This is our daughter Leigha. She is 6 years old and our oldest. She is neurotypical and is finishing up first grade. She is a fiery little red head who loves to read, write, ride her quad and dance. She is an old soul and has a heart of gold. She is kind and caring with a whole side of sass!
She has also had to mature faster than most six year olds. She did not choose to have a brother with additional needs. She also did not choose to see and feel the struggles that our family has had to work through to get to where we are now. She did not choose to sometimes have to say no to fun activities because she knows it will be hard for her brother. However, she has experienced all of this and more with so much grace. She is the best big sis to her brother Colton and she doesn’t take that title lightly.
As much as I worry about my son and what his future will look like, I also have that same worry for my daughter. Daily I ask myself the same questions……how will his circumstance affect her? Am I doing enough for her to feel loved and supported? What if my son can’t take care of himself when I am no longer here? Will she be able to support and care for him? Should she have to?
My answers to these questions change. Sometimes I am okay with the answers and other times I am not. Then out of the blue, there are moments that are presented to me and I stop what I was doing and take a step back. I am reminded to live in the present and breathe. These moments are often presented to me by Leigha.
Around Thanksgiving, Leigha had a school classroom project. She told me her teacher wanted the students to think of something they were most grateful for. Leigha told me that she was grateful for her brother learning to talk. I asked her a bit more about it and she told me that she sees how hard he works and he doesn’t give up. She wanted him to know how proud she was of him.
Just last week, she told me she was ‘working on a project.’ She was very quiet and focused in her room. I could hear her working hard. I could tell she had messed up a few times and started over again. I asked her what was going on and she told me that ‘this project needed to be perfect.’ After about an hour of hard work, she finally finished and showed it to me. I must say that this IS the most perfect project ever.
There are many times I get so wrapped up in the emotions and motions of the day – car rides to and from school, therapy, appointments, dance lessons, mealtimes and whatever else gets thrown my way that I forget too just be. It is in the moments like this I realize how the circumstances we all have experienced have turned into life lessons.
Leigha is wise beyond her years. She lives with empathy and generosity. Leigha loves to celebrate Colton’s progress and she supports him in the tough times. I see her growth. I see his growth. They have taught each other so much. She wonders, she asks questions and she explains to those around her. She has created games to make taking his daily medicine a fun experience. She has advocated for him in school and at the playground. She understands inclusion and why it is so important. She beamed with joy and pride the first time he said her name. Most importantly, she loves her brother deeply.
The life that we were given was for a reason. We may not fully understand that reason and honestly, I am not sure that we even need to. We just need to live it.
Although I do not know what the future holds, I do know that Leigha was meant to be Colton’s sister and Colton was meant to be Leigha’s brother. They are a perfect pair and each other’s best teacher! They are better together!