I have written before about the reasons why Oliver is the unsung hero of our story. As much as I try to divide my time equally its incredibly hard when one child does need more attention. Even when you are physically with the sibling, you’re hyper aware that the other one may still need you (or in our case be up to the sort of mischief which could harm him) and so whilst you might be sitting physically with one sibling, your thoughts are with another. Not all of the time and not intentionally but no matter how hard I have tried, Oliver often feels like he is the invisible sibling.
And I hate to admit that it started with me! I used to explain to Oliver that people stared at Harry or he behaved the way he did because he was ‘special’. Of course I meant ‘different’ but it felt cruel to say this about a four year old. In protecting Harry though I inadvertently hurt Oliver who one day asked me “why aren’t I special?” (cue to heart sinking, eye brimming sadness as a mother) I explained, through my tears what I had meant all along and even to this day, when I say to Oliver “What are you?” he will reply “The greatest thing you ever did”. I hope that somewhere inside him, the little boy who felt over looked by his own mother, hears and believes that.
As the boys have grown, Oliver has accepted to a degree that Harry needs extra attention and I have made a conscious effort to spend full days just with Oliver in school holidays booking Harry into the holiday club with the staff who have known and loved him for years. I even took Oliver to Rome for four days as his 13th birthday present so that we could make special memories together (I’d saved since he was 11 as it was his dream to see the Colosseum. I’m not Rockefeller) I feel that I am doing all that I can to show Oliver that he is just as special and important as his brother without overly reminding him that one of the other reasons why he is so amazing is that he cares for his brother so well. I want him to feel valid in his own right and not just in his role as a carer. His identify will be shaped soon enough by the labels he aquires through his life. boyfriend, student, employee, husband, father. I just want him to know that Oliver the boy is enough, just as he is.
Lately though, he has been noticing that other people don’t always feel the same. I have lost count of the number of people who have met my boys and said hello to Harry before forgetting Oliver’s name. One guy called Oliver ‘John’ months ago and Oliver still can’t let it go. Recently, we were interviewed by the local paper as I launched my charity and the reporter wrote all our names down except for Olivers. He looked at Oliver with his pen poised and there was just a second of silence before Oliver reminded him of his name. Not long enough for anyone else to notice but long enough for my heart to sink as I knew what the conversation would be in the car home. Oliver sees that Harry is memorable and important. He feels that he is insignificant. The invisible sibling. And it stings him.
Harry will receive gifts and items through the post (which is wonderful and so incredibly generous) but Oliver looks on and I can see him wondering why he was overlooked again. My blogging friend Lizzie has experienced the same. “Our youngest doesn’t see the differences between her and her sister and so is confused when people lavish attention or even stuff on Mojo. Two recent examples, at Pride parade Moo was given free stuff galore even from people selling it! Poor Chloe was overlooked every time. Then the other day someone randomly gave Mojo a present and Chloe asked why she didnt’ get one. We spend so much time telling them they are the same. It’s tough because people mean so well”
The times when people have included even just a magazine for Oliver he has been so incredibly touched. Its almost as if he has resigned himself to being forgotten again and is amazed to have been a part of someones thought process as they packaged up a gift for his brother. I love those moments. The moments when I can remind him that people do see how important he is. Although I am not asking for an influx of gifts for Oliver at this point..back away from ebay people! But I just want people to know that remembering Oliver’s name is all he really needs. Yes, to see the incredible caring brother he is and to recognise that he deals (amazingly well) with so much more than other children his age ever have to but what means the most is just to be acknowledged in his own right. Just for people to know his name and use it. Simples.
Feel free to keep calling me Chantelle or Charlotte though, I’m genuinely not arsed!
Charlie (Short for Charlene) xxx
If you would like to read the first chapter of my book, click here for a free download or here to purchase the book which is out now with brilliant reviews!
Speaking of sending things in, am i able to send things in still?
Yes, if you email me at ouralteredlife.com I will send the address over. Thank you Cx
Oliver…you are one awesome and very special young man. I love reading about both you and Harry. You are very important and have such a lovely smile! Don’t ever forget how special you are!!
Annie from NZ
Thanks Annie. He’s always amazed to know where people are reading our posts from so I know he’ll be thrilled to know he’s having best wishes sent from NZ! Cx
What an honest appraisal of this situation! Since i came across ouralteredlife I have been equally interested in both Oliver and Harry. They are both so charming and endearing in their different ways. Oliver stands out because he is so calm and gentle about Harry – but I suspect he would be that way anyway. I find it lovely that he can tell you how he feels and I can understand why he might feel that way. He is a very special lad in his own right and isn’t defined by Harry. You obviously love him to bits, as you do Harry. You dont live in a ‘normal ‘ situation – but bloody hell, you come up trumps every time for both your children. You must be torn in so many different directions trying to fulfil your role as Mum. Oliver is at that very difficult stage in life when he is sorting out his own identity and all you can do is simply love him and do your best to give him special attention whenever you can. As far as I can see, you already do that. It is us who need to remember that Oliver may need us to SHOW that we value him as much as Harry – we shouldnt assume that he knows. He is definitely not invisible – how could he be with such a lovely character? I certainly always think of them both equally and I shall want to know what Oliver is up to as he journeys through life! He has to live with the reality of your lives but I hope that he will achieve whatever he wants to, without guilt or feeling it is undeserved. I certainly know that you will support him and let him ‘fly’ .
You are all special!
My heartfelt warmest wishes,
Thanks for your truly beautiful words Ruth! Got me a bit emotional there for a minute C xx
I am always thrilled to see Oliver and hear about some of his accomplishments and courage when faced with new challenges! His love for his brother is beautiful.
Thanks so much. He makes me very proud C x
You are raising two amazing boys. Ever since I