Guilt is my copilot

By Mir
January 5, 2011

There is a part of me that feels like my return to therapy has mostly been a few months of “Oh hey, we thought maybe my kid was dying, but apparently he’s not, so I guess I should be fine now” sprinkled in amongst random chatting and just… kind of… time-wasting. I mean, I’m happy to sit around and chitchat, but not when I’m paying for it. And not when I have other things I’d rather do, and actual issues I’d like to address.

So this week I went in and after about ten minutes of catch-up chitchat I said, “So, listen, I need a plan. And goals and stuff. Attainable objectives. I MADE A VISION BOARD, and that’s all the random woo-woo I need for this year. Now I want a schedule and to maybe deal with some stuff and change things.” Then we ended up having a long conversation about me and my habitual martyrdom. So, you know, progress.

One of the things I was asked was why I am utterly unable to compartmentalize (or, at the very least, not feel guilty) when it comes to my children suffering. Apparently “BECAUSE THEY ARE MY PRESHUSSSS BAYBEEEEEEEZ” is not considered an acceptable answer. I’m sure there’s a treasure trove of psychological angst to unravel there in the coming months. Maybe my therapist can buy a boat or a summer home when we’re done.

I feel guilty that Monkey’s life is hard because he has Asperger’s. I feel guilty that Chickadee’s life is impacted by having a brother who is autistic and therefore sometimes limited and/or unpredictable. I feel guilty for wishing he didn’t have Asperger’s, and I feel guilty for having two children who seem to live life by the rule of Whatever They Get I Need To Get Too Or The World Is Totally Unfair.

It’s become something of a joke (albeit a joke usually muttered through clenched teeth) in our house that, “Oh! Whatever he/she has takes away from you! YOUR LIFE IS MEASURABLY DECREASED BY HIS/HER HAPPINESS!” The first time I busted out with that was doubtless in response to a “What? Why does HE/SHE get that? I WANT ONE!” situation. Now it’s just my rote response. Both kids do it. Monkey does it because fairness is king in his mind, and his understanding of nuance in these situations is sort of like asking Mr. Magoo if he wouldn’t mind just performing a bit of life-or-death laparoscopic surgery. Chickadee does it because she has that special early-teen insight where That Which I Have Not is always central to her vision, in sharp focus, while All That I Have fades away in the periphery, not so much taken for granted as actually forgotten in favor of perpetual longing for more.

I offer all of this as preface so that you’ll understand when I say that I shouldn’t have been ONE BIT surprised that Chickadee was—in short—pretty much a little shit to Monkey all day yesterday. On his birthday.

There were a few mild comments made to her. Then a couple of warnings. And finally—at the end of the day—I pulled her aside and I just let her have it. “Really, Chickadee? You cannot let him have THIS ONE DAY? That’s too much, to just let him have HIS BIRTHDAY as a day for us to just make things nice for him?” She stared sullenly at the ground. Our day had been pretty unremarkable by normal standards; we had a special breakfast and Monkey had picked a restaurant for dinner. But she had complained that SHE didn’t get cinnamon rolls on HER birthday (“So ask for them, if you want them,” I’d said. “I’m happy to make them for you, too!”); she had made snarky comments while he opened presents. She hadn’t given him anything (“I’m still working on it,” she said, defensively), and she had refused his multiple requests that she play with him.

I looked at her, standing there, chin jutting, eyes downcast. I cupped my hands gently around her jaw, stroked her cheeks with my thumbs, and brought her face up to look at me. “Chickadee,” I said, trying to keep the anger and frustration out of my voice, now, “if you’re having a problem or an issue, I don’t believe for a second that you feel like you can’t come talk to me about it. If something’s going on, that’s fine, let’s deal with it. But the way you’ve chosen to deal with whatever’s bugging you, today, it’s not right. Don’t take it out on him. He doesn’t deserve it and IT’S HIS BIRTHDAY.”

Tears spilled over her lashes. “It just… feels like… he gets all the attention, lately,” she mumbled.

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I squelched it as quickly as I could; told her that I can see where, from her perspective, it might feel that way. I allowed as to how all of the doctors’ appointments and such lately might FEEL like everything was about him. “I need you to remember two things, please, if you can,” I told her. “First, having your blood drawn and your head scanned and all of this other stuff? Not fun. At all. It’s awful and he hates it. Trust me. It does take a lot of time, and I’m sorry about that, but you aren’t missing out. And the second thing is that I want you to think about the time we spend helping you with homework and projects, and going to your concerts and fairs and tournaments and activities, and shuttling you and your friends around. Monkey doesn’t have any of that. Won’t have any of that, most likely. So WHO is getting all of the fun and attention?” Her eyes fell again.

“I’m a little stressed out about not finishing his present in time, too,” she said.

