Monday 10 April 2017

When your three year old daughter plays the mother

Jane by the river

No one plans to be the mother to autistic children.  It's almost impossible to do so.  But no one plans to have a daughter playing the role of mother when she is just three years old either. I've been trying to work out if this is a happy post or a sad post.. and I'm still not sure.

Jane has two older brothers. David is six and Anthony is nearly nine and both her brothers are autistic.  Whilst she over took David in developmental terms when she was probably about two years old, I usually think of Anthony as being the eldest in the family.

Anthony is keeping up in a regular school mostly (with a great deal of additional support) and he enjoys many age appropriate activities like playing on games consoles, going to the cinema and watching sports on TV.  But Anthony's general levels of awareness of danger and/or understanding are sometimes now surpassed by his younger sister.  Yes this means they argue like siblings of a much closer age, but it also recently brought me to tears.

I had taken the three kids to a local park to feed the ducks. As they can be a handful, I took the car so that I would only have a short distance to walk with the kids, could feed the ducks, and then return to the car.  This tiny outing gives me and the kids a sense of having done something with the day sometimes.

I let Anthony hold the tiny bits of bread we had in a small bag.  It's this kind of thing that helps him understand responsibility and he takes it very seriously.  And I held Jane and David's hands as we approached the water.

Despite being glorious weather on the day, it had been raining a few days ago and part of the bank had sort of collapsed into the water.  Not ideal. The wind also appeared to have picked up a bit and sometimes this can put the boys on edge as their heightened senses can make a bracing wind feel painful against their faces.

But the wind wasn't too cold, it was warm.  I held onto Jane and David as Anthony opened the bag of bread.

"Ok, so let's share the bread so everyone can give some to the ducks." I said.

Anthony couldn't quite hear me.  He turned, and as he did so, the wind whipped the bag out of his hands.  The broken bread fell onto floor and the bag was whipped up into the air and towards the water.

David, who can't cope with spills of any kind, threw himself to the floor and started gathering the bits of bread in his hands in a complete frenzy. Anthony dropped down to help, very worried that this might be his fault.

"It's ok Anthony, don't worry, I can help David." I said, for fear that David would think Anthony was preventing him picking the pieces up.

"David, calm down.  Mummy help." I directed to my other son.

And then I looked up and Anthony wasn't there.

He'd gone after the plastic bag....  which was precariously hanging on a wet, muddy looking twig down by the collapsed bank.

"Anthony, come back. Get away from the water."

"I'm OK mum, I can get it."

As I stepped towards him, the bread blew out of David's hands and he started going into a meltdown as the bread scattered across the sandy but rocky bank.  If he smacked his legs or head on a rock it could be a trip to A&E (again).

"Anthony, step away, it's not safe. I'll get the bag."

I saw him step forward again.

And that's when Jane stepped up.

"Anthony.  Anthony, can you hear me.  If you come away from the water, we can go home and play on the computer."

And Anthony stood up right and came away.

"Oh, Ok then." he said.

I stood, holding my middle flailing child and watched as Jane took Anthony's hand and led him just the few meters back off the wet bank. I was stunned.

Eventually we all calmed down, actually managed to feed the sodding ducks, returned to the car and came home.  But since the incident, I've been thinking about Jane's actions.

Jane will turn four years old this weekend. Four.

And she's already being much more than perhaps a four year old should be.

I can take so many positives away from the near disaster that aren't to do with Jane.

Anthony's determination to be responsible for the bag of bread;  David allowing me to help him with a task when it's gone wrong; Jane's wonderful understanding of the situation and her brother's needs - except this is possible the bit that I'm most torn about.

Jane has learnt things a little differently to most kids her age and its undoubtedly because her brothers are autistic.  Sharing for Jane has mostly meant giving her toys to her brothers. Communicating has meant not just talking but learning makaton sign language too.

Sometimes I worry about what being part of our family may mean for her future.  Will she lead the life she wants to?  And a can feel my eyes get wet.

