I have a very vivid memory of babysitting a friends little boy. I brought Reese along so she could play with him. I wasn’t yet pregnant with Stella and Mara was already born, so it had to be at least 2 1/2 years ago. Reese and my friend’s son, Christian, both needed a bath so I put them in the tub together. Reese started to splash Christian. My first reaction was to scold Reese but suddenly I noticed that Christian was laughing and, to my surprise, he splashed back. I sat there and watched the interaction between these two children and I cried. Reese didn’t have this relationship with Mara. At that point they didn’t interact… at all. I wasn’t crying that night because I was grieving the relationship I imagined with my daughter. I cried because my daughters weren’t the sisters I had hoped they would be.
A couple months ago we were putting the girls to bed. We had all 3 girls in Reese and Mara’s room. Stella and Reese have become really great friends now that Stella is becoming more verbal. The two of them were cracking up about something. It was such a sweet moment. I glanced at Karl and knew he was thinking the same thing. This was definitely a bitter-sweet moment. It was awesome to see the relationship between our oldest and youngest daughters. It was also heartbreaking to look at their other sister and know that she doesn’t have the same relationship.
I fear what the future holds for Mara. I don’t know if she will ever be able to live independently. I am hopeful that she will be able to, but the realist in me knows that I need to start planning for the probability that she will always need to be cared for. When I think about this, I immediately think about Reese. At some point, I will have to talk to her about taking care of her sister when we are gone. Those conversations are far down the road, though. For now, I just need to talk to her about how she can develop a relationship with Mara now. It stinks that Reese has to grow up faster than most kids her age. At the same time, though, it is great to see her learning about Mara and about autism. She amazes us with the questions she asks. A few weeks ago she asked, “Mom, was Mara born with autism or did something cause it?” How on Earth did she come up with that question?!? I answered with an honest, “I don’t know” and then told her that it doesn’t really matter because Mara is who God created her to be.
I am sad that my daughters don’t have the relationships that I imagined for them, but I am grateful for what they do have. Reese and Stella have each other. They play together, dress up together, fight with each other…typical sister stuff. Mara has both of them to be language models. Reese and Stella have Mara to show them what compassion, understanding and acceptance are. They will continue to learn so much from her and it really is a blessing.