“He doesn’t want a present, honey. He just wants his sister to be nice to him.” She nodded, and leaned into me for a hug, and I sent her off to get ready for bed.

Later she came back for another hug and said, “I’m sorry. I guess I really didn’t think about how much time you really do spend on me, and how much stuff I get to do that he doesn’t.”

I feel guilty because I have one kid who probably won’t get to do all of the cool stuff his sister does. He doesn’t have many friends. Doesn’t have birthday parties anymore, because parties are hard and who would he invite, anyway? That child won’t be going on the 5th grade class trip this year, the trip where his sister made so many memories years ago. He probably will never go to the middle school, which means he’ll never be in band, never wear a uniform, never run track like he used to talk about, never develop a solid circle of friends with which to head to the high school. He’ll never do academic team and yearbook and math club and all of the other stuff that is Chickadee’s life right now. I feel guilty because when I try to see his future, I see roads closing off to him rather than opening up.

I feel guilty because I have one kid who often appears to be selfish to the point of complete narcissism, who enjoys a life of comfort and privilege she takes for granted, who mostly seems to find her brother an embarrassment and an inconvenience. She thinks he gets more of me. Maybe he does. I tell myself he needs me more, but clearly she needs more of me than she’s getting. At the same time, I feel completely frustrated because when I think about “quality time” I think she gets the lion’s share, yet is sure she’s being shorted. I feel guilty because it’s a lot to deal with; and I know it’s easier to feel angry and jealous than to admit that you were scared, too.

I feel guilty because we’re all—even me—guilty of the BUT IT’S NOT FAIR THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS WHAT I DON’T mentality, sometimes.

And also because they’re my babies and and I wish I could fix everything for them.


  1. Redneck Mommy

    YOU STOLE THE WORDS FROM MY HEAD. You know, if you substitute Aspergers for Cerebral Palsy and such. This is so bang on with what happens in my family, how my kids feel and how I feel I’m a wee stunned. And grateful it’s not just my family.

    Also, I thought of your Monkey a lot yesterday. I hope he rung in his birthday with style.

  2. birchsprite

    You Missus, are a great Mama and it sounds to me as if you are doing a fine job. Chickadee is communicating with you and telling you how she feels… that is an achievement in itself.

  3. Jennifer

    WOW. Thanks for yet another great post. You put that whole parenting-angst/guilt/fear/uncertainty into such clear language. I know that doesn’t provide the answers you’re searching for, but getting it out there is a help and comfort to others.
    Thank you for your willingness to share, and I commend you for doing all you can and realizing that it must include time for you. I loved the “time for dessert” post as well.

  4. Headless Mom

    Even without a sibling with Monkey’s stuff, my oldest frequently says “But you love him more!” about his brother. Clearly it’s a kid thing and not just in your household. We all want all of our babies lives to be perfect but life isn’t fair and I guess it’s our job to get through it the best we can. And YOU’RE doing a commendable job. Seriously

  5. Jeanmarie

    If you only knew how many times I have cut and pasted your words and “messaged” them to my daughter – I thank you for the gift of helping us communicate :-)

  6. s

    oh, this is true in my house where we have no diagnosis. I always say (and not so nicely I might add) that my kids would fight and compete over a piece of dust (which we have plenty of so no need to fight over it). I’ve thrown my hands up many a time and said well I will make it fair – I’ll just say NO to everything and everyone and it will be very fair when you all are home doing nothing because parties, youth groups, outings with friends that I can’t keep “fair”. the guilt, yes the guilt. my husband looks at me like I’m nuts when I agonize over what I can do with the younger boys when my daughter has a fun church outing at laser tag – he’ll say matter of factly – well they will have their turn some day. He doesn’t think I need to schedule a playdate or do something fun to make up for anything. and i’m slowly moving to that side – we as moms can’t make things fair, with or without any medical issues compounding things so much… so how come some of us feel that horrible guilt? I totally envy those moms who calmly just go about their business seemingly with no guilt – do they hide it or do they really not feel it??

    my daughter ruined my son’s birthday two years ago exactly like your daughter did for Monkey. I did not handle it as well as you. And we all still remember it. And two summers ago when one of my boys underwent some oral surgery which was no picnic, she made a huge deal of me lying down with him while he cried and suffered with ice packs surrounding his jaw and was given popsicles and ice cream and mashed potatoes because OH the unfairness even when I pointed out, gee, would you like to trade places and get some snuggles along with the pain, the stitches, the follow up, and the swelling?

    I struggle with dealing with this in a calm manner as my frustration gets the best of me, even though I know I should use these as teaching moments. So my hat off to you, in the midst of your guilt, for parenting the RIGHT way. and if you find a way to let go of the guilt, please share your secret!

