In this final post in Children’s Mental Health Week I am going to explore a topic I have touched on before especially in respect to Scarlett’s younger brother Sonny. This open letter is a follow up from last year’s post examining the effects of Scarlett’s disability on her brother Sonny, in particular at how outsiders reactions to Scarlett’s outward demonstration of her additional needs affect him personally: ‘How your child’s visual impairment can affect siblings mental health’.
“As Sonny has got older, like all children, he has become more curious and aware of the world around him. This makes him more susceptible to outsiders’ perceptions and reactions to Scarlett. What I like to affectionately refer to as her Scarlett-isms. Whether it be her singing, flapping, giggling or rolling around, she outwardly demonstrates her differences without realising she is doing so. People do look and react. I’ve overcome getting upset by people’s lack of decorum now (well on most days). I thought for many years that it was my job as the mummy to take any kind of discriminatory looks or comments on the chin for us both. In fact, I am happy that her bubble also acts as a shield for my little girl. I wouldn’t even know where to start building her resilience against it when it is something I find hard to do myself.”
This post takes a slightly different approach to sibling mental health and is written in direct response to the difficulties we have faced this year as a family in terms of some behaviours and sleep issues Scarlett developed directly linking to covid-19 and reaching a developmental age milestone. It truly was a difficult few months and as I teetered on the edge of insanity myself Sonny most certainly felt completely overwhelmed with Scarlett’s reactions to the problems she was facing: Never be afraid to ask for help- Struggles with Scarlett’s sleep
I’m sorry if this sounds like a desperate cry for help, something which I’m really reluctant to do, but I need the two things listed above resolved without it taking weeks or sitting on yet another waiting list. I’m struggling to function now, my other child is suffering, my work is suffering. I’m holding my hands up here asking for help- not sympathetic conversations or an extra night respite- the two things I’ve listed above are what Scarlett needs.
To my dearest Sonny,
I know this year has been tough and you have missed lots of time in school, holidays, days out and trips. You have been such a good boy throughout and I am very proud of you for how well you handled 2020.
I understand that when Scarlett was frequently becoming upset, stopped sleeping and started to bang right through the night, that it was incredibly hard for you to understand why. At the time the house was such a stressful place to live and I know that you found it very frustrating.
I know you saw me cry; I wish you never did.
I know you saw me angry; I wish you never did.
I know you saw me exhausted; I wish you never did.
I know you saw me make mistakes; I wish you never did.
I know that some days I need you more than you need me.
I know these are lots of big boy emotions that your young mind will struggle to fathom. I am constantly eaten up with guilt that you must deal with such grown up ideologies as a little boy. No matter how well I try to carry it, it doesn’t mean it stops being heavy.
It was never my intention to force you into a position, where you have to overcome struggles and be in situations you must learn how to ‘deal with’. Childhood is such a cherished time in life, and I feel like you are somehow being robbed of those very precious early years.
You come to me and say “I’m sorry mummy” when you can clearly see me pain in my eyes. Although it is such a beautiful thing for you to do, it pains me deep inside that you are taking on the role of my supporter. Your beautiful nature means that you do this without a second thought and its admirable, but I hate to see you worry about me.
I really wish that you never have to see me sad or overwhelmed.
I know that sometimes life with Scarlett can be hard. I know that when we are out in public that you feel a little embarrassed about some of the things that she does. I know that you can see people staring and it makes you feel uncomfortable, I know that I am asking you to develop a thick skin far sooner than you should have to do… and for that I am very truly sorry.
I know that sometimes you feel like you hate Scarlett and the burden she places you under. Scarlett was going through a tricky time in her life and I promised you that I would get help. Mummy was trying her best to get some extra support to help us all, so that we could restore peace to the house. I know that path seemed long, but I hope you are starting to feel better now that Scarlett is getting the help that she needs.
I wish there were two of me.
I know sometimes it seems that more of my time is dedicated to Scarlett- and I’m sorry for that Sonny and I’m sorry if you ever feel less important sweetheart- that is not the case.
I understand that Scarlett’s disabilities aren’t yours. Whilst she lives in a world of blissful ignorance, not knowing that she is doing things that make people stare, that you take the burden of this on your shoulders. I am sorry, I know its hard baby boy and I wish I could wave a magic wand and take those pressures away.
I hope as you grow and mature and you become more resilient, that the life lessons that having Scarlett as your sister will also grow and mature with you. I hope that you won’t ever look back at your childhood and think “that was really hard”- I hope that you don’t have to enter adulthood feeling that you have had a difficult life.
I just want to say how proud I am of you for being strong, even though you shouldn’t have to be. And that I appreciate how much you help me with Scarlett. Even though she can’t say it, she really loves her little brother and everything that he does for her.
Mummy and Scarlett