When he was about 6 years old, Oliver asked me "Why do you say that Harry is special but I'm not?" It knocked the wind out of me.
Yes, I'd said special but I had meant 'different' or 'disabled'. You'll have to read my book to understand the rest of the conversation that went on to shape our relationship but since that day when I have asked Oliver "What are you?" he has replied "The Greatest thing you ever did".
It's muscle memory for him now and he has said it so often that it has become his mantra, his truth, a cushion to rest on when he feels a little lost in our life.
Try creating a mantra for your child and tell them so often that they never doubt its truth and its power.
Another thing that I have done (which I am not going to lie, has left me feeling all twisty inside at times) is to MAKE Harry wait for me when I have been with Oliver.
'Drop and run' has been my default setting when it comes to Harry for over a decade. Now, I make a quick assessment in my mind and ask "does he need me or does he want me?". If he wants me, then I will say out loud "I'm just with Oliver Harry, you will have to wait a minute".
As much as Harry needs to learn that THE world doesn't revolve around him (even if MY world does), this has shown Oliver that he has a place too and that he is valued as a brother, a carer and a boy in his own right.
I've also, over the years, encouraged Oliver to have something that is just his. This has varied from the acting academy that he joined when he was 10 to the Japanese language courses he has invested in over the last few years. I want him to dream big, to consider a world outside of our town, to know that there are no limits for him. I want him to feel the pull of the world and not settle for a role he feels he has to fill.
I want him to know that being a carer for his brother is beautiful but its only a PART of his life. With a little recognition of all that he is, some support to develop some of his own interests and a constant reminder that he is the greatest thing I ever did, I hope that he comes to see how important HE is in the world and see the caring aspect of his relationship with Harry as a privilege as much as a responsibility.
There is no parenting handbook. We can only try our best.
With love from Our Altered Life to yours, Charlie xx