By T'Mia Vines Raynor
I was an only child so I never fully understood the bond that siblings have. I do remember however feeling a tinge of jealousy whenever I would see siblings interact. While I loved not having to share my toys, clothes, or attention, I longed to have someone to share my secrets with. So, when starting to have kids, I always wanted more than one. In my mind they would protect each other, love each other, and share secrets that no one would know but them -- little did I know in our case siblings would prove to be even more. I have 3 girls, aka my three little broke best friends. Kennedy is the oldest, 15; Peyton is the middle child, 8; and Portland, 2, was diagnosed with HADDS last year.
After finding out about Portland’s diagnosis, it was very hard for me to process and I figured it would be even
harder for her sisters. For two years we went to specialist after specialist trying to make sense of her delayed development, low muscle tone, lack of communication, and GI issues, and they both were a part of the process. Since test results always came back normal, they didn’t treat her any different – they were the loving big sisters spoiling their baby sister. After getting an actual diagnosis, I now worried how they would treat her. Would they have pity on her or feel ashamed? I heard so many stories of how siblings can sometimes feel burdened when having a special needs sibling and I was very nervous to break the news to them. My husband and I decided to have a family meeting. I tried hard not to let my voice shake and crack (I’m a crybaby) as we told them about HADDS and how Portland was affected. Looking back, it was funny that we planned this serious sit down with them because their responses were so casual and here I was making it so complicated. Peyton’s only concern was that she would still have someone to play dolls with and Kennedy just casually said she didn’t notice much of a difference from her and a typical baby. I was trying to make them recognize that she would now be labeled as special needs, when all they saw was their baby sister.
So taking their lead, we decided to not treat Portland any different. Fast forward to almost a year later and I have noticed that the girls make it a point to include her in EVERYTHING and she tries her best to keep up. Peyton is constantly challenging Portland to dance battles and karaoke competitions and Kennedy uses Portland as her fashion doll which has resulted in Portland having a love for dressing up and picking out clothes. They even sit in on her therapy sessions and help her with the exercises at home. I find myself constantly yelling for them to stop running up and down the stairs or to stop jumping on the bed but truthfully, I am happy that Portland is just having fun and being “normal” with her two best friends. Portland is now walking, talking, and even fussing – and I give a lot of credit to her sisters, especially the fussing. Without even knowing it, Kennedy and Peyton jumped right in when I needed them the most and were able to not do what I have been guilty of doing myself and that is labeling her. They don’t set limitations on her or give her restrictions. While my husband and I try to protect Portland and at times would baby her because she is considered special needs, they just do what they feel is natural and allow Portland to just be a kid. To play, to run, to dance, to sing, to jump, to get messy, to just celebrate and be happy with no restrictions is what they innocently push Portland to do daily. I sometimes have to close my eyes because I’m still working through my limitations that I am putting on her, but then one of them comes to reassure me that Portland can do it to which Portland yells “Mommy I did it!”
Not putting Portland in a box has caused her to thrive and I’m amazed at how positive the sibling influence can be. While I was thinking they would just share secrets and have someone to play with, my girls have taught me that sibling love can be therapeutic and life changing. Although we still have a long road ahead of us and we are still learning so much about HADDS, I am grateful that she has a great medical team, a supportive family, and most of all her two best friends by her side.
A joyful, Portland, dancing and living her best life with her sisters.