“Our Compassionate Leader”

There is something extraordinary about our eldest daughter, Caris.

Okay, there is something extraordinary about all three of my children, but our middle child exhibits two of my most favourite qualities. Compassion and Leadership.

Shortly after our son Carter was diagnosed with autism, our daughter Caris was born. It was as though, the joy of her birth was relevantly timed, to soften the blow that the autism diagnosis had carved in our chests.

I’m not going to lie. Maneuvering through autism while caring for a newborn was no piece of cake! She was a challenging baby, but I know now that her tenacious personality was the cause. The stubbornness she possessed, was her way, of trying to be in charge of everything. Even as an infant, she was a doer, which became completely apparent, the first time she shouted “I do-ed it myself” at me.

Some people may describe her demeanor as a little bit bossy, but I say, she is fiercely independent and a born leader!

Don’t ask me where the dominance comes from, because neither I, nor my husband possess it, but this little firecracker fit our family in such a way, that it felt as though she was chosen for us, on purpose.

She has always known how to relate to her older brother, Carter. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, other than to say, she just “gets” him. Even when he was unable to communicate verbally with her, she understood what he needed. No words were required from him. She knew exactly how to accommodate “play” so that it could include him, and she’d find a way to manipulate toys or the game rules, so that he could understand them.

It’s because of these inherent skills that she is often referred to as Carter’s “mini therapist.”

The other night, Caris was playing with her new Lego set, at the kitchen table. She asked Carter to join her, and he politely declined, but she was upset with his refusal. I explained to her that Carter has a hard time with Lego, because he has to use his imagination when building things, and that it’s really difficult for him. I said to her, that he’s not able to see creations, just by visualizing them, the way that she does. As much as he likes to play with the “finished product”, he gets frustrated when he has to build something without specific instructions.

I walked away to tend to our toddler, who was calling me from the playroom. When I returned, Carter was sitting at the kitchen table with Caris, building something out of Lego. I walked towards them, to see what it was, and Caris said to me “Mommy, I took apart my Lego ramp and sleigh, so that Carter could put it back together.”legoblog

This particular set was a day old, and highly admired by Caris. She had placed the box aside in the other room, complete with instructions, the day prior. She could have accepted his rejection to her invitation and continued on playing independently, but she didn’t allow for his limitations to prevent him from having fun.

Sure, as the parent, I might have come up with that idea myself, had I been given some more time to think about it, but I didn’t have to.

She had thought it up on her own, just as always.

Sara Park

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