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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Decky Doodle, Child of Grace and Finbar's Little Bother

Always smiling
Declan chose to eat his "spwinkle" donuts naked while it was snowing nonstop outside
I have been meaning to write about my second child Declan, affectionately known as Decky. He is 3 1/2, exactly two years younger than Finbar.  Decky has many nicknames, which might give you an idea of the character that
he is. Here is a partial list of his nicknames:  doodle poodle, snuggle bunny, fuzzy wuzzy, fuzz bucket, Tank, Survivorman, snuggle bug, snuggly buggly, #2, the lil general, the two footer, the Destroyer, the Wildman, Energizer Bunny, Mr. Independent....

But the nickname by which Finbar refers to Declan is "My little BOTHER".  And that is the term he uses to introduce Declan to complete strangers at any chance he gets...."Hi, I'm Finbar. And this here is my little BOTHER (emphasized) Declan. You see, I call him my little bother instead of my little brother because he bothers me a lot, but sometimes he is nice, but mostly he just bothers me and makes me mad, etc, etc, etc."

Declan shares Finbar's fascination with throwing rocks in the lake for hours on end

Poor Declan takes a verbal, emotional and physical beatin from Finbar on a daily basis, but he can dish it right back to his older brother, all the while with a smile on his face.

I'd like to dedicate this entry to Declan's new preschool teacher, who has come into his life at just the right time and has been so supportive.  You see Declan is an energizer bunny, and his new teacher's arms are a great receptacle for that energy - her enthusiasm matches his.  At 3 yrs old, he needs another pair of loving arms to welcome his energy because his older brother sure as hell does not welcome all that energy into his spectrum world... too overwhelming. 

And yet, it is that same high level of energy and zest for everything which Declan possesses that has been so instrumental in drawing Finney out of his autism and into Declan's world of play, imagination, motivation, celebration, music making, conversation and socializing. Were Declan a mellow yellow kid, I would be SOL and Finbar would have very little interest in playing with anyone.

But thank God for Declan, the child of grace...going back to the Shaman visit that  I wrote of previously.  After Sudama was through checking out Finbar, he walked into the playroom where Declan was sitting and asked me "what about your second child, anything I need to do?"  Declan said not a word. And almost telepathically, Sudama and I both looked at him and just shook our heads, "no".  Then Sudama just kind of nodded in agreement with me, saying "child of Grace".  No need there. 

Child of Grace he is. God gave me a gift in my autistic son. And then he saw me struggling with that gift and sent me a follow up gift in the form of the world's most forgiving, empathetic, intuitive, kind, intelligent, completely tough and confident baby brother for Finbar.  I truly believe in my heart that God sent Declan to be a teacher for Finbar and a refuge for me.    His profuse enthusiasm and affection, overboard at times, easily fill a room and fill a void in me and our family that was created in the early years when Finbar was very detached.  While Finbar is tactile defensive and gives me a stiff hug now and then, Declan ORDERS me to snuggle and spoon him EVERY morning as I am greeted with "Mommy snuggle" and a kiss on my forehead.  Throughout the day, I am ordered to repeat this event. No hug is too tight for him. Bliss.

When Declan was born, I had just realised that Finbar had autism and during the first 3 months of Declan's life, I tried not to think about what was coming down the road with Finbar. It was a dark time and I know that I did not completely bond with Declan during those first few months, so depressed and preoccupied was I. But when Declan was about 6 months old, I began to see that he had an extraordinary personality, like a prayer answered he snapped me out of my depression with this vivacious bold, personality.  He was a LOUD baby. I mean REALLY loud.  He would guffaw at the slightest prompting and so very loudly, his whole body shaking bald head to toe.  And he played drums with anything anywhere all the time.  He was extraordinarily strong and confident. A real go getter. Still is.  The first year of his life Finbar detested Declan's very loud gregarious presence..  

But I am convinced that no other sibling with no other temperament than Declan's would have been so beneficial for Finbar's progression into our world.   Declan is simply so bold, so confident, so in your face sweet, that there was no way that Finbar could avoid interaction with him. Another sibling personality would have shrunk back and given up on having any fun or sharing any love with Finbar in those early days. Finbar would ignore, push, shove, yell, bump, kick (still does) - but Declan's natural love and desire to be with his older brother and his self confidence in the face of his older brother's threats was too strong. Despite how badly Finbar treats Declan at times, Declan is fiercely protective of his older brother and will not even sit down to eat dinner without Finbar. And  Declan seems to intuitively know that Finbar requires a lot of leeway and most times he willingly gives it to Finney.  He is also so intelligent and clever that he can keep up with his older brother's verbal output and quirky habits.   So there is no way that Finbar can avoid interaction with him. Declan simply will not have it.

In view of all this, we recently got rid of the behaviorists. For 3 1/2 years we have had numerous adults spending umpteen hours a week teaching Finbar to play, and they did make progress.  But strangely, without them Finbar plays better and more with his brother than ever. And he seems to be benefitting as much, if not more, than playing with adult therapists 10 hours a week. Declan is leading the way most times, inviting Finbar into imaginary play...Finbar usually trying to assume control but secretly enjoying the play.  And in recent weeks, I have seen Finbar initiate the imaginary play with his brother too.  

In the end, they get frustrated with each other, they fight, they wrestle, they scream, poke, kick, hit.  It drives me nuts, but I am so grateful that it's that way instead of something else. Thank God for the little bother.


Rebecca Royce said...

Declan is an amazing child and we adore him. It doesn't surprise me that he drew Finbar out. My boys are totally taken with Declan, even wanting to speak to him on the phone. I think its amazing the way life can give us what we need even when we don't know we need it and Declan was the baby who was meant to come to you. Child of Grace, I agree.

finbarsmom said...

well put SIL. the boys were just looking at pics this morning flashing across my screen saver. One was of the slide at Central Park. Finny said, 'look declan, remember that slide from our trip to visit our cousins?" awwww.

Miss Meika said...

Declan is a treasure Jen, well so are both of your boys but I enjoy every moment I have with Declan, 3 days does not seem enough :). Whether he is saying, "Miss Meika, I have something to tell you," or getting off the swing early to give another kid a turn or bringing in a picture of Finbar for share day, he simply is a joy to have in my classroom. Thank you for this post :).