Parenting A Sibling Of A Special Needs Child Can Be Challenging

There is an unspoken expectation of siblings who have a 'special' child in their home. 

When you have a child like Ethan it is hard to parent your other children ...
No one talks about that.
Yes Ethan is my first born.But, Ethan has never development past the age of 5;he has now regressed back to the age of 2.5 years (mentally) even though he is 13.
J is 10 and it is all new to me--
The strops...
The demands...
The homework...
The back talking...
The lack of talking...
The list goes on...
J is really my first experience of 'average' parenthood...and it's hard guys! 
My hat goes off to you, the parents who decided  four plus children would be 'ideal'--wow (worth mentioning I have 6 siblings, well done mammy and daddy!)
There is an unspoken expectation of siblings who have a 'special' child in their home. 
"Ah J must be great with Ethan", which is said to me quite often, especially in front of J. I know it is a compliment. I know it is a way to acknowledge that J is 'special ' too- I have a sibling who has Down Syndrome, all these sentences and more were said to me as a child too. 
And I remember. I remember how those words fell on my young ears as I got patted on the head for being a good sister.   
That's what I felt as a child. I'd listen to an uncle, aunt or neighbour praise me and I'd remember that I had fought with my brother earlier in the day, how I had pushed him...told him to go away and leave my toys alone. I would burn with the shame. I'd scold myself for being mean to a 'special' boy and that maybe God would see me and put a black mark on my soul--(that idea was pushed into my head by an elderly neighbour; who was very very religious..when I eventually told my mammy that my soul could be blackened because I wasn't always good, she marched right over to his house-and as the saying goes, that was the end of that nonsense) But it wasn't, not really, I continued to believe that if I was in anyway nasty to my brother for whatever reason that people would know and they would see my blackened soul. I kept that thought right up until I was in my teenage years. 
While J does not have them religious connotations he may have the feelings of guilt. He doesn't talk about his feelings as much as he used to. What 10 year old boy does eh?! I decided the next time someone asks me that or states it, that I would answer it differently, in the hopes that J may learn that it is normal to get annoyed at your siblings... 'special' or not..and that does not make you a bad person. 
"Ah J must be great with Ethan" a relative said recently while J stood beside me, grumpy due to Minecraft withdrawals. "Ah will ya stop" I laughed. "J has enough to deal with. He is as good with Ethan as he is with the baby, they both annoy him equally" I watched him looking confused, as this was not my typical answer. I placed my arm around his shoulder and added, "And that's ok. It is OK to get annoyed. J is a great big little brother to Ethan and a great big brother to D"
He smiled. "Thanks mam".
"It is the truth. You're allowed get annoyed, that doesn't make you a bad brother, you're a great brother buddy." I gave him a gentle squeeze.
"Will they think I'm not as good with Ethan as you are mom?" he asked as we drove home.
There. That sentence told me he did feel the pressure from the outside world to be the 'perfect' sibling. 
"J, you can only be a kid once. Ethan is hard work. He would test the patience of a saint. I have had to learn to be patient with him. And I'm an adult!" I laughed,"It is perfectly fine to get annoyed"
"Oh good mam, 'cos sometimes he really really annoys me" he wasn't holding back.
I smiled, "I know he doesn't mean to, but I do know that doesn't make it any easier on you".
"I know. The poor thing. .." he sighed "I guess I'll just leave when he starts, ya know the meltdowns and stuff"
"That's a good idea. You'll have to be fast" I laughed.
"Mam, I KNOW Ethan, he is MY brother! HELLO,like" he rolled his eyes at me.
"Alright, alright" I nodded, pretending his 'like' at the end of his sentence didn't annoy the c**p   out of me.
Yes, parenting my other boys is harder than parenting Ethan for so many reasons. 
There feels like there is extra pressure put on me too, that I must raise these two boys who must have compassion pouring out of them; all because they have a brother called Ethan. I often wonder, am I the only parent who has a child with special needs who feels this pressure?!
Kindly submitted by Ger Renton, who will be keeping us up to date on her crazy family life with Ethan & co.
Follow her on facebook at  "It's me Ethan" and check out her amazing blog at  

Ger Renton

Mammy, Wife, Writer, all round fixer of bruised knees, broken toys...always looks for the smile even through the tears!

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