Letting Our Son Care For His Sibling With Special Needs

Today was a Professional Development Day in our school district, so both my high schooler and middle schooler had the day off. Phew! The poor kids have been back at school for nine gruelling days. Time for a much-needed break. 

I didn’t realize the kids would be home and I had a fitness class booked for that morning. A good friend was coming to try her first class and I didn’t want to miss it, so I decided to let my son look after his sister. He’s sixteen and more than mature enough to babysit for an hour. But I hesitated (understatement). 

He’s fully capable. The cog in my helicopter parent propeller is the idea of putting so much responsibility on his shoulders, broad as they may be. If something serious should happen—a seizure, or choking, or a fall (all possible occurrences), it’s all on him. That’s a lot to put on a child. Okay, a man-child, but you know what I mean.

I struggle with letting my son take control, letting them figure things out, and letting my daughter have a break from me breathing down her adorable neck. 

Chances are high that absolutely nothing dramatic will happen. But it’s the persistent niggling “But what if?!”… that gives me pause. Is it fair of me to put a potential emergency situation on him? 

He’s sixteen and fully capable, responsible and knowledgable. He’s seen emergencies unfold and has handled them with a cool head. In fact, he’s the one who saved his sister when she was choking. While I was in full panic mode, he stepped up and Heimliched that banana tip lodged in her throat right out as I watched with fear and relief as it torpedoed across the room.

So I left them alone for an hour today while I went to my class.

Did I worry? Not one bit. (Total lie. I brought my phone into class with me and turned the ringer volume to high.)

As I drove home and turned onto our street, I was relieved not to see an ambulance parked outside our house. I tend to let dramatic imagery get the best of me. I opened the door expecting my daughter to run to greet me because it was so hard being on her own, without her mama there. Instead I was greeted by silence. The kids were in the basement building a blanket fort, unaware or unimpressed that I had returned.

While I was gone my son showed his sister how to unload the dishwasher. Then he helped her put away her laundry. It seems when he was “in charge” he took chores and his overall sense of responsibility to the next level. 

Is this what happens when you finally put your eldest in charge? Why haven’t I done this before??

“When mom’s away, the kids will play…and clean up?”

Clearly I need to leave them on their own more often. Maybe next time they’ll tackle cleaning the baseboards? 😉


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