From the moment Penelope was born, Charlotte has been a fantastic big sister. She is patient, gentle, and loving with her little sister. She is never jealous or resentful of all the extra attention Penelope has needed. To be honest, I don’t think Charlotte even realizes that there is something different about Penelope. And don’t get me wrong, I think that is wonderful and amazing and a perfect example of how kids are naturally accepting, but I’m starting to wonder if at some point, I should sit down and talk to Charlotte about how Penelope has some special needs.
This is not something I ever planned on doing- my initial idea on how to address it with Charlotte was just to answer her questions honestly as they came up, but she doesn’t really ask many questions about Penelope. I think Charlotte just thinks that all little sisters have to go to the doctor a lot and have therapy visits and special standers and feeding tubes. And I’m happy that none of that bothers her, but I’m worried that one day, when she realizes that this isn’t the norm, it will come as a big shock to her, and she might be really upset.
I guess I just want to ease her into the knowledge that Penelope is likely going to have a very different path in life compared to her. About a week ago, Charlotte made a comment about how when Penelope is in kindergarten they will be able to play together at school. I probably should have said something then, because Penelope is most likely going to need to attend a different school that will best meet her needs, but I was caught off-guard and I knew I would start to cry if I pursued the subject at that moment. Plus, Penelope is still two years away from going to school. And yet, I don’t know if I should wait two years to talk to Charlotte about it. She seems to have a vision of her and Penelope’s future together- running around at school, playing together. This is not unlike the vision I had of the two of them before Penelope’s diagnosis, and I know how much it hurt when I realized my vision would have to change. I want to spare Charlotte that pain.
This is totally uncharted territory for me. When I became a parent, I knew that there would be uncomfortable conversations with my kids one day, but there are tons of resources to help you talk to your kids about stuff like sex. Talking to your child about her sister’s special needs? Not so much.
What would you do? I know this isn’t something that needs to be dealt with urgently, but it has been rattling around in my head lately, and it would be nice to come up with some sort of plan on how to address this. For now, I think I will continue to take my cues from Charlotte, and answer any questions she may ask. I just hope I am taking the right approach.