I have six in total.
Three brothers and three sisters.
They definitely kept me on my toes as a child and as adults they are always in the background; they are the link to my childhood, my parents and where I am from. They will always be that link. They will always know the childhood we all shared; there is a certain comfort in that too.
Thankfully my siblings are very much in my life and always around if I need them.
As a child, I was envious of those who had only one sibling or none; but as an adult I’m relieved I have three of each, I feel lucky.
I am a sibling to a man who has been rocking an extra chromosome for over 40 years now.
My childhood and my boys’ childhood are vastly different.
I am thankful for that.
As a child I was bullied because my brother was different.
We got beat up.
We got called horrible names and worse, our brother was ridiculed where he was supposed to feel safe; in our own neighborhood.
Yes, together the seven of us would take on our brothers bullies whom often became our own bullies.
My sons don’t face the same challenges as I did.
They are brothers to a very special boy who has Hunter Syndrome.
The most they have ever witnessed is staring and they both make me laugh when faced with the ‘looks’ thrown accidentally or on purpose by strangers.
They live in a world where acceptance is something that people care about.
They live in a world which is striving to see ability in disability.
They have never heard the ‘R’ word or have never been roared at by a group of kids saying that their brother is a ‘Handicap’ - Handicap here in Ireland, is as offensive as the R word.
While we are all guilty of thinking that we haven’t come a long way with acceptance; I am here to tell you that we have.
In 1980’s and 1990’s Ireland; our brother and our family heard those words loud and clear in the neighborhood, in school and in the local community when people would refer to my eldest brother.
We still have a ways to go, but we are a much more accepting society and for that I am thankful.
My sons have never cried because another child at school called them names due to their brother’s syndrome.
My sons are able to talk about what it is like to help out at home far more than any of their friends have to.
My sons know what a feeding tube and a port are and what each of these do for their brother.
They have a voice. I felt mine as a child was silenced (when it came to my eldest brother) I was never given the opportunity to educate my classmates, my neighborhood friends or the local community as to what indeed it was like to have a brother with a syndrome.
My sons have support, not just from us, but from the community, extended family, friends, school …
The support I had as a child was within the safety of our home, where we were all the same.
While my sons are dealing with a far harder situation as children than I ever did; I am so thankful that they do not have the bullying and ridicule to deal with on top of that too.
When strangers stare at Ethan his brothers ask very politely “Do you know my brother?”, at that point the stranger either pretends they didn't hear the four-year-old and they move on or they apologise and ask a little about Ethan; which is wonderful.
Asking is always accepted and staring can always be avoided.
So, to us, the siblings; they say we are often forgotten when we have a sibling with Special needs, and to some extent that is true, but we are always always remembered; we are the protectors, the educators, the supporters, the listeners, the understanders, the nurses, the doctors, the carers, the ones who know more about real life than any of our peers ...