Here's the moment I realized my daughter understood—and accepted—the responsibility of caring for her twin brother.
“Oh, Sweetie,” I said. “I know you love your brother. But you will have your own life and your future husband may not want your brother to live with you.”
Without hesitation she said, “I wouldn’t marry anyone that didn’t want Matt, Mom. We’re a package. We’re twins!”
In these 23 years, every one of my daughter’s accomplishments has been met with celebration and happiness—but deep down those same accomplishments were always bittersweet for me. She felt it, too, because she wanted her brother to be able to accomplish the same things. I knew she felt it, and it makes me sad still. She has watched me move through this journey, and she wants me to be wholly happy—not the half-happy I am because I wish her brother could be beside her. She gets it, and she always has.
I sat down to write this essay about what it was like to raise twins when one has a disability. But, ultimately, it’s an essay about my daughter. My son is the happiest boy. His innocent smile is the most beautiful thing. He is our light. But my daughter understands and feels more than any mother would wish for her child. It’s been a long and complicated path, and yet despite this, or perhaps because of this, she has grown into an amazing young adult. Her journey, our family’s journey, has grounded and humbled her, given her strength and understanding, and taught her compassion and kindness firsthand.
Will I ever stop wondering what it would be like if my twins were both neurotypical? Maybe. One thing I won’t have to question is who will take care of my son when my husband and I aren’t able to. My daughter chose to take on the responsibility of making sure her brother is safe in the future. That is a responsibility she has understood for a long time, though it’s not what I hoped for her future. It’s something I think about all the time, and I know she thinks about it, too.
Despite these worries, I wouldn’t change either of my twins for anything. The reality of life and her future responsibilities can seem overwhelming, but my daughter will approach all of it with the same compassion and strength her brother has helped her learn from the beginning. My twins will always be on opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways. I will always worry about them equally, too. But they give light to each other. And while my intuition about my son was correct, it was also correct about my daughter. She will prevail, she will keep him safe, and she will be okay.
Main Image: Ceilann's son and daughter dancing at the beach when they were 5.