When we moved to Virginia, towards the end of a school year, Jay ended up at a different school than Ace. Basically, Ace got enrolled at the local public school for our zone and Jay was enrolled in the zone next door. Jay needed a specialized program and there were no available spaces at Ace’s school. The thought was that we’d have him finish out the year “next door” and then in September we’d transfer him to his rightful place at our district school.
Here’s the thing though – We fell in love with his school. Well, the staff really.
They were amazing and he instantly found a home there. When September came, we decided to leave him where he was. It has not been inconvenient at all and there have been no issues with this arrangement.
The weather started to change in the spring and the neighbourhood kids began playing outside. All the kids in our neighbourhood go to Ace’s school. I didn’t think this was a problem though because they always welcomed Jay to play outside with them even though they didn’t know him from school. Kids are pretty cool that way.
Jay noticed however, and asked me one evening why it was that he never saw any of his friends playing outside.
It broke my heart. All I could think was that here was one more way in which my boy was losing out due to no fault of his own. One more way his different neurology was singling him out and making him feel “other”. I hated it for him.
It got worse.
One day the kids were all out playing and ventured a little further than they typically do. (Still safely within the confines of our complex). Ace found out that yet another friend of his lives by us. He was closer to this friend than any of the others. The next thing I knew, this boy, oh heck, let’s call him, Zach, was at our house a few nights later for a sleep over.
There was much excitement about this sleepover. It was the first one Ace had had with a school friend. They had all kinds of plans to play video games and eat too much junk food and stay up all night. (The junk food and the all-nighter didn’t happen by the way).
Even though we have a spare room and offered to let Zach sleep there, he made himself comfortable on the floor of Ace’s room with blankets and sleeping bags and the like. There was much talking and laughing coming from that room.
Here’s the thing – Jay wanted very much to be a part of the sleep over fun. Ace wanted very much to have his friend to himself.
I understood both desires.
I could’ve compromised.
I could have made Zach sleep in the guest room when it was bed time. I could have forced the 3 boys to share the same space – either in Ace’s room or set them all up on the living room floor.
This time though, I had to rule in Ace’s favour. He is expected to share a lot with Jay. He gets lectured a lot on taking good care of his brother, especially when they are out together. He’s told to be on the look out for bullies targeting Jay and to help him when he’s struggling to communicate. He is reminded of Jays developmental delays and expected to understand and accept and include and coach and teach.
But I have to allow him to have something to himself too. He has to know that he’s allowed to have relationships outside of his brother and that it’s not selfish to take care of yourself sometimes.
It was really hard tucking Jay in that night. He was so sad. He wanted to know why he wasn’t having a sleep over and why his friends never came over. He wanted to know why Ace and Zach were leaving him out. I tried my best to comfort him. I even offered to lay down with him until he fell asleep. I NEVER do that. He turned me down.
He has brought it up no less than 10 times in the last couple of weeks. “When will I get a sleepover?”
I don’t have an answer.
As hard as it is to hear those questions and to see Jay hurting, I know it was the right thing to do for Ace.
I’m not gonna lie though, I’m kind of glad that Zach spends his summers in North Carolina. That buys me some time as I don’t expect to have to deal with anymore sleepover requests for a while.