Every so often you get a moment in time when you realise that things could have been so different. A photo, a sound, an item you find, or maybe even something you read. For me it was seeing my children playing together. Because with the vastness of difference of ability, despite being exactly the same age, moments of true interacting together do not happen as often as they should. Naomi wants to play established games with rules, or imaginary games enacting various things she has read or watched, or colouring in and practicing writing. Isaac is still at sensory play, chewing toys or throwing them about the room. And with one talking in full sentences and the other twin still not able to say one word, it makes playing together a very real challenge.
So when they both just wanted to post food cards into a greedy gorilla game it was lovely.
But that moment did make me wonder…
I wonder what it would have been like if neither of them had autism. I wonder what it would be like if Isaac did not have his complex needs. What would they talk about if they were both fluent speakers? What would it be like to have the moments of quality time reading bedtime stories to two children rather than just one? What if I could ask them both what they would like for dinner rather than only asking one and having screaming from the other? What if they could dress themselves, were both independent in going to the toilet, were going to school together like siblings should, had friends round to play? What if I could take them both in the garden and watch them kick a ball together without fear of one of them running away?
Things could have been so different.
Today Naomi’s nursery asked the children to dress as a character from a book as part of literacy week. There was never any doubt in my mind who Naomi would want to dress up as due to her love of all things ‘Topsy and Tim’. And as my daughter left for nursery dressed in school uniform the same as Topsy in her favourite book, ‘Topsy and Tim start school’, I could not help but once again feel things could have been so different. You see Topsy and Tim are five year old twins, just like Isaac and Naomi. Like almost all twins they share all their experiences together. Even Naomi could not help herself this morning in commenting that it would have been nice if her brother had gone with her dressed as Tim. She wasn’t just referring to today at nursery either, as she is now realising that when she starts school in August her brother will not be there. Up until now ‘school’ to her was where her brother went. Now ‘school’ is becoming two different places as she processes the fact her brothers life will never be the same as hers.
Things could have been so different.
I could have walked to school with both my children. I could have been washing jumpers with the same logos on. They could have done their homework together, went on school trips together, played with each other in the playground, had the same holidays, had school photos together.
Instead we have different days off, the inequality of one child experiencing horse riding, swimming, sensory rooms, soft play and interactive tv’s while the other will have homework, reading and writing. We have challenges of one child using language to get what they want while the other lies frustrated on the floor, unable to tell us what is wrong. We have the balancing of needs of two very different children who are the exact same age. We have the pride of watching the smaller, younger twin teach her brother simple life skills like brushing teeth and holding a fork. We have five year olds still getting pushed in swings designed for babies. We have five year olds still in nappies.
Yes things could have been so different.
But then we would never learn to celebrate the simple, everyday events. We would take for granted the wonderful moments in time when they break through all their challenges and play together. We would never experience pride in seeing them achieve things that other children achieve easily. We would never have met some truly inspirational and encouraging people walking similar journeys. And we would never have compassion for others like we do now.
‘What if’ will always be there but it is better to let go, mourn and release the fear and embrace the ‘what is’ of all the wonderful things your child is. All children achieve. All children develop. And all children love. All children bring joy.
Things could have been different maybe, but things are wonderful just the way they are.