Bright Eyes has two siblings. The one he likes best by far is his older sister. She is almost exactly four years older - oddly enough they had the same due date!
She and Bright Eyes have an interesting relationship. She is very much in charge of their interactions and play. He will do almost anything she wants and to watch them truly playing together is a joy. They race around the lounge room playing chase, being lions and making cubby houses together.
She is very protective of him and loves him fiercely. She knows his quirks, can handle his tantrums and will often tell me what she thinks he needs if he is being difficult. Sometimes that's fine... other times it gets annoying. Once when Dad got cross at him because of impatience, she was furious!
I don't think a child could find a more wonderful older sister.
And yet her drives her crazy too. Sometimes, after a difficult afternoon with tantrums or because of her own tiredness, she just can't cope with him, and on the odd occasion I have let her eat dinner on her own in her room so that she won't explode with frustration.
We told her about autism when Bright Eyes was diagnosed. I've heard her explain to her friends sometimes, "His brain works a little bit differently, which is why he can't quite speak right. We have to teach him things so he'll know what to do."
I'm trying to be open to talk about the autism with her if she needs to. Once, after a particularly difficult day, she said, "Mummy, I really hope I don't have a child like Bright Eyes when I grow up."
My heart felt wrenched, but I was glad that she felt she could express herself. She really wasn't trying to be mean or rude. She just saw that I was struggling with him and realised that sometimes things are harder than you hope for.
I said to her, "You know, nobody wants to have a child who has struggles, but sometimes it happens, and we just have to love them even more and help them to get through it."
She has also said, "Mummy - if I have a baby with autism when I grow up, you'll know just what to do to help me."
Boy, she has confidence in me...