When we began spending time with Sylvia and Daniel I was concerned about how they would react to Jackson. I just didn’t think I could bring new children into our home who didn’t adore Jackson and see him for who he really is, instead of his diagnosis. The truth is this really weighed heavily on me. I’ve always wanted Jackson to have siblings. I wanted him to have kids around to play with and learn from, kids who would help him and stick up for him when needed, a buddy he can have memories with. But the kids didn’t initially warm up to him, and that worried me. They would just kind of look at him with the “what is wrong with him” face. They would ask questions about him but didn’t seem too interested in hanging out with him or interacting with him. I knew it would take time for them to warm up to Jackson but it wasn’t going as I had hoped. Then the kids moved in and they were still pretty slow to warm up. Then something wonderful happened.
Right after we started visiting the kids I signed up to do a Guild School school presentation at their elementary school. I thought it would be fun for them to see Jackson and I up in front of their whole school talking about him. Jackson went to the Guild School from the time we got his diagnosis until he was 3. The Guild School is an amazing place and has helped so many local kids who have special needs. Every year they have a Penny Drive and we go to local elementary schools and talk about how the Guild School helped Jackson when he was a baby, through physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The students then bring in change to put in milk jugs to raise money for the Guild School. It brings in a lot of money for the Guild School every year and ensures that no child is turned away if their parents are unable to pay for the therapies they need. I love doing these presentations and talking about Jackson and Jackson loves them too. He loves the sound of clapping and we get a lot of clapping so he is a happy presenter.
So there Jackson and I were waiting up front while all the students filed into the gymnasium. Sylvia came in with her class and ran over to say hi to us. Then Daniel came in and did the same thing. I asked them if they wanted to stand by us while we talked. They both did. The presentation started and the Guild School representative introduced us. I then introduced Daniel and Sylvia as Jackson’s brother and sister. Then I did my little talk. The whole time Daniel and Sylvia stood next to Jackson and each side of his wheelchair. They were patting him on the head and rubbing his arms, and holding on the wheelchair in case he tried to roll away. After the presentation Sylvia’s class stayed and Jackson and I went over to talk to them. They had lots of questions about Jackson and I let Sylvia answer some of them. She told them about his special bed and how he likes to kick the sides, which is noisy! She told them he rides horses (super cool in the eyes of all those kids), has swimming therapy (more cool), and has swings in the basement (way cool). The kids in her class really loved Jackson and I could see Sylvia realizing how it was pretty awesome to have Jackson as a brother. When I picked them up from school that afternoon they both thought standing up in front of their whole school with Jackson was the best thing ever. The loved it! Then Sylvia said some kid had come up to her after school and said “Jackson is really cool.” And from that day forward Jackson was no longer a weird mystery to them. He was just their little brother. They bring him toys, they play with him, Sylvia has even brushed his teeth and helped give him a bath. Daniel likes to tell me what Jackson is thinking. Sylvia even said to me the other day “How could anyone not like Jackson?” Daniel likes to pet Jackson’s hair, he thinks it is the softest thing ever. He’ll just sit there next to Jackson talking to him and petting him. Jackson has loved the extra attention and lights up when the kids are around. I still think we have a ways to go with them truly interacting and spending time with him, but they are getting there and it has been amazing to watch their story unfold. As William Shakespeare said “To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first.”