I'm concerned about if she is growing up too quickly?  It's true, I didn't plan to be a mother to disabled kids.  Like it or not, I wouldn't change them, and that's what my boys are.  And Jane didn't ask to have autistic brothers either.  But I do believe she chose to step up.  She chose to help her brother. And she imitated me perfectly and was able to come up with an idea on the spur of the moment that appealed to her brother.  She chose to be like his mother for a moment. Chose to keep her brother safe.

And though she may not always choose this, I'm both relieved and saddened that my glorious little girl looks out for her older siblings.  And maybe if she does.. others will follow?  Will Jane be the trend setter, the example for others? I can but hope so?  As that would turn this 'not so sure' post into a happy one for definite.  And then my wet eyes are accompanied by a smile.


  1. I have a daughter who is nearly six who really mothers her autistic younger brother - it's beautiful but rather haunting all at once. Lovely post #MarvMondays

  2. I can only imagine how this must make you feel. Bless her though, wanting to keep him safe. #MarvMondays

  3. Lovely post and totally understand your mixed emotions on the subject #postsfromtheheart

  4. I think you should see it as a happy post, but I do totally get what you mean about the mixed feelings. My thoughts when starting my blog was that it shouldn't all be about just our girl with autism, our family involves both girls and they are equally important, just very different. Our eldest also has a knack of knowing what will keep her younger sister calm and happy - most probably strategies she's learnt indirectly from me. That doesn't mean she wants to use them all the time, and there is occasionally a bit of rebelling... but I think that's healthy too. They will grow up to be very understanding adults I'm sure, and if they are inspired in some way to spread the word among their peers then so much the better. There's no rule that they have to though. And though I'm sure that your daughter is learning her kind ways and good strategies from you - you're not making her grow up faster than she otherwise would, that's kind of impossible I think. Some girls can be very mature at 4, some not so much - just like boys, they're all different ;) x

  5. This is such a beautiful post and Jane is so mature for her age. I get your mixed feelings on the subject, but I think it's beautiful how she's sensing things and as you said CHOOSING to help/ be there for them. Not many three year olds would understand, and even if they did, they wouldn't necessarily want to help or share. Bless your lovely little family...

  6. It sounds like she has learnt from a wonderful mum. #PostsFromTheHeart

  7. I always say that good thing and bad things are so closely intertwined. Good luck and bad luck is the same way. It looks as though your 4 year old has already gleaned the lessons from one very good mommy on how to care for her very special brothers. She will grow up knowing that her life is special too, for the empathy and compassion she learns and extends to those around her. Her brothers are a gift, and so is she. <3 #TriumphantTales

  8. This post has left me with mixed feelings about my own little family. Partly because I can't work out if your little lady is a lot older than her years and perhaps my little lady is delayed. Partly because I totally get your fears. My biggest fear is leaving my son alone when I go. When our little lady arrived people said you don't have to worry he has a sister now. But that isn't why we wanted a sibling for our son. But I love the support you have in your little lady, it has given me hope that perhaps things do get easier as they get older. I also think you are so brave going out with all three of your children. I still haven't managed that xx

  9. I can see why you think this is a bitter sweet moment - mixed emotions, I'm sure. But it does sound like she's had a very good Mummy teacher!

  10. I understand why you're not sure whether to be happy or sad, but I think you can be proud, of all three of your children. I think whether you want it to be the case or not, this is Jane's reality and she sound like she will handle it very well and grow to be a compassionate and understanding girl, which can only be a good thing x Thanks for sharing with #WotW

  11. I can feel how emotionally torn you are through just reading this, and I can absolutely understand why. You must be so incredibly proud of Jane for her compassion and emotional maturity though, and you should be so proud of yourself too for modeling these actions. You are building a strong and supportive family that know how to be there and help each other. Thanks for sharing with #DreamTeam x

  12. I can see why you're torn over this, it is adorable to see her step up and hopefully her peers will follow suit, but I can see why you worry about her growing up so fast. I dont think it is that, its just her understanding the environment she is being raised in.
    Thank you for sharing another post with us at #TriumphantTales.

