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This morning I came to a sad realization. My daughter, just shy of four years old, reached a crucial childhood milestone this morning, one that every parent longs for. In doing so, she flew right past her big brother, who is nearly twelve, and who has not yet mastered that particular skill. I'm worried as to whether he will ever master it.
While I'm immensely proud of her, I feel guilty telling her so, especially within earshot of her brother. I tell her good job, and that she's a big girl, and I see him wilt. The implication, of course, being that if she is a big girl for mastering this skill, he must not be a big boy. But I can't not praise her, because that isn't fair to her, either.
This must be a crossroads that affects every parent who has an alphabet soup child and one who is not. The other child masters skills and asserts themselves in ways that the ABC child can't. It's painful to think of the other milestones that will come and go with my daughter that are unlikely to happen in my son.
In another year, she will start kindergarten. Knowing her now, she will absolutely flourish. She has learned the letters and sounds of the alphabet and it's only a matter of time before she makes that one last connection and sees how the letters fit together to make words (I can feel it, it's so close). Once she gets that, there will be no stopping her. She loves being read to and I know that once she can read for herself, I won't be able to pull her nose out of a book. Teachers are going to adore her, and she has the ability to stop and calm down when she needs to.
I see her getting good grades and being recognized with honors, something that never materialized for her brother. She is highly social and calls everyone, even kids she just met, "friends." She has no problem going up to other kids and asking them if they want to play. Her big brother still has difficulties with that. If they don't, she shrugs and walks away. If her brother is dismissed, he melts down and cries, not understanding why.
Someday, she will learn how to drive. Given her brother's tendency to distraction and poor judgment, I doubt he ever will. The New York Times recently published an article discussing the special problem of learning to drive with a condition like AS or ADHD. Some of the problems that make this especially challenging are the inflexibility and following rules to a fault that tend to occur with people on the spectrum. E. is no different.
Someday, my daughter will likely move out and go to college. I don't see college in E.'s future at all. Maybe a technical school, but I'm unsure about that. I can't even imagine him at a job. What if his boss told him no? Would he melt down and throw a chair? I just don't know.
This milestone is the first of many in which my daughter will soar past her older brother. I wish I could take away the pain and hurt that I see on his face when he realizes that she has passed him in some crucial way. That's the worst of it: He knows that he is being passed but doesn't know how to change it. I don't either. I don't know if it even can be.