November 7, 2015
It Takes Its Toll
November 18, 2015

Something Typical

I first knew something was amiss when 5 year old Jeremy said from his car seat “Mom let’s have a meeting” . I looked at him in the rear view mirror and asked “Why should we have a meeting?”

“Because you have meetings for Corbin all the time. You are always at a meeting. I want to have a meeting”.  I worked hard not to cry as it settled in just how much time we were spending on Corbin’s life and how little we spent on Jeremy.

“What would we do at the meeting?” I asked

“Do stuff that I want” and then he paused before saying “I will bring the pens and paper and you bring the Brownies”.

Such a simple exchange later lead to a deep discussion between Adam and I about how we could focus some of our attention on Jeremy. We agreed to each set aside some time to spend with him one on one. This worked for a while until around Jeremy’s 7th birthday when his brother, Corbin, went into crisis. As a result of undiagnosed BiPolar disorder Corbin wreaked havoc on our daily lives.  He often targeted his much younger brother and tried to include him in the highly imaginative world he seemed to be living in.  When a confused Jeremy said no Corbin would retaliate physically. Jeremy spent more and more time locked away in his room – though he could never escape the huge temper tantrums and diatribes that took place just outside his room. We were exhausted and spent every minute of every day wrapped up in Corbin and his challenges. Our relationships with Jeremy suffered.

When Corbin’s crisis lead to him being placed in a treatment facility 2 hours away we were understandably worried about him and missed him at home. However, we would have to admit that the house was quiet and calm – something it hadn’t been for close to a year.  During the two months Corbin was away we enjoyed our time with Jeremy. We could go to parks and libraries, we could eat at a restaurant and there were no calls from school. I was able to do the simplest of things with Jeremy such as helping him with his homework.  During this time Jeremy flourished and we worried about what would happen when Corbin came home.

Thankfully just before Corbin came home from the treatment centre we were approved for funding for workers to come to our home to support him.  This meant that I was free to continue to do the things with Jeremy we had established during Corbin’s absence. When Jeremy became jealous of the time Corbin had with his support worker we hired someone to come and spend time with him, acting much like a Big Brother would.

Now 4 years later Corbin is much more calm and under control. He still likes to play things like Star Wars and Jeremy is quickly outgrowing the games that Corbin has come to rely on.  It proves a challenge to help them negotiate with each other and I have to wonder if it is unfair when we sometimes push Jeremy to play with his brother.  However, things can’t be too bad as I asked Jeremy when writing this how he feels about having Corbin as his brother and he responded “It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s fun but sometimes its annoying.” Sounds like a typical sibling relationship to me. Imagine that – something typical in this atypical life of ours.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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