When the Special Needs Siblings Don’t Play Nice

We took the kids to the park last week because A) it was fifty degrees and they needed airing out, B) they were out of school and crazy, and C) you can only go to Costco and the mall so much. The actual park experience had been great. I walked Charlie around the perimeter in his wheelchair where he waved hello to every person, bench, and squirrel. The twins ran rampant under wooden tunnels, through people’s legs and down (and up) all the slides.

Wheelchair stroll.








We managed to fill up those couple of morning hours that feel just a tiny bit like parent purgatory before nap time. Everyone was happy and tired when we piled back in the car. I let my guard down, breathed out the breath that meant I could sit facing forward for fifteen minutes without moving. Cue the turmoil. Something wicked this way comes. They always sense when there’s a perimeter break, like velociraptors.

Charlie started to cry and I turn to see Cora standing next to him with a book in her hand and avoiding my eye. Jody was buckling in Jonas so she had been roaming the territory. The book was actually only three sad pages from Goodnight Moon (the rest had been sacrificed to car rides of yore). But they had been Charlie’s three pages. He had been flipping through them contentedly before Cora’s nimble theft. Here’s how it went down:

Me: “Cora, was Charlie holding that first?”

Cora: Long pause. “No.”

Me: “Yes, he was Cora. Now give that back to him.”

Charlie continues to cry and point to the book and then sign “more”. From Cora, silence.

Me: “Cora, do not make me say it again.”

Cora: Looks to me then Charlie. She bends down and picks up a toy SUV whose battery died sometime in July. “No, he pointing to this. Charlie want this one.” She actually reaches around his arm, outstretched toward the book, and plops the SUV in his lap.

Me: Silence as I get out, climb in the back, give Charlie the book, and buckle/restrain Cora whose screams reach the heavens.

Me to Jody: “I hate it when she treats her brother like that.”

Jody to me: “They’re only two.”

Me: Silence.

Most of the time the twins hug him and make sure he has his blanket/toy/book/water on his tray. They love to help push him in the wheelchair and walk him in to school. They can be the poster twins for special needs siblings. But man it gets me when they fill his silence with what they want to hear. It seems meaner somehow, willfully ignoring his words when he can’t fight back with his own.

Just moments before the “incident.” Jonas likes to stay in everyone’s good graces.










I know the stories of the siblings of special needs kids who seem to love in a different way with a more patient heart. I pray for this for the twins every day. But it’s not always Hallmark over here. We get the uncensored version too.

As I was praying through my anger in the car on the way home from the park (mostly the serenity prayer on repeat), I realized that Cora’s actions were better than mine had been lately. She was treating him like a brother, a brother whom she would manipulate any chance she could get. She’d do the same to Jonas. It was me who was treating Charlie like he was “special needs.” To Cora, he’s just Charlie, and that’s how I want it to stay. After all, isn’t that what I plead with the world to see too, Charlie the boy minus the diagnoses? If I’m going to preach equality and fairness in this family, I’d better practice it too…for all our sakes.

Of course, I’m still going to have to teach the velociraptors to share.


Has someone ever schooled you while you were trying to school them?