I have been banished. The girls have a secret. (Never were there two closer sisters.) I can hear giggles from R and EB. There has been an occasional dash to the kitchen cupboard for more paint and sellotape. It doesn’t take too much to work out that the covert operation being undertaken in the next room is related to the fact that tomorrow is Mother’s Day.
I was thinking about R’s relationship with her brother and sister the other morning. R was in our bed, not sleeping as usual. F came through, climbed into bed next to R and, to her obvious joy, cuddled with her. I wondered whether very many boys of his age have such a loving relationship with their sisters (to put this in context, F and EB get on pretty well most of the time but they would NEVER hug and would be horrified by the suggestion that they should).
I did worry early on about how R’s diagnosis would affect F and EB. (There is no doubt that there are negative consequences – how could they not find it stressful when their sister collapses in her car seat next to them and their mother is screaming from the front “is she breathing yet?”, while she finds a place to stop the car?) I worried about how their schoolmates would react, especially when they moved to a new school. But F and EB are very proud of their little sister and have always been very open about her disabilities. They are quick to challenge any misconceptions that anyone might have about her and are keen to tell anyone who is willing to listen about Rett. (The school in turn has been supportive, choosing Reverse Rett as their charity at Christmas).
I hope that they would have turned out to be nice kids anyway but I can’t help but think that having R as a little sister has given them a bit more empathy than they might otherwise have had. Their teachers comment on it and they comment too on how good they are with younger children. At a wedding, a couple of weeks ago, F and EB had enormous fun with all the little children. Our friend J’s little son had been F’s side-kick all day. Sentimental after a few beers, he caught me as we were leaving and said “Thank you for your children”. I am still glowing.