  13. Children adapt to their surroundings.It sounds like Jane just has a very wise head for a 3yr old.I love reading your posts #PostsFromTheHeart

  14. This post gave me goosebumps. What an incredibly clever little girl you have! I think it's amazing that she knew just what and how to say. Also, she doesn't know any different - this for her is life as she knows it, so I wouldn't worry too much. Although I am sure that is easy for me to say. You have some fantastic children there, you must be so proud. Thanks so much for linking up to #TriumphantTales - hope to see you again on Tuesday!

  15. Whatever the circumstances that brought Jane to take that action, you should be proud that she's got so much understanding and compassion for her siblings (and likely others too). #wotw

  16. The title of the post grabbed my attention to click the link and read further. I'm sooo glad I did. Linkies such as #KCACOLS introduce me to great blogs such as yours I never knew existed. Your little girl shows a great level of understanding. The way she is is an example of you so well done x #KCACOLS

  17. very sweet. It sounds to me like your daughter is a very smart, empathetic little girl. You should be proud. #KCACOLS

  18. she sounds like a wonderful little girl. I have a mini-mummy here already. its wonderful to watch
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  19. It's both sad and happy yes, but eventually it will be normal. My dad is epileptic so I had to learn at a very young age how to deal with that. You make it part of your life and I don't resent in any way. Jane won't either. She'll be proud that she knows how to look after her brothers.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

  20. It's so good that she looked out for her brother like that at such a young age. I can remember my twins aged 4 giving their elder brother, who was 7 at the time, some very useful advice about how to behave in the playground so that the other kids would want to play with him! I felt quite mixed emotions about that too but I appreciated their help! #spectrumsunday

  21. You should be so very proud of your little girl. I can imagine she won't resent them, but see it as a positive learning curve. She may even choose to help people as a career. #KCACOLS

  22. Sounds like you had a mare but good on your little girl. Some kids are just the motherly kind. X

  23. Wonderful children you are raising! My older 2 are desperate to prove how grown up they are #coolmumclub

  24. I felt really quite emotional reading this, probably because you can tell how emotional the situation made you feel! The way Jane acted is amazing, I would be really proud of her if I were you. My daughter is 3 and she looks out for her big brother too, some children seem to have that mothering instinct. x #KCACOLS

  25. Wow. This brought tears to my eyes too. I don't know your children personally, but having read your blog for some time now, I truly believe that they are wonderful human beings, and will certainly grow into equally as wonderful adults, I totally get what it can mean to grow up so young, and can empathise with how that must feel as a mother. For different reasons, a 5 when the eldest of my 3 brothers was born, I was basically left to care for him. Through foster care I took the role of mother very seriously, and have found it difficult to reign that in as he's grown older. My youngest brother, as I've spoken to you about before, is autistic too, and I took a big role in caring for him over the years too. My experience of this is that as an adult, all of these things have helped to shape who I am not just as person, but as a mother and a member of society (I hope for the better?!) From the outside reading about your daughter, it seems to me that you are raising her beautifully, and that she will undoubtedly grow into a fine woman, full of understanding, calm, and compassion for others, as well as the invaluable ability to think on her feet and handle potentially difficult situations in her life with grace and poise. Also, hats off to you once again for dealing with what could have been a disaster in such an amazing way. I'm in awe. #coolmumclub

  26. I can really feel your mixed emotions and how torn you are after reading this post. I think Jane sounds like an incredible little girl and what a lovely sister she is xx #BlogCrush


I read all your comments and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and our readers. I welcome any feedback on my posts and you can always contact me directly. Thank you.

Have a look at our most recent posts:

@rainbowsaretoo Ann H on Google + rainbowsaretoo pinterest rainbowsaretoobeautiful bloglovin Instagram rainbowsaretoobeautiful