One clear positive from weeks of isolation has been a closer relationship with my kids.
It’s been amazing to observe over these last five weeks.
Though only 18 months apart in age, Beckett, 11, and Carson, 10, are as different as they come. Beckett is extroverted and verbose. Carson is introverted and non-verbal. Beckett could care less about order and organization, while Carson needs both to survive. Beckett has ADHD. Carson has Autism and a rare genetic disorder called Duplication 7. Beckett loves playing and following most sports. Carson enjoys shooting the basketball and kicking a soccer ball at the goal, but has little interest in watching games on television or any sort of competition. Carson loves to read. Beckett only reads when he must. Carson has an aptitude for art where Beckett struggles.
While their differences are many, over the last two weeks, I have never been more proud of Beckett. He is working hard in his digital school environment. While the curriculum is challenging, there are daily electronic obstacles that must be inevitably overcome with submitting assignments.
While being a diligent student is expected of him, Pam and I have marveled over this new big brother role he has taken on with Carson. They are brothers, of course, but we’ve seen them developing a friendship as well.
I have always known Beckett would look out for his special needs brother. He would never allow his little brother to be bullied or taken advantage of because of his disabilities. I fondly remember the first time he thought his brother was rudely treated. He was 6 or 7 years old and we were at a park. Carson was waiting his turn for the slide when a kid bumped him out of the way to get to the slide because he thought Carson was taking too long. Beckett immediately charged toward the kid. I was able to stop him, but I have no doubt Beckett was going to give him a piece of his mind or maybe even get physical. Later I talked with him about the importance of defending his little brother while also balancing any aggression built up in his feelings.
Fast forward to last summer when we were at Frontier Town water park and Carson was clearly bullied by a couple of brothers off a piece of pool equipment. Pam and I watched the whole thing transpire. When we saw the boys clearly push Carson, we jumped up to intervene until we saw Beckett. After helping Carson up, Beckett turned and said something to both brothers, who were both older than him. He never shared what he said to them, but the end result was they stayed away the rest of the day.
We have always known Beckett would stand up for his little brother. It will be a role he will likely have to don forever and probably long after Pam and I are gone. I believe in my heart he will do his best because he loves his brother unconditionally.
Life has not been easy for Beckett with his brother. There have been many instances when he has been physically hurt by his brother while in full tantrum. Most frequently, however, are the constant distractions for time Carson requires of Pam and me. Beckett knows if Carson screams from upstairs one of us is going to have to stop doing whatever we are doing with him to tend to his brother. These sorts of situations play out multiple times each day. In many ways, it’s unfair, but it’s also taught Beckett empathy and patience.
Though the challenges are real and daunting, Beckett has learned how to manage it. These weeks of isolation are the best evidence of that.
Beckett has helped Carson with his homework. He has introduced fun and appropriate games on the iPad that both play together. They have read together. They have played countless basketball games and even helped a little with cleaning and vacuuming on the weekends.
One night this week, however, was one of my proudest moments. Beckett asked me quietly if I wanted to go outside and play basketball around 8 in the evening. I said I couldn’t because it was my turn to get Carson showered and ready for bed. He asked if he could help. I told him he could but reminded him it wasn’t play time. The goal is to get Carson settled and in bed before it gets too late. Beckett said he understood and wanted to help. He chose helping with his little brother over driveway basketball.
After the nightly routine of showering, teeth brushing and prayers, Beckett said he would hang out with Carson and get him asleep. I was skeptical, so I hung outside his room and observed. As he has seen his mom and dad do for years, Beckett sat in the chair by Carson’s bed, read him a couple books and talked to him for about five minutes in a quiet voice. Carson was asleep in no time. I was astounded.
When Beckett came downstairs after making sure his brother was asleep, Pam and I let him know how amazing he is. We reminded him that’s not a burden he has to bear every night by any means. He said he liked doing it, but would like a bowl of mint ice cream every night after doing it. I told him that’s a deal. He then asked if he could have $20 each night, too.