This is Charlie.
When her big brother, who is seven years old and autistic, lost his first tooth, she asked us to write a letter to the tooth fairy because she knew her brother would love a toy more than money. She made sure to check his pillow the next morning and show him what had arrived.
She has taken on the role of a special sister the most beautiful way. I don’t know how a five-year-old can accept such big things? Like how sometimes her wants and needs just must come second. Or third.
She doesn’t know about all the things we’ve had to miss out on because we were not able to take her brother, so we all stayed home. But my heart says that she wouldn’t mind. She always wants him with her anyway.
This little light came into our lives when we needed her most. When her big brother needed her, too.
She quickly took on the role of looking out for her brother, telling people when he can’t do things or when sounds are hurting his ears. Or when he just needs a break to sing himself a song.
As you can imagine, being relied on through toddlerhood is a lot. It continues to be a lot, but she navigates everything that comes her way with more grace and patience than I have most days.
Her brother doesn’t like it when she eats cheerios because of the smell. He cannot tolerate some of her favorite shows or toys because of the sound.
She has learned to bring him his headphones when he is overwhelmed, and rush through her morning cup of cereal. These are things I wish she didn’t have to do.
The majority of her first few years were spent in the car, shuffling her brother around to different specialists on his long journey to an autism diagnosis.
Then it was her turn for the doctors, specialists, and more waiting rooms. Her severe allergic reactions, ambulance rides, Epinephrin pens, glasses, patching, asthma… she continues to adapt. Nothing slows her down.
She is happy, independent, curious, and I love watching her learn and grow more each day. She asks questions (so many questions!), watches, listens, and takes it all in.
She encourages her brother through difficult food therapy and haircutting programs. “It’s okay, Wilson.” She whispers in the sweetest voice on earth. She takes his hand to show him when he doesn’t seem to listen.
She tells others matter-of-factly that her brother has autism. She looks up to him, admires him, and is so proud of him.
When she empties her piggy bank to get a toy at the store, she asks to pick one for him, too. How is so much kindness and love packed into that sweet little body?
She is not an autism expert, none of us are. She is learning to be a thoughtful, kind human who knows differences are good, beautiful, and something to be proud of.
We’re so proud of her and the amazing person she is becoming.