  7. Courtney

    Hey Mir–

    I’m so glad that you are blogging about this. I grew up with a similar situation with my brother having some medical/learning issues and I felt that I was always getting shorted. I knew that I didn’t wish to have his problems but I did want my parent’s attention. I grew to understand the situation more as I grew older but it was hard as a kid because it just seemed so black and white to me (he got more attention–I did not).

    I also know that it was hard on my parents. But I never really realized the guilt they must have felt until I read what you wrote.

    I don’t have any advice for you, but I do want to say thanks. It brought a little more clarity to my situation growing up and how my parents dealt and were probably feeling but never shared. It sounds like Chickadee is realizing what the situation really is and not just “they like him better than me!!! wahhh” (which is what I really thought when I was growing up).

    Best wishes!

  8. Karen R.

    I can so relate to this from when my children were younger. My youngest complained because her autistic sister got to go to the doctor more often than she did! It all did even out. There is some tension now as my youngest prepares to graduate from college and be on her own (which she is really excited about), and her older sister continues to live with us for the foreseeable future, but it will resolve.

    On Monkey never having the experiences that Chickadee has and will have — my older daughter, who spent her school career in self-contained classrooms and was in private schools from 5th grade on, was on the student council, the yearbook committee, and was quite popular in school. While there are good arguments for mainstreaming, none of this would have happened in a mainstream environment. For her, this was the best possible situation, and it worked out very well.

    I know it hurts. But ultimately, it is what works for Monkey that is best. He will make his own path and have his own wonderful experiences and accomplishments. And Chickadee will grow up to be a more compassionate person for living with and loving Monkey.

    My daughter who complained about her sister’s extra doctor visits, and was actually a lot like the younger Chickadee until she turned eight? Plans to work with special needs children as a career.

  9. Anna Marie

    Great post, Mir. Your kids are a few years older than mine, and I dread the day that my daughter realizes just how different her brother is and starts to resent him. Right now, she’s 3 and he’s her big brother and she doesn’t care that he can’t walk, can’t talk, still wears diapers and sometimes makes funny noises. I want to be able to raise her with enough empathy that it never becomes an issue, but I feel like I am floundering. I think you are doing a fabulous job walking that tightrope, and I am taking notes.

  10. bob

    1 – It isn’t like you set out to have an autistic child, so why do you feel guilty that he does? It isn’t you’re fault – you didn’t drop him on his head as a baby or do drugs when you were carrying him. So – it isn’t due to a lack in you. It is a roll of the dice the he lost, and by extension you too. So – feel bad for him that he has it, but don’t feel guilty. There’s a difference.
    2 – why do you say he’ll never do any of those things? You don’t know that. You don’t know what the future will bring. Whatever the future brings, it will be – and it will most likely be a surprise. He might not run track or play in the band next year, but who knows what is in his future. He can do all of those things in high school if it doesn’t happen in middle school. He can do all of those things in college if it doesn’t happen in middle school. He can do all of those things in the YMCA or youth orchestra or whatever should he not go in any of those directions (but from everything you’ve ever said, I cannot believe that he won’t ever attend school again.) You are projecting your fears onto his future. DON’T DO IT. And most of all – it isn’t your fault, so there is no guilt. period.
    3 – Chickadee by all appearances is a normal pre-teen girl. All kids at her age are all about themselves. It is a child’s default mode. She has more than proven that she can – with guidance – think of others and do right by them, so she isn’t a total write-off. She’s normal. Feel frustrated about it, but not guilty. You are doing a great job raising her – demonstrated by her response during your talk with her at the end of the day. She doesn’t appear to be to be a raging narcissist to me, so enough with the guilt. Be frustrated like the rest of the parents at her behavior, but realistically – no guilt. You don’t deserve to beat yourself up so.

    I’ve known you for some years now. You are a fantastic mom. Instead, acknowledge that you have great kids and your role in making them so – despite the trials of divorce and remarriage. Don’t keep kicking yourself and blaming yourself – stop the guilt. You need the strength of positive thought to deal with these problems without beating yourself up too.

  11. Karishma

    Remember, always, that Chickadee is basically a teenager. And teenagers are a wee little bit crazy in the head. It may take a little longer than you would like, but she will eventually begin to remember that everything isn’t about her, once all the ANGST and HORMONES and MOODS go away. She will, because you’re her mother and you’re teaching her how to be a responsible member of the world. Sometimes, it just takes a little while for the message to sink in. :)

  12. hollygee

    While this glimpse into his future may lack all of those social interactions, Monkey will still have a full and satisfying life. There are many who have been there before. He, too, will make it as you are giving him the building blocks.

  13. elz

    You must be Catholic in a past life because honey, we have cornered the market on guilt. Oh my word, the guilt over EVERYTHING. Bearing in mind that I have never met your kids, Chickadee sounds remarkably like most smart 13 year old girls. Or at least, the way this smart 13 year old acted “WoeismeI’msopersecutednobodylovesmeIwillneverhavea….” Thankfully I got over that…I think. Moneky may not live the life you originally envisioned, but I think he’s going to be just fine. His life may be different, it may be hard, but his life and what he experiences are HIS. Not yours. You may feel powerless, you may feel sad. But guilty? No way. There’s no guilt in wishing for the best and realizing that his reality is going to be very different.

