The whole school laughed hysterically as I stood in the middle of the playground with my gym shorts around my ankles and my Raggedy Ann and Andy underwear on display.
I stood in disbelief, my eyes filling with tears as I realized someone had just “shanked” me and everyone saw it. Of course, it would’ve been hard to miss considering my new basketball jersey, which I was so proud to show off that I had recently made the middle school team, was tucked into my underwear.
In what felt like slow motion, I pulled up my shorts and went running for the locker room wishing that I had never made the team and could go straight home instead of into an hour-long game in front of my classmates.
When we finally arrived home that evening, I headed right for my room as my mother cornered my older brother and instructed him to go easy on me for a while after what I had just experienced. After hearing the news, I was amazed that rather than use this opportunity to deepen my pain, my brother called my offender and ordered him to find some way to turn this most embarrassing moment around.
The next day, I walked into the lunch room prepared to eat alone but instead was greeted with a huge bouquet of flowers and a very public apology.
It took a few days, but eventually the kids stopped calling me Raggedy Ann and, in time, I learned the true motivation behind my offender’s actions.
I will never forget how special I felt knowing my older brother had defended me. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world and dreamed of the day when I would have a daughter and son who would be able to stand up for one another and care for each other the way my brother had done for me.
Of course, we continued to fight like cats and dogs over the remote control and the backseat armrest, but I never forgot the way I felt that day when I realized my brother would be there for me when it mattered most.
It may sound a little corny, but I eventually came to appreciate not only that day in my life but also the fact that I was wearing Raggedy Ann and Andy, the rag doll duo best known for reflecting trustworthiness, kindness, and spunk.
Siblings – and friends that feel like siblings – are one of our greatest gifts from God. It’s not always the easiest relationship, but if nurtured, a sibling can provide us with great comfort and love.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I went back and forth hoping that I would have a sister – no, a brother – for my daughter. A part of me desperately wished she would have the opportunity to experience sisterhood because I had grown up with only brothers. But when we ultimately learned that we were having a boy, I can recall feeling relieved because I knew she would one day understand the joy of having a brother just as I had discovered.
Of course, I knew then there would be many, many ups and downs on their journey, but I knew they would grow to lean and depend on one another.
In the last three years, we have all been through those ups and downs as we have learned my son has autism. While the road has been tough for my husband and me, it’s been very difficult for my daughter as well.
She’s had to deal with stares and questions from strangers. She’s had to put his needs before her own more times than either of us can count. She’s had questions about why her brother doesn’t speak to her like other little brothers. She gets disappointed when he becomes overstimulated and we have to leave the park or a play date early. She feels left out when the therapists come to our house each afternoon to see him and not to play with her. She’s even asked if her children will have autism and if James will ever grow out of it.
I do my best to love on her, answer each and every question, and celebrate her with special trips and activities. But it’s impossible for me to interpret all of her emotions and take away all of her pain.
I would be lying if I said I’ve never been infuriated with God and asked Him why she can’t have a brother who can say more than a few words to her, or play make-believe.
Thankfully, when I have those moments, my God quickly reveals to me the many, many blessings that we all have received because James is in our lives. And that, in fact, it may be Ellie who will gain the most through this experience.
Last night we were walking to our car after a long day at school. We had been honored to have one of the Presidential candidates on our campus and she had the unique opportunity to speak with him. As we walked to the car, she told me that one day she would be President of the United States.
I loved hearing her dream of living in the White House and thought about how proud I would be to see her change the world.
Later that night, as we said our prayers before bedtime, Ellie said she had changed her mind. She didn’t want to become President anymore. Instead, she wanted to be a therapist and help children with autism.
“Like James, Mommy. I want to be able to help kids like him,” she said.
I was immensely proud of this amazing person God is shaping and thankful for the incredible daughter and sister she has already become. I knew in that moment that God is using her to change the world.
She is teaching her friends about loving those with differences. When you have a close relationship with someone who has disabilities, you are often reminded that the only thing that matters in life is being kind, helpful, patient and loving. My heart bursts with joy when I see the two of them playing together at school or catch them in a moment when he is fully engaged with her and she beaming with love for him. They have their own unique love language and my prayer is they continue to protect and treasure one another long after their parents are gone.
This journey has been filled with pain like I’ve never felt before. But watching my children together and knowing they will forever share a special bond has given me a heart full of the kind of love I never imagined possible.
They will change the world. And they will do it together.