Dec 19, 2011 0 Share

Shadows of the Fire

Author's son holding newborn sister.
Photo by Julie van der Poel

For the first time in eight years, I’m beginning to see signs of … what should I call it? Sibling stress? Resentment? Attention envy? My daughter, Chloe, is eight years younger than Cameron. My passion for all things Autism After 16 is getting on her nerves, frankly. How do I know this? Well, I’m afraid I cannot divulge that, as it would require that I admit to having read Chloe’s journal. And what self-respecting mother would ever do that … much less admit doing it? Suffice is to say that after being read aloud a recent “Transition From The Trenches” column, Chloe was clearly of the “enough already” mindset.

I have two very unique, very different, and very wonderful children. Because of their age difference, I often tell people I have two only children. Despite their differences though, they are very much brother and sister in every sense. I have never seen Cameron as happy as when he found out he was going to be a big brother. For years, he would comment out of the blue, “You know, I still remember the day we got Chloe.” We “got” her, as in we “got” a gift, which is exactly how he thought of her. And Chloe loves being Cameron’s little sister. She likes to pester him, but she also supports him. She’s sensitive to Cameron’s challenges and tries not to be the “smarty pants” he claims her to be. In Chloe’s homemade Thanksgiving card to Cameron, she wrote, “I’m thankful you are my brother because you give GREAT hugs and you are SUPER intelligent.” (Did I just hear “Awwww”?)

So now with all my pride in Cameron’s accomplishments and my ramblings about AA16, I’m afraid Chloe finds herself in the shadows from time to time. She’s struggling with the role reversal, but her way of dealing with this struggle is not rebellion or pouting. She is confiding in her “For Chloe’s Eyes Only—Keep Out” journal. Ahem … so I assume. Though Chloe is not an attention seeker, it naturally gravitates towards her. She’s bright and talented, and her father and I are constantly in awe of her. We are also in awe of Cameron’s ability to work hard and take on the responsibility of moving towards independence. I hope that neither of my children begrudges the other the awe received. It’s a difficult balancing act, and it’s even more difficult to know if you’ve got the balance right. There is an implied understanding expected of them both. They each must know when it’s time to let the other shine, and not take it personally. That’s a pretty big expectation.

Admittedly, as Cameron has entered the age of transition, and as I have embarked on this endeavor with AA16, my focus has shifted over the last year. The good news from Chloe's perspective is that I now work from home, and my schedule allows for much more field trip chaperoning. The bad news is that this whole process of growing Cameron up is clearly lighting a fire within me. Why is that bad news? It's not really. Unless you're the child that is recognizing for the first time in her life, she is not the source of that fire. But as she is the source of so many other fires, I'm sure she won't be filling up those journals too quickly. Not that I would know if she did!