    Hugs, my friend. Lots of hugs.

  14. jodifur

    You know what, I always felt like my sister got more, and my sister always felt like I got more.

    And one day my parents looked at both of us and said, “I guess we are doing something right.”

    I think you are doing something right.

  15. Katie in MA

    I don’t think you need to fix anything for Chickie. She just needs a lot of time and a lot of patience (from you and everyone else) while she finishes growing up. You and Otto have done a FABULOUS job with her – go ahead and re-read that para where she came back for *a hug*, apologized, and clearly communicated your perspective and her feelings. I don’t even think she necessarily needs more of you or from you right now – other than gentle reminders like the one you gave her.

    And Monkey…well, he might not have any of those same social interactions and accomplishments that Chickie (and others) were able to experience, but he’ll have other wins, other accomplishments, other sources of happiness and success. Sure it would be easier if he could be exactly the same, but better? He’d lose an essential part of his Monkey-ness, I think.

    All of my stupid, bumbling advice is really to say that I think you are an AMAZING mom who is doing everything in her power to be even better. That’s nothing to feel guilty about.

  16. Lucinda

    I was going to try to come up with some insightful, encouraging comment but I’m just going with what Bob said. I couldn’t agree more. Take care.

  17. Frank

    Second (third?) Bob’s sentiment. Try not to let guilt crush you so….

  18. bj

    “Even without a sibling with Monkey’s stuff, my oldest frequently says “But you love him more!” about his brother. Clearly it’s a kid thing and not just in your household. ”

    Yup, we have a Chickadee around here, too. And, she also finds her little brother’s birthday very very hard (probably her least favorite day of the year). And, we don’t have any atypicalities (though I still think teen/pre-teen girls are an issue of their own; unfortunately it’s not an atypicality). So, I don’t know if it helps that you don’t need to feel guilty about Chickadee’s issues with dealing with the time you spend on Monkey, since odds are she’d feel just as upset if you were spending any time on him at all.

    Now, what I’m not getting is why “They’re my precious babies” is not an appropriate answer to why you can’t compartmentalize your children’s suffering. Are you supposed to be able to compartmentalize your children’s suffering? Yeah, you’re supposed to be able to tell what suffering is (i.e. not having their favorite thing at breakfast every day is not suffering). But real stuff, well, I can’t compartmentalize that either.

  19. Dsilkotch

    I think Monkey will be fine. He has his own vibe going on and needs a little more time to find his niche, that’s all. Don’t expect him to be like Chickadee. He never will be, but that’s not such a bad thing. My kids could not be more different, but I’m glad I have one of each. Two of my sensitive, talkative, affectionate son would be exhausting, and two of my logical, taciturn, self-contained daughter would be…a little depressing. Together they help me appreciate the best in one another. Let Monkey find his own path, and don’t worry if it takes him in a completely different direction from the one Chickadee is walk. That’s the beauty of life: there’s no one right way to do it right. :^)

  20. Kristi

    Shoes! Buy those Clarks; you deserve them! And you also deserve praise for your incredible love for BOTH of your kids. Chickie will figure it out one day and will absolve you of all the guilt you are feeling in respect to her. You know that. I know you do, somewhere deep down under that guilt. And Monkey, he will thrive on your love and dedication. I know it is hard, but you are his mom for a reason.

  21. Dsilkotch

    PS. I didn’t mean my last comment in an obnoxious “he’s not autistic, you’re just parenting too hard” way; hopefully it didn’t sound like that. I just mean that “Aspergers” and “Happy, successful life” aren’t mutually exclusive terms. :^)

  22. Jenn H

    I, also, agree with everything Bob said. Except the part about knowing you, because I don’t. :) But since he says he does, I’m inclined to back his advice even more.

    But, just for giggles…. I found it funny that he took the “typical” male approach of looking at the problem rationally and coming up with a solution, rather than the “typical” female approach of empathy. :)

  23. Justin

    Some of it is just personality. Some kids are easier, they just have a tendency not to cause as much stress. In spite of Monkey’s stuff he also sounds like much of the time he’s just an easy breezy kind of kid. He’s also the youngest. Chickie is older, has to deal with responsibility first and is an almost teenage girl, and she isn’t the first to be a bit moody. This all sounds remarkably familiar to me and there were three of us, so we had a middle child who had his own issues too. They’ll grow up and laugh about this someday.

  24. liz

    Sounds like you’re doing a great job of parenting both your kids, and Chickadee sounds like a typical teenager, with perhaps even a bit more empathy than most.

