often. And the thought came to me, you know, Blake has to put up with a lot in this house. Much more than I give him credit for. I knew instantly that I needed to talk to him in more depth about his big sister. So I went in, and I asked why he was crying, and after calming down he said it was because I was mean to him. I apologized, and told that I was mean not because he did something wrong, but that it made Julianna tantrum. So we started talking about why she still throws tantrums at almost 11 years old, and I asked him if he had ever heard of autism. He shook his head no, and I described it to him like this:

There are lots of kids in the world right now who have autism, and doctors aren't really sure why, or how to cure it. These kids have trouble making friends or talking to people, they have trouble learning in school and at home, and they have trouble with their body's senses. I told him that even though a test on Julianna's brain showed nothing was wrong, she still has trouble with her nervous system. He didn't know what that was, so I described it like a freeway, with cars going at relatively the same speed, in the same direction, exiting here and there, but flowing smoothly to their destination. Kids with autism have a freeway with traffic jams and fender benders, so certain messages don't always get sent to the brain the way other people's nervous systems would. He understood this. This led to him talking about how he's nervous to drive a car, and that he wants a car with flames painted on the side. But I am still positive he understood.

I told him that we don't know why Julianna is the way she is, but all we have to do is try to make her happy, and love her the best way we can. So when we say something that makes her mad, we now know not to do that again. And that's all we can do. I told him he's being such a good brother to her, and that Julianna is lucky to have him. And he really is amazing. Sure, he gets upset when she demands that he answer a question or follows him around everywhere, but for the most part, he likes to play with her, and they have a lot of fun.

I feel very blessed to have a son like Blake. I know that what he is learning by being a brother to Julianna will serve him well in his life. What a journey it is raising children. I feel fortunate to have the words to say when I need them, just at the right moment. I know that I am always being guided on this journey.

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