See this little guy?
He's a great kid.
He's the middle child, the second of two boys and three kids altogether. He loves Thomas and Friends, "car treats"(Hot Wheels), and coloring. He's no stranger to running around the house with his brother and sister, and is great at playing house with sister, too.
He loves deeply, cares intensely, and gets frustrated accordingly.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, canteloupe, and so many other veggies are his favorite snack foods. He'd rather have a tomato than a cookie or a piece of cake! His favorite meal? Bow ties. The kind his Grammy makes. He can also put away a lot of "da pizza that's name is cheese".
His favorite people in the world are his brother and sister. He and his sister fight like brother and sister, but they're also inseparable. He's super crazy about his parents, his grandparents, and his aunts and uncles as well. Lately, he's been known to put his sister down for her nap, complete with binky (shh, I know... we'll get there) and Bearbearbear.
And he's also a little big brother.
Wha? You can only be a little brother or a big brother to one person. Right?
He encourages his brother. He draws his brother out of his shell the way no one else can, just by being himself. He adores his big brother.
I'll never forget the time I first noticed this. We were coming in from the yard when Maelynn was just walking well, maybe a little over a year old, when Ryan hung back. Maelynn and Richie were holding my hands as we walked back, and I saw Richie turn... then drop my hand.
He went back for brother.
"Ryan, come on in the house!" When I turned, they were walking back to the house together, Richie attempting to hold Ryan's hand.
Since then, he's led Ryan through so many things. He's told me what was wrong when I couldn't tell, he draws pictures of he and his brother playing, and he puts up with a lot.
To Ryan, Richie is his best friend, I'm sure. Richie is the only person that I've witnessed Ryan ask to play. Ryan loves intensely too, but in his own way. A big way Ryan loves when you're super close to him his what I call his love pats. He is a sensory seeker, and will walk up to me giggling, and say any number of fun, repeated lines from this and that while love-patting my back. He's begun the same with Richie.
When I tell Richie to get away from brother when he gets that way, Richie simply responds with, "Oh mom, it's okay. I think it's hilarious." Yes, my five year old says "hilarious". Love that kid.
Still, it worries me. Ryan will run to him, giggling, and grab his hands, all but dragging him through the house. Even in the few times Richie has been hurt in these times, it's never brother's fault.
There are a few times when Richie has had enough in other ways. I put shelves up, just small ones, by the boys' bunks. They're big enough for Ryan's glasses on top, and for Richie to place a few of his favorite things on the bottom. Richie was so proud of his shelf from minute one. He placed a few of his favorite things so carefully on the shelf and for the next week or so, everyone who came in the house was dragged back to view it.
And one day, I heard wailing from the back room. "NOOOOO RYAN!!!"
Ryan had raked every last thing off Richie's shelf just to watch it fall. Richie was broken. Deflated. Through tears, he told me what happened.
Ryan coolly walked around the house, continuing to do his thing. He did go back, with help from me, and put everything back... or at least pick it up. He said, "You're sorry." Whoops, try again son.
Again today, Richie began wailing in the back room. Ryan had torn apart something Richie was very proud of that he'd built out of their Duplo blocks. It was a mess. Ryan was screaming and beating his chest, the train table, and anything that would hold still because Richie wasn't giving him all the blocks. Richie sat in the floor in tears, red-faced and sobbing.
"Ryan tore it apart and I'll never build something like it again!"
I'd tell you what I said to calmly wade through this ordeal, but I bet you'd have said much the same. I withstood Ryan screaming at the top of his lungs, this time winning my personal battle to stay calm and even.
But life isn't fair.
It isn't fair that Richie has to listen to Ryan scream, or that I have to either.
It isn't fair that Ryan has so much trouble just dealing with the most simple of social interactions.
It isn't fair that he seems to need to hit to be okay.
Autism isn't fair. It stinks so often. The hard parts vary from day today. But just like Richie and the blocks, I have to stop crying and build with what I have. See, there were still probably a hundred more Duplos in the bin, but the insult of losing those five or ten was so great that it just all washed over him at once and he couldn't enjoy the other blocks.
As I held him, I wanted to cry too. I get it. There's so much else to life than autism, than having Eric so busy this time of year that the kids haven't seen him in two days, than the frustrations. There is so much more to be living and loving and enjoying than to sit and cry about how hard it is and the things we've lost and the hard things, no matter how frequent.
But sometimes you just have to cry.
So I held my sweet little blonde, blue-eyed big/little brother. He cried, he leaned on me, watching his brother. I asked him if he could forgive brother, and of course he could.
Thanks be to God for the rest of it... and the challenges. And for good cries.