  25. Mamadragon

    Totally happens in my house too. Absolutely positively the same. Except I also have a child who is younger than the Aspie, and his way of letting me know Aspie-girl has been getting too much attention lately is to act like a complete and total poo-head. Charming. And so far I have not been as successful as you at getting the older child to see the light.

  26. Annie

    When I was 12 or 13 I was in the same situation that Chickie is in now–my little brother had learning problems and my parents were worried about him; my older brother was at that point having serious, serious issues with mental illness and drug abuse. And I was the good, neurotypical kid and trying so hard to stay out of the way and hold it together when things were not going at ALL well with middle school.

    Chickie’s normal. She might be feeling guilty about that, along with all of the other hormones and body stuff that comes with being an adolescent. I’m actually really glad for her that she can communicate (even badly) that she needs attention. It’s the ones that don’t or can’t say that they need help that you have to watch out for.

    It’s a hard time for her and you and Monkey, but eventually you’ll all get through.

  27. Vivian

    I read somewhere that “a mother is only as happiest as her unhappiest child.” My three children are in their 30’s now, and it’s true. Whether it’s health, marriage, work or friend-related, I worry until it is fixed. Then, we add grandchildren to the mix–it’s a wonder that I’m ever happy! But I am much of the time (when not worrying about the children).

  28. Karen

    Guilt serves no purpose here and it’s certainly not warranted. Cut yourself a break and LET. IT. GO.

    When my daughter had her accident, I kept running these thoughts through my head…. “why was I so strick with curfew – why did I try calling her to see where she was, she was only 15 minutes late – why didn’t I have more patience with her – what did I do so that my kids would deserve this – why can’t I be everything to everyone whenever they need it all the friggin time and why can’t I make this all go away ”

    Yeah – so….

    Let It Go.

  29. Heidi

    I’m sorry it’s so challenging for you right now. I’m not a mom to an Aspie (or anyone else, for that matter) but I’m putting my money on Monkey. He may not the same avenues available to him as his sister, but he’ll have different ones that I suspect he’ll rock.

  30. suzie

    Independent of tween/teen behavior and any particular challenges that they may be facing at a given time – my kids always act up on each other’s birthdays. I have been increasingly frustrated with my now-14 year old each year that she’s even OLDER and still obnoxious to and about her sister on her sister’s birthday. And my now 12-year old can be guaranteed to be in a sullen snit every September on the anniversary of her sister’s birth. Let’s also throw in any days set aside for celebrations, as well. Because the attitude is not limited to the actual date of their sister’s birth.

    Sounds like you handled it beautifully – I don’t know where you get all of your patience. Again: your kids are very lucky!

  31. Fabs

    I hate the guilt we feel as mothers! I hope your therapist helps you through it (and maybe you can give the rest of us advice, ha, ha) even if you do wind up paying for that vacation home of his. I have always wondered why we feel so guilty about every decision we make, every wrong thing we mutter under our breath or yell out-loud. I also wonder why OUR mothers never seemed to feel guilty!

    I have felt the same about my kids, because my daughter has Pervasive Developmental Disorder and inattentive ADHD. She doesn’t have many friends and is not as socially mature as the girls her age or even her younger brother so it seems like she is missing out on alot of things. I have felt bad about this, but I don’t think she realizes that she is missing out, so should I feel bad? It seems like Monkey is happy with his life and the friends he has. Does he complain about missing out on stuff?

    You are an amazing person. You are doing such a great job with your kids!

  32. Ani


    I have observed to my friends that the one thing no one EVER tells a pregnant woman about, and the number 1 thing they need to be aware of, is the immense amount of GUILT that comes with being a mom. Guilt if you stay home, guilt if you work outside the home, guilt if you work AT home, guilt for sending them to school, guilt for pulling them out of school. Guilt for giving them gifts, guilt for saying no to gifts. Guilt for giving them candy, guilt for making them eat their vegetables. Guilt guilt guilt.

    We do the best we can. Then we try to take deep breaths and move on. To the next guilt trip. :-)

  33. TC

    Like other said, this is BANG ON what happens in my house: Older, extremely popular sister; PDD younger brother who spends most of his time alone unless I invite over family friends. There’s less of the “I want what he gets” stuff, but more of the “why do I have to come home after less than 72 hours’ worth of social events to watch him” stuff.

    It’s hard and it’s not fair. To us, more than to our girls, frankly.

  34. Tracy

    I’m sorry you are going through all of this, Mir! All mother’s have the middle name of Guilt. It’s ok. You are only human. Guilt and Worry. But I’m with Bob on this one. {{{{hugs}}}}

  35. Amy @ Binkytowne

    They are not just your babies, they are your precious babies, no joke and we all get that way, so let a teensy bit of that guilt fade away..easier said than done, I know, I know.

