When Oli was born my son Kekoa was only 17 months old. He had not even spent a year and a half in this life. On this earth. He was so incredibly young that I was still getting to know his little personality. I was trying to figure out what kind of person, what kind of man, he would grow into.
What kind of grooves would this little boy fall into after having a sister born with significant disabilities?
Would he stay locked into hers? Would he be able to find his way out? Would he be able to tread his own path, defining his own grooves? Would he be able to define himself and to find his own identity or would he continually be forced to follow along behind her?
Would I force him to follow along behind her?
Would he be mad at ME? Would he resent ME for the events in his life that were about to take place?
Would he resent HER for being born the way that she was?
As I sat on the corner of the tub, bathing my 17 month old little boy, I asked myself all of those questions. I cried over all of the possible answers that lay before me.
I cried for the little boy that I had promised to do everything for. I cried over the fact that I had somehow unintentionally just made his life so much harder. I cried because I was not going to be able to fix this for him. I was not going to be able to make this easy.
When she was born I never even considered the possibility that her birth could be the best thing that would ever happen to my family. I couldn’t even dream of recognizing the positive outcomes because I was so drawn into the pity parties and the negativity. I couldn’t stop feeling sorry for myself long enough to see the beautiful forest from the trees. I was stuck in an outcropping of horribly ugly, brown, leafless, dark, gnarly, trees. I hated those stinking trees.
As life moved on…
As I moved on…
As the world moved on… I began wondering what kind of person this experience would mold my son into. I began realizing that we had a unique opportunity to view our daily life as a constant lesson to learn about humanity. The good and the bad.
I learned and began to teach my son how to respond rather than react to people and situations that might not always be positive. I learned and then taught my son compassion and understanding rather than anger and resentment.
We talked about WHY people sometimes respond the way that they do to Oli. We talked about HOW we could and should respond when people are mean. We talked about how most people just don’t see the world the way that we do. We talked about how people are generally good and that sometimes they just don’t understand and are curious, but might not know how to ask about her condition.
We talked about a lot of things. We still talk about a lot of things.
Kekoa is 8 years old now. We talk like we’ve always talked, but now I try to get him to tell me how he feels about things. I try to get him to tell me how it makes him feel if someone is mean to his sister, but it’s hard.
He’s only 8.
Mostly he just says that it makes him sad. He says that he wished people understood her better. He wishes that people knew that she was just like them, but unable to speak or to see. He says that he wishes that they would consider her feelings when they were mean and not treat her like she doesn’t understand.
I wish that too Kekoa…
So we talk about those feelings and the actions that we can take to make it better.
I never really know how much he understands when I try to help him work through these things. I never know what he does with these talks and these experiences when he walks out of my front door in the morning and heads off to school.
The mom of one of the girls in Kekoa’s school emailed me this morning to tell me a story about my sweet boy.
She said that her daughter Rachel, was being picked on by some boys at recess earlier this week. Her daughter told her that Kekoa had stood by her, comforting her, and helped her to reach a teacher who could help. Rachel told her mother later “Kekoa knows how to treat girls because he has sisters.”
Because he has sisters.
Because he has Oli.
Really that’s what it comes down to.
He has learned such compassion, such respect, such infinite wisdom because he has Oli to teach him.
He has a sister who has never looked into his eyes, never spoken his name, never uttered a sentence, but has taught him to be an incredible human being.
She is teaching him how to become a wonderful man.
I can see how beautiful my trees are now.
I can look my son in the eyes and never feel remorse or sadness about the way our life has turned out.
I can look at him and see the amazing gift that Oli has given all of us.
She has made every single one of us into a better person and has allowed us to live a life that I never even would have imagined.
It’s a beautiful life.