Today my five year old told me about her friend at school. And her friend’s sister. Her friend’s sister talks with her, plays Barbie Dolls with her, they practice writing letters and words.
And in her tone was a very sad girl bursting with confusion in a pink tutu skirt. Because her older sister does none of that. At that moment her sister, who has Down Syndrome and some autistic behaviors, was sitting in front of the fireplace rolling small plastic hoops onto the stone of the fireplace and giggling. It’s her favorite game even though we remind her endlessly not to sit by the fireplace. “It’s hot” we say and sign. She bellers a “no” and continues. She’s incredibly stubborn, but that’s the beauty we have grown to love about her.
“I hate my sister. I wish I had a sister like A’s.” And my heart cracked. This wasn’t a typical outburst, it wasn’t a tantrum. This was a five year old who has realized her sister is not “normal.”
I paused with tears in my eyes, trying not to sob for the big sister playing with her rings as if this conversation wasn’t happening. “Well, I love her” I said, “I love her for who she is, just like I love you for who you are.”
Because a five year old is on a mission to win every argument they start, she continued. “But she won’t listen. She won’t play with me. When I try to talk to her she ignores me.”
And I cannot deny all of these discoveries are true. Her sister usually prefers to play solo, to swing on the swingset or watch her Kindle, read books, play house. But she often plays alone. I have the hunch it’s because she’s hit her wall of interaction after school and the littlest is an extrovert who always wants to be noticed.
I remind my daughter of the many good qualities that we have with her sister. She laughs often, always wants to dance, is great at peek a boo, and they can teeter totter together as they are nearly the same size with four years between them. “I love her for being her. I love you for being you. Even when we are angry, we still love.”
She may have wanted to keep fighting that fight, but I couldn’t. I was reminded of the grief process and how I was sad and angry the day we discovered our daughter had Down Syndrome. Until that became less and less a priority and I just learned to love her as her.
In time I think she will realize how lucky she is to have her sister and brother. She will realize her sister is full of unconditional love. I certainly see it every day.
As I wrote this I managed to leave the two of them in a different floor in our house than I was in. I came back down to the entire pan of Rice Crispy bars on the living room floor and two girls gnawing at each side.
Apparently we love our sister anyways. At least enough to share the marshmallowy goodness of the treat Mom said not to eat more of until after dinner.