  36. Jamie

    I want to hug you and have a good cry with you. I love what Ani said above – no one tells you about the guilt; OMG, the guilt, even if you have children who aren’t special needs, it still there for all the reasons she mentions. I hope that therapy and a plan help. You’ve got so much on your shoulders, you know we’d all take a little bit each in order to help! I never thought through your list of “things Monkey will never do,” but reading it is heartbreaking and I hope that somehow, he’s able to do some of those things anyway. And Chickie… ah, the teenage years are not going to be easy.

  37. Lylah

    You can’t focus on the “nevers.” There lies madness. All that stuff is Chickie’s life right now, yes, and she loves it, but it doesn’t have to be his. Don’t spend time mourning a path he might not have even wanted to take.

    Also: Even completely NT younger siblings are a source of embarrassment and frustration to their older sisters, especially around the teens. It’s part of the Natural Law of Life.

  38. ramblin red

    thanks for going and making me cry today. Guilt gets around as a copilot, because she sits here with me all the time too.

  39. Heather Cook

    That just made me cryyyyyy :(

    I don’t know if it helps… but I really believe our children are chosen for us, for some reason. I think God was up there and said “I have this boy here who is going to need a really good mom, one who is going to do her best by him”. And he chose you.


  40. Ann from St. Peter MN

    I have to agree with what Bob said – I think he hit it right on the head. And it’s true – you don’t know what Monkey may or may not be able to accomplish. Don’t only see the “dead ends” – or perhaps you will have a self fullfilling prophecy. I believe that kid is going to surprise you big time! Hugs!

  41. Kristy

    Balancing the needs of two children that are so different…you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you! I can remember the pain-staking efforts my mother made in this regard, and we always criticized her for it, too. I can only hope my kids will be easier on me!

    I’ve selected your blog for an award. Check it out:

  42. jessica

    I always love reading posts like these, as they make me a more compassionate and understanding person. I love how you discussed it with Chickadee, allowing her to open up to all the frustrations she’s been feeling. My inclination would be to say “shape up and quit being so mean for no reason” without digging deeper, but every time I read things like this I remember that empathy is always the best route. I need to keep repeating that to myself, so thanks for the reminder.

  43. carolyn

    If it is any comfort at all, please know that my two fairly typical children (ages 18 and 15) each think that the other gets more of me: more attention,more time, more help, more everything. And also that I like/love the other more. Its become something of a family joke, really, and we can laugh about their uneven perception of things. But when they were Monkey and Chickie’s ages it was very frustrating, because as a single parent I took great pains to be fair. Parenting…so challenging.

  44. Debra

    If you decide to home school Monkey through middle school and high school don’t feel guilty about what he will be missing.

    He will be missing the teachers that talk down to him and belittle him, make fun of him, and yell at him.
    He will be missing the students the hit him, make fun of him, call him names, talk about him and embarrass him.
    He will be missing the embarrassment of having a melt-down in front of a large crowd.
    He will be missing the embarrassment and stress of going through puberty in front of a crowd.
    He will be missing the angst and feeling of failure when he can’t get everything done that he is supposed to be doing.

    He probably won’t miss track, band, the uniforms, etc nearly as much as you think he will.

    Community leagues and private music lessons can help fill that gap and might be easier for him.

    Mir, you are a fabulous woman and mother and wife. I wish I could tell you it gets easier but you are hitting the hardest times in parenthood. My own “special” child is 21 now, still doesn’t have direction in his life but lives with his girlfriend and is doing okay. I have faith that he will sort things out in his own time. Monkey and Chickie are going to be fine… and so are you.

  45. Tracey

    Oh Mir….I see so many wonderful posts from women who have been through/are going through similar struggles. I have commented before about my son being diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and although my daughter is only 6, she makes comments sometimes that illustrate how she already can sense that he gets more attention. And the guilt! Every mom has that, but I really do think those of us with special needs kids get saddled with so much more of it. It sucks, because seriously-do we not already have enough going on??? I would like to tell myself to just let it go, but that’s nearly impossible since it’s not a conscious decision to have it in the first place. I guess the best any of us can do IS our best, and we just have to tell the guilt to shut the hell up.

  46. Mom again

    I saw this in my pair of kids too. Coming from a larger family I put down at least half of it being that keeping score with 1 sibling was easy. With 4 of us stretched out over 7 years and with both genders around it was too hard to see who was winning. We learned early that being littler and male was sometimes a better deal but other times the older sister was better off. Sometimes you get stuff sometimes you get away with stuff. What goes around comes around and your time will come. That sort of thing.

    But with just two? Scorekeeping was the worst part of raising them. I hated it and tried to not play into it. My oldest was the time and effort blackhole and even though the worst of it is a decade past (heck she’s not only moved out, she’s married) I think the younger will never feel like anything we ever do will make up for not getting all that time and money given over to her sister’s therapy and care.

