Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Siblings

Rob here at Memory Pebbles expresses concern on the effects of all the attention Fergus (older brother) gets on Norah (younger sister).

"Our 3-year-old daughter is growing up in a world that is weighted, in some ways, toward her brother, toward her brother's illness and all the secondary bullshit that goes with it."

Quite a lot of children's "literature" exists to explain to siblings their sister or brother's leukemia (or whatever). I guess it aims itself at different age groups etc.

I haven't really got into it and don't have an opinion on how well different publications have been done. Jaime's English is not yet good enough to read such things (but probaby soon will be) and I am not aware of anything in his first language.

Do please send reviews or recommendations.

However, I think in our case the "attention" thing is not a problem. Jaime is having such a good time at school, with all the stimulation (computers, musical instruments, books, language, Massage in Education (?!) etc etc) that doesn't exist in his home country's education system that he doesn't feel resent towards Kezia.

Additionally, as most of Kezia's treatment is when he is at school, he doesn't see too much of it and it doesn't disrupt his life so much. He's visited the hospital on a couple of occasions so understands that is where they go, they are going to be ok and he will be looked after. Ok - so the other weekend Nanda and Kezia were hospitalised and he stayed with M. - but there he got new experiences to keep him occupied.

And anyway the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital is fun and I bet he has fun when he goes there!

We're lucky.

Maybe it's a bit different when it's the older sibling who is ill. Surely, there have been some psychogical studies about all of this.

However, Lauren and Rob, the fact that you are aware of this, means I am sure that Norah is fine and will be all the better person in herself for having lived alongside Fergus' illness.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Norah, the sibling of our boy with A.L.L., is a remarkably resilient 4-year-old (she just turned 4). I don't think we try to "make up for" all the attention that Fergus gets because of his illness, but we make it pretty clear how much she is cherished in our family.

Still, on some level she may feel that she's missing out on something, because she often asks for medicine and/or claims symptoms that she doesn't really have so that she can have medicine. She also has a penchant for putting bandaids (don't know if they are called that in the rest of the world or not) over every minor scratch she can find on her body. And I did overhear her recently tell Fergus, "When I'm six, I'm going to have cancer too," as if cancer is something to aspire to.

I think it's interesting how kids interpret the idea of cancer, and I wonder, exactly, what the parents of Fergus' friends have told their kids about him.

Some, I know, have avoided the issue altogether (in one case because of an illness in their own family). Others have told their kids something about it, but I don't know what, really. Perhaps it doesn't matter.

I also wonder what fergus' exact understanding is. I mean, I know he knows it's a serious thing, leukemia, and that all these treatments are meant to get rid of "his" leukemia. But it's not like we've held him down and said, "Look, kid, this could kill you." And most of the kids books on the subject are kind of vague on this point. But still, he knows it's serious business, I think, and not something to aspire to--no matter how many boxes of LEGOs the treatments translate into.

He just turned seven in January, so maybe he's not ready to think about whether or not his illness is life-threatening. Or maybe he's just waiting until the treatments are over, and the port is out of his chest, and he can start to feel like this is behind him. He might, this summer, be ready to talk about mortality, and about dodged bullets.

But I'll be ducking for a long time to come.