sometimes it's hard

On Sunday morning, the girls and I were hanging out in the den, letting Daddy sleep in. Brooke sat in the middle of the steaming primary-colored wreckage of the recently ravaged game closet, happily hanging plastic monkeys on a tree as she sang a favorite song from gym class.
“Five little monkeys swinging from the tree

Teasin Mr Alligator ‘Can’t catch me’

Along came Mr Alligator, mean as can be

And snapped that monkey out of that tree”

Katie, ever the crafty kid, was making homemade paper slinkies for each member of the family. The slinkies themselves would better be described as accordions, but since Katie wanted them to be slinkies, well, slinkies they were. The slinkies were individually decorated and came in different sizes and shapes. One could choose from a wide and short style or a skinny and tall version.

After making them for Luau and me, Katie decided that Brooke could obviously not live without one. Excitedly, she asked Brooke which style she’d like. Doing her best impression of a Home Shopping Network hostess, she displayed one of each type in either hand. “Brooke,” she asked eagerly, “which one would you like?”

“Teasin Mr Alligator, ‘Can’t catch me’”

Katie tried to get Brooke’s attention, enthusiastically explaining that she was going to make one of these origami wonders for her.

“Along came Mr Alligator, mean as can be”

I convinced her to wait until Brooke had gotten to the end of the verse. I reminded her that her sister needs to finish what she starts. She can get anxious and frustrated when she gets cut off midstream. Katie waited impatiently as she got through the last line.

“And snapped that monkey out of that tree.”

She seized the opening and started again. “Brooke, do you want this kind or this kind? I’m going to MAKE this for you, Brooke! Which one do you like?”

With some prodding from Mama, Brooke finally looked up and pointed ambiguously, somewhere in between the two folded pieces of paper. It was enough for Katie, who went right to work customizing Brooke’s ‘choice.’

Brooke knocked the tree down and started the process again.

Katie immediately set to work on Brooke’s slinky. She concentrated all her energies on her masterpiece. When she finished, she held it up proudly for my inspection. She had written M-O-N-K-E-Y in the folds of the paper and had traced each letter in red, her sister’s favorite color. I gushed over her thoughtfulness and told her I was sure her sister would love it. She turned to Brooke and displayed her precious offering in an outstretched hand.

“Five little monkeys swinging from the tree.”

 “Brooke, look what I made for you!”

“Teasin Mr Alligator, ‘Can’t catch me’”

Brooke, look. Do you want me to read it to you? Do you see the letters? They’re your favorite color, Brooke!”

“Along came Mr Alligator, mean as can be”

“Brooke, please look at what I made for you. It’s a present, Brooke. It’s just for you. Do you like it?” Her voice was pleading.

“And snapped that monkey out of that tree.”

“Brooke, can you please look at what I made you? It’s a slinky. I can show you how it works. Do you want to try it?”


I guided Brooke over to check it out. She gave it a cursory glance and returned to her pile of game pieces. I made a fuss over what a wonderful big sister Katie is. I prompted Brooke to say, ‘thank you’. I reminded Katie AGAIN how hard it can be to introduce something to Brooke when she’s in the middle of something. We talked about why. I told her that she’d likely love it later.

Katie began to cry. She rested her head against my chest and said, “Mama, sometimes it’s just hard. Sometimes it’s just hard to have a sister like her.”

And sometimes it is.

I held her tight and told her it was O.K. I told her I understood. And I do.

Sometimes it’s hard.

14 thoughts on “sometimes it's hard

  1. oh, i hope you can get a sib shop together! katie has one through her school and i think it’s a wonderful thing! i think it’s part of why she’s able to verbalize it. i’m so grateful that she’s able to talk about it (rather than have her internalize it and let the resentment build up). this way we get to talk about the good stuff too.

  2. Yep. It is hard. Laurie (age 7) often says she wishes that her sister Kayla (age 4 with Down syndrome and autism) were “smarter” so that they could play together instead of Kayla ignoring Laurie or pushing her away or hitting her. Sigh.

  3. “Sometimes it’s hard.”

    hard because katie obviously has such a big heart…wanting to share, connect; obviously they do that, it can and does happen, but the moments of distance are still so painful.

    which you capture perfectly here. jess writing…one of my favorite things, even when it hurts.

  4. Oh, that made my heart hurt. I think this is one of the hardest things about autism – how it affects siblings. When my younger son, Aidan, was about Katie’s’s age, he said to me with tears in his eyes, “I always feel like I’m the older brother.” He still feels that way, even more so now, and I think it will be that way all their lives. I am trying to form a sibling support group in our area, and hopefully that will help Aidan, at least to realize that he’s not alone in how he feels. I hope Katie can realize that too. She is such a sweet, patient, loving sister.

  5. Yes it is hard indeed, especially for sibs. Our dynamic is tricky because our “NT” son, Gus, is younger than E yet he often takes on a role that’s more like an older brother. I do worry about him in the rare moments that I’m not worrying about E (and I’m feeling guilty about that even as I type). At times Gus lashes out in frustration but thankfully most of the time he’s patient and sweet and goes with E’s quirky flow. They were swimming at my mom’s house this summer and she told me that Gus said to E out of the blue “You know what, I’ll love you forever.” Moments like that I feel like everything’s going to be OK someday.

  6. Yup sometimes it’s hard. The simplicity in that statement brought tears to my eyes. But sometimes it’s amazing so I’ll take the hard just for those amazing moments. May Lila be as wonderful a sister as Katie. Ummm do you think Katie could teach her?

    Speaking of hard, how’s that marathon training going?

  7. agh. hard. yes. look at those hard lessons. i’d say that she’s going to grow up and be a thoughtful and empathetic woman, but truth is, she already is.



    lots of time.

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