My intent with this particular post is to focus on what I surmise might be the effects on a family’s other siblings, from all the chaos created by this disorder (NOT the children afflicted with it), and how, so often THEIR (the siblings’) needs and wishes take a back seat to the rituals and sequencing required by all the family members to fulfill those rituals. I’d like to acknowledge those siblings in the family that may not actually suffer from the disorder, but whose lives are profoundly affected by all the symptoms, side-stepping, confronting, do-over’s, doctor appointments, med trials, researching and discussions, etc. My intent is NOT to imply that in my family or others’ there are “normal” children and “faulty”, or “broken” children. That is simply not the case. These children suffering with OCD and other co-morbidities are very sensitive, tender children with chemical imbalances. To look back later, over years of accommodations made by their siblings, it must be downright painful to recognize the sacrifices made on their behalf. I do also acknowledge that it must be very difficult to have to require so much of others to simply exist. However, for other children in a family, also gentle and caring, it must be incredibly exhausting, if not hurtful to go on year after year, feeling somewhat left in the dust. It’s kind of a squeaky wheel thing, I guess. No one at fault. No one to blame. The grease gets spread around, hopefully, with as much love and fairness as is at all possible. It speaks to the character and patience of all the family members, for sure.
As parents, this can cause great heartache. Reaching any sort of balance of your own attention and time between your children in these varying roles can be more than challenging. Let’s face it; the mere nature of OCD can cause a great deal of “ownership” issues. In our case, with our daughter so terribly fixated on me in those early years, we had to immediately lay the groundwork from “ground zero” that her brother was just going to be excluded from all her insecurities and worries. He would have to be allowed, in her mind, to have the same physical contact, emotional involvement – “momma and daddy relationships” as she had with us on every level. This would have to include other family relationships as well where he was concerned. These “understandings” required “refreshing”, as it were, from time to time, as she grew and her symptoms evolved, as well as getting together with family at different events, etc.
I honestly think that it might have been even more difficult for our daughter to make peace with this “arrangement”, ie: how things just are, if her sibling had been a girl, with whom she felt she must “compete”, or if there had been less of an age difference (making the comparison of classwork, etc. more painful for her). Having a brother, I believe, removed many of the built-in worries that might have caused problems, and allowed her to bond with him instead. This is, as it happens, what seemed to occur on a pretty normal level. They seemed to have the usual sibling irritants and giggles for their age difference and pretty much right out of the gate, developed a very sweet, respectful, brother-sister relationship. Our son seemed to sweetly accept his role as his sister’s advocate or “defender” as parents of his friends implied that she might be just “picky”, or perhaps even a bit undisciplined. He was very kind hearted, and didn’t want to hear that nonsense about the inner struggles taking place inside his baby sister. Truthfully, it hurt my feelings as well that people put him in the position of defending the difficult choices we’d had to make as a family, when they had no idea what sort of pain had gone into those decisions. He always handled things very gently on her behalf as needed. And she always worshipped the ground he walked on…from day one.
Our son is now married to a woman every bit as gentle and loving as he is, that “deserves” him (in my eyes, which is no small thing J ). My daughter always wanted a sister, but knew it would be way too hard to come to terms with all her worries and troubles surrounding her relationship with me. Now, she has a lovely sister with whom she can share all her sisterly thoughts. She was mid-teens when she acquired her new sister. How blessed we are.