JJ is just an extraordinary kid. He's bright, funny and playful. He's fiercely independent, adventurous and friendly.
He calls everyone he meets "Kid" or "New Friend." He doggedly attempts to connect with these new friends. His favorite strategy is to mimic whatever they are doing. For children under a certain developmental stage, this totally works. They think: "This guy thinks I'm awesome!" For children over a certain developmental stage, this is off-putting. They think: "Is this guy making fun of me?"
Even when rebuffed, JJ shrugs it off and tries different tactics. There was only one time I can remember that he gave up. One little girl, about 18 months old, would make an obnoxious screeching noise every time he came near and tried to talk to her. He eventually came over to me and said: "Different new friend, please?" Even then, a few minutes later they were playing air hockey together and cracking up about the sound "DA-duh," which they repeated back and forth several hundred times.
The other day we were at IKEA and a 10-year-old girl walked by. He pointed to her and said: "New friend walking." When we were in a hospital waiting room, he immediately crawled over the chairs to smile at and talk to a "new friend" facing the windows in a wheelchair.
To him, disability is not weird or awkward. Even when I think I've fully assimilated into the disability world, he will surprise me by being totally fine with something that I still have a hang-up about. We got a new walker for Malachi and still had a borrowed walker for a little while. JJ immediately adopted it as "his" walker and motored around in it whenever Malachi was in his. It is, obviously, a fun and liberating toy for Malachi and so, of course, JJ wanted his own.
Being a sibling of an extra-needs child is rough. It's just a fact that the other one gets more attention and special treatment. Recently, JJ started asking for "JJ appointments" since we are constantly going to "Malachi appointments." Often, he insists on bottles he doesn't need anymore or other special foods that Malachi is still allowed.
But JJ has risen to the challenge of being Malachi's twin over and over again and I know he will continue to. The biggest reason why? HE doesn't consider it much of a challenge. He loves his brother and — in a very deep way that will inspire me for the rest of my life — doesn't see anything wrong with him.
Here are some more of my favorite posts about JJ (aka Jaden):
The Return to a Normal That Never Was
The Unusual Ways Disability Affects a Non-Disabled Twin
One Twin's Parents are Nothing Like The Other's
This post is part of Special Needs Sibling Week, a series on siblings of people with disabilities in honor of National Sibling Day, April 10.
Stay tuned for another post at 8 p.m. (Pacific) and come back tomorrow at 8 a.m. for a post from Team Aidan.
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Dark & Light: A Love Story in Black and White is a beautiful and insightful board book available here. All profits go towards my son's medical needs.