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Hidden In Her Shadow

· parenting,sibling,disability,family,young carer

He’s typical of many siblings, lost in the shadows while the limelight shines on his disabled sister. So many aspects of his life are defined by his sister's disabilities. The truth is that if Bella wasn’t born with disabilities, I would have had no plans to write and share stories about Petie. Unlike his sister, he does not have a disability. When Petie was born, his arrival was a momentous occasion for my husband and I, but no more than that of any other baby. So far at the age of 7, Petie has hit all the usual milestones. He is successful in school, he makes friends easily, he plays sports in his free time, and is learning how to play the ukulele. I also know that none of this makes for very good reading. The fact of the matter is that it would be unlikely that Petie’s turn will ever come.

As Petie was growing into his toddler phase, I knew right away that there was an immediate imbalance of health and ability between him and his sister Bella. Bella’s disabilities has and will always amplify the inequities that are an inevitable part of all sibling relationships. Both of my children, and I know that our journey is still in its early stages. Bella and Petie fight for attention; while one continues to press on their communication device for me to sing their favourite song, the other one is begging for me to play soccer with him outside. There are also times where Petie ignores Bella, or wishes she would go away when she accidentally knocks over one of his new Lego builds. Don’t get me wrong, they can also play happily, taking joy in being together. Every night after brushing their teeth, Bella would stomp her way into Petie’s room and climb into his bed. Bella’s screams of excitement is her way of asking Petie to play peek-a-boo under his blanket with her. . At other times he is patient and gentle, and he does silly things just to make Bella laugh. Bella’s smile tells me that she thinks Petie is the funniest, most interesting and most important person in the world. I only hope their healthy sibling relationship will last a lifetime.

I admit that I forget that Petie experiences an array of stressors and feelings that most kids his age will probably never get exposed to in their lifetime. It usually takes an incident to remind me that Petie is often hidden in Bella’s shadow. In August, I wrote about a conversation Petie and I had. While I was cheering for Bella at a milestone she had reached during her IBI therapy, I realized that my positive feedback to her was exposing inequities, leading to sibling resentment, insecurity, and maybe even conflict. You can read about my conversation with Petie here.

With the magnitude of the never-ending demands placed on our family, today I want to devote this post to Petie, and the many young carers who are often overlooked and in need of emotional support. Petie, today is your turn.

In 2018, Petie was one of the 24 young carers chosen to be part of a photographic portrait exhibition called Hidden, led by an award-winning photographer, Max Alexander and the Young Carers Program at Hospice Toronto. You can read about Petie’s photoshoot here.

Last weekend, our family had the pleasure of visiting the Hidden exhibition at Daniels Spectrum in Toronto. It was amazing to finally see Petie’s portrait in person, along with meeting all the other Young Carers who have opened up their invisible lives to share with us.Take a moment to read about this exhibit as these young carers share what you may not see...

Last weekend, our family had the pleasure of visiting the Hidden exhibition at Daniels Spectrum in Toronto. It was amazing to finally see Petie’s portrait in person, along with meeting all the other Young Carers who have opened up their invisible lives to share with us.

After this visit, I took the opportunity to chat with Petie about his portrait being showcased in the Hidden exhibition. Oh Petie, I really do see, hear, and feel for you.

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