Please help us welcome Brandi Ringelman from Meet the Ringelman's. We've been following along with Brandi and her family's journey with sweet son, Austin, for a while now and we're so happy to have her here on our blog today.
“The siblings of special needs children are quite special. Absolutely accepting and totally loving, from birth, someone who is different mentally, and has a different way of seeing the world, is a wonderful trait. It's a trait I wish there was another way of getting, but there isn't. And it does involve a degree of not having it fantastically easy."- Sally Phillips
When Austin was born, you’d think the thought of more kids would have never crossed my mind. Experiencing something so traumatic, with a first child could have caused anyone to never want to try again because no matter how old you are, its HARD. There is no guarantee something unexpected couldn’t happen again. After all the things I saw, all the health risks I was now aware of, babies on life support, organs outside of bodies, medicines I’ve never heard of, all the dying babies around me.. was it worth it to possibly risk experiencing that again? Could it happen to me again? This is where I realized I was going to be different. I was not going to let this keep me from living the life I planned. More kids were ALWAYS in my future, because how is that fair to me? How is that fair to AUSTIN? Not only did I want to experience motherhood to fullest, but I wanted Austin to have siblings, I wanted Austin to be loved unconditionally by as many people as possible.
It took a few years for Jon and I to get on the same page, and Paisley came as a surprise while I planned our wedding but she was beyond a blessing. Now I was traveling to Italy, the place I longed to be! I was getting to experience a whole new side to motherhood I never knew. I had to learn to navigate, and merge both special needs parenting and parenting a child without those extra needs. I soon realized, one day Paisley would have questions and I would have to have answers. The problem is, the same questions will get asked as she gets older, and starts to realize just how different her brother really is. And my answers will have to get better, and more in depth.
I’ve always noticed she tends to have a thing for her friends older brothers. Could be trouble when she’s older, lol but on a serious note, she tends to cling to the boys around Austins age, and wants to play with them. This has always made me extra emotional, and is honestly really hard to watch, because it breaks my heart. I feel like she longs for that relationship, so she takes what she can get. Its something that was taken from her, before she was even born and yet, she too mourns the brother she lost.
I'd have to say, her first statement, caught me really off guard. She’s three and we have just been living life. Its our normal, and I have not really put much thought into any possible questions she could have, or things she may notice. She has made comments like, “he doesn’t talk” when people out and about ask him questions, but that's just what she knows, from what I have I said. We were at Austins hippotherapy one day and she said to me, “Mama, someone stole Austins voice” I was extremely taken back by this comment, and had no idea what to reply, so I just awkwardly smiled for a second, and said “ Yes.” Because that was the reality of it, he had a voice at one point, then because of others carelessness it was taken from him. Before we could ever hear it.. I went on, “Yes. Someone stole Austins voice, and do you know what that means?” She had no idea. Lol I said “It means, that YOU are his voice. You, mommy and daddy are Austins voice. We tell people what he needs, wants and what he likes. ” Simple, to the point and I thought it was pretty clever on a whim.
I'm assuming she liked this answer, because she just smiled, left it alone and went on talking about something else. She now beams with pride when she says “I am Austins voice”, but mainly because she loves being in control I think. Lol I know this is just the start to a long journey ahead, that will include lots of questions and statements. Some I can answer easily and some I'll have to think about. I'll have to explain why people stare, and who knows what the kids will say when she starts school, because we all know kids have no filter. This is where the parents come in and teach awareness, because disabilities are EVERYWHERE, but that makes for a whole different blog post. For now all I know is Paisley loves her big brother, and is well aware she is “his voice” and loves sharing what he needs, or can and cant do. I hope because of Austin, she will learn to be empathetic to others, and understand there is nothing wrong being different. Advocacy is THE biggest role, you and your family will play in your special needs children's lives, because WE are their voice.
xoxo B -