A few weeks ago, pediatric resident Dr. Antwon Chavis wrote a blog post called “11 things your ‘well child’ wants you to know.” This week, he’s back with a letter for all the other ‘well children’ out there.
My name is Antwon. I heard you’re the sibling to a child with special needs, like I am. I wanted to write you a letter explaining why I think you’re amazing, and how lucky I think you are. I know your life seems harder than a lot of people that you know, but to be honest, you’ll be better off because of it.
I know you deal with more than kids your age should. Your parents spend a lot of time caring for your sibling and taking care of regular doctors appointments, hospital stays and phone calls. You see the love and patience they have when taking care of him or her. They never stop trying to get what your sibling needs, and they lose sleep so you and your sibling are well cared for. You’re going to learn so much from them! Believe it or not, your parents are teaching you how to be a good person and an amazing parent.
I know that this is hard to take into consideration, as you struggle with jealousy and worry for your sibling. You struggle with anger because you can’t go to every school or social activity you’d like. You struggle with embarrassment as your friends don’t always understand, and then guilt because you felt embarrassed. Or worse, guilt that you are healthy while one of your best friends is not. You know what? I get it! You totally have the right to feel like this sometimes. And its normal, and I’ve felt the same way. But it gets so much better as your and your sibling get older.
Do you know what’s awesome? Your sibling loves you in a way that most adults will never understand. They look at you and know how important they are to you, that you lose sleep crying for them, that you struggle with envy and guilt but that, regardless, you play with them like no one else can. You are their friend and protector. Even if they, like my brother, can’t speak, you both can carry out entire conversations that no one else understands. I bet you guys even have inside jokes. Friend, let me tell you – that is extremely cool!
Your parents see what you do for your sibling, and they are so very proud of you. And they don’t always know how to say it. They notice when you stop what you are doing to smile at them, to give them a hug or a kiss, or a hello. They see how softly you speak to them. They see how gently you play with them. They watch you go out of your way to include them in the things you do. They even know about that time you got in a fight with the kid next door to protect them. And they are so thankful for you. You are so helpful to your parents, even if you don’t know it. It takes a special person to do your job, and no one on earth could do it like you do.
Lastly, friend, promise me that you will remember something. In a very unique and indescribable way, you know love, you know heartache, and you know what is truly important. These lessons aren’t easy to learn, and they will eventually define who you are. They’ll cause you to mature much faster than your friends. They’ll cause a stranger to pull your parents aside and tell them how impressive you are. They’ll give you a weird sense of humor and ability to find joy in almost anything. You are an awesome person and even at your young age, you have changed the lives of others for the better. All because you are the sibling of a child with special needs. Enjoy your journey, friend!
With love and admiration,
Dr. Chavis has a wide array of interests, including working with teenagers, children with mental health concerns and children/adolescents with behavioral or developmental issues. He enjoys working with older children and their families because he gets the opportunity to educate the patient directly, as well as the family that cares for them.