  47. Useyourwordsmom

    God. I go through a version of this each day. In my case it the growing realization that my older son’s issues (almost 5, with some elements of Asperger’s) completely dominate the needs of my younger son (almost 3). As a single parent I constantly find myself putting energy into my older son, whether to prevent a power struggle, a tantrum, an explosion, an attack. At the same time, he is so incredibly needy that he drains me of my energy and my attention. I just hired a babysitter for one afternoon a week with the hope that the kids could get more one to one. I am also leaning on my mom for the same. But that feeling of missing the mark as a mom? That one is so very, very real.

  48. Little Bird

    My mother tells me sometimes that she feels guilty that she didn’t get help for me sooner. That she didn’t push the issue with doctors when I was an infant. That she let it go as long as she did. It’s not her fault. Everyone treated her like a new mom, one that was jumping at shadows.
    It’s not your fault. That Chickadee can recognize that Monkey isn’t trying to “steal” attention is proof that you are doing something right. That she can see that it’s going to be different for him than it has been for her, is also proof of you doing something right.

  49. Jen

    I think my parents’ mantra was “we won’t treat you all equally, but we’ll treat each of you fairly” – heaven knows I heard it enough times growing up. :)

    For us, the biggies that I remember were driving the car and the boat at night (when you’re a teenager on an island for the summer this is a BIG deal). Funnily enough, even as adults, we still remember those perceived injustices (just try being fair with offspring with birthdays in Dec, May and Sept when resolving a summer only issue – there’s no way everyone will get the privilege at the exact same age!).

    All that said and done, however, I now use the “not equal, but fair” with my employees – and guess what, some don’t like it much either but I believe it’s right and fair.

  50. ABDPBT

    See, this is why I only have one kid. (Actually, it’s not. That’s more of a complicated thing). But I do understand the guilt part, even without dividing the attention among children. I guess one way to look at it is that your children benefit from the fact that they have to share you, and that you handle it gracefully, even with the guilt, and that I guess that is the best we can do.

  51. Julie

    The way you spoke to Chickadee had my heart melting…thank you for being a shining example of what good parenting is. I appreciate your honesty and I always look forward to reading about what is happening with you and your beautiful family. God bless…

  52. Annette

    Funny ABDBPT, as I was reading the comments, I was thinking how much easier I have it in this area because I have 7 kids:). I am too busy doing laundry to worry about who is getting more of my time:)

  53. Cele

    Chickie is blessed she has a mother who can show her. You are blessed you have children who listen. I pray for Monkey he doesn’t miss out on all the stuff he looked forward to. My heart and prayers to you all.

  54. Kristin

    I have 13 year old daughter and I really love how you put this:

    Chickadee does it because she has that special early-teen insight where That Which I Have Not is always central to her vision, in sharp focus, while All That I Have fades away in the periphery, not so much taken for granted as actually forgotten in favor of perpetual longing for more.

    This is a perfect description of the place my girl is at right now. I guess it just comes with the age. I just want her to realize how lucky she is and what a blessed life she lives. I wrote a post along these lines around Thanksgiving.

    There is a little boy in our elementary school who has been in the same class as my son in a couple of different grades. He is an autistic child to parents who adopted him. His mom (who is amazing, just like you) told me once that she is so glad that they get to be his parents because he has so much to teach them. I loved that.

  55. mamaspeak

    Mir, you know by now that hormones are a large part of your guilt, right? It’s like they got turned on when you were pregnant & you can’t turn them off. They manifest themselves as guilt & worry as your kids get older. It’s nature’s way of making sure you care for all your kids. (Sneaky beyoch that Mother Nature.)

    I smiled as I read Bob’s comments, because they were so “guy-like”. He “fixed” it. It didn’t really need to be fixed, but he did. He’s right. You and I both know that, but your hormones aren’t in the rational part of your brain, so they don’t listen.

    Even if you’re paying for “small talk,” I suspect there’s more to it than that and you need to take an hour or two every week for you. (I should listen to myself once in a while). Stick w/it, more will come from it, even if you can’t see the forest for the trees right now.

    Lastly, I was Chickadee & my brother was Monkey. I never totally realized that till reading this tonight. I don’t really remember pulling the “it’s not fair, he gets more!” But based on some the typical things my mom would say to us, I suspect that’s selective memory on my part. My mom has recently told me stories about my Grandma not being willing to help w/us kids because, “she (my mom) needed to remember she had another child.” I think I’m hearing these stories because my mom is afraid my “spirited child” might be getting more attention. She’s not, I just tend to vent about her more. Honestly, I think my G’ma had the right idea, but I think my mom should have pushed back more & asked for help, so she could have given us the time she felt we needed. Live & learn, right? Anyway, my brother and I are both very productive members of society (at least on paper,) and we mostly don’t resent each other. ;-) As kids, we used to have our moments w/each other, but I suspect that Chickie would happily wallop any kid who gave her brother as sideways glance, as I apparently did a few times. (He was MY punching bag!) ;-)
    I know, you’re just having a moment & feeling overwhelmed, but this too shall pass (and something even better will pop up for you to stress about.)
    Happy Birthday to you and Monkey and Happy Big Sister Day to Chickie, but the day he was born was the day she became a big sister & that’s something to celebrate too.

  56. MomCat

    Hang on, Mir….and try not to imagine too far ahead. I am really good at imagining the worst, and having medical professionals to embellish future fears doesn’t help. Only about 2% of what we were told would be issues, actually developed into issues. All that worry and stress and guilt, wasted!

    A neurologist friend told me that the brain is growing at an astounding rate during the teen years, so sometimes teens are a little unbalanced. They can’t help it, their brains are like a twisted mass of wires being rerouted daily. They need patience and guidance to identify, discuss and deal with their feelings. You did exactly that!

  57. Randi

    Neither of my children has (that I know of) and form of a learning disability, but I can say that my oldest still feels as though his sister gets far more attention and time than he does. Even though we do everything we can to split it up evening – I think, part of it, is that she’s almost 4 year younger than he is, and so she gets to do younger stuff with us, and I wonder if, like even us adults feel some times, he’s wishing that he could be a bit younger again – even if it’s only 4 years.

  58. Half Assed Kitchen

    Maybe Monkey will surprise you and find a good buddy at some point. Even just one solid friend can make all the difference in the teen years. Try not to feel so guilty, Mir (coming from someone who always feels horrendously guilty). You’re doing the best job anyone possibly could.

  59. Aimee

    It’s so hard to know what to say, but you’re a great mom and I have faith that you’ll all figure it out.

  60. Brigitte

    Everyone’s said it! I just have one small point, which you can file in the logical portion of your mind (I know the emotional, guilt-ridden part will probably ignore it):

    Even all completely neuro-typical siblings will whine and complain that things are not fair, so-and-so gets more attention/stuff/cake etc. no matter how fair you try to keep things. It’s just the way children are built!

  61. Vern

    Found you via Kira and I’ve been reading you for a while now – as tempting as it is to wax philosophical on Asperger’s and child rearing I can’t seem to get past the image of Mr. Magoo performing an emergency laparoscopy. That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time!

  62. Angela

    I think it’s just a female thing. I am 35, married, no kids, and I feel guilty all the time about things that are pretty much circumstantial and out of my control. If I’m sitting still, I feel guilty that I’m not moving around getting something accomplished. If I’m doing one chore I feel guilty because I haven’t done ALL the chores (and everyone knows you can’t EVER have ALL the chores done!) My house isn’t level and I feel guilty because I can’t afford to spend 10K any time soon to level it! And on and on and on…… My husband says I inherited it from my mother, but it is some comfort to know I’m not the only one. However, I do remember a time when I didn’t feel as much guilt about things, and that was when I was single and had very few responsibilities. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have kids because I don’t know if I could handle any more guilt than I already have!

  63. kopi-susu

    Chickadee may have a point, even if she is a little inept in expressing it….

    Being a sibling to a SNK can be harder to navigate than the usual sibling morass. The NT daughter of a friend of mine, slightly younger than Chickadee, has regained a lot of balance and perspective from joining a monthly meeting of other siblings-to-special-needs-kids (whew! hope that made sense!)

    If whatever services you’re using in your area offer it, you might see if Chickadee wants to try it out. She may just need to vent to someone who is not you (about the right age for that…) and come round to the fact that things will not ever be equal between her and her brother, in both good and bad ways, and come up with a way to deal with it.

  64. rose

    I had all these thoughts about my son 15 years ago. All the things he wouldn’t experience, the aloneness the rituals he would miss. But he has surprised the heck out of us. As he has matured, things have gotten better. Much better. He made a couple of good friends in jr. high, and is now out of college. Of my 3 kids, he has had the most stable and reliable friendships. He went to college, a small one, made a couple of friends there, and has kept them even now. he has a job, with benefits. There are still certainly “aspy” characteristics that reveal themselves, but I think he’s seen as shy and quirky-the absentminded professor. It does get better.
    A day at a time.

  65. Rachael

    I don’t know a mom out there who doesn’t feel guilt over what she can or can’t give her kids. I face that guilt X 7 at one time or another. It’s why I quit my FT job to stay home and raise my kids because I felt horrible having to be at work when they were sick, and then when I’d stay home with them, I felt horrible for not being at work. There are times when I feel like I need to be that 8-armed Hindu goddess and that there aren’t enough me’s to go around. There are a lot of times when I hurt for my daughter with LD and mental retardation, too. There are times that she hurts me, too, with her words and her frustrations can drive me up the wall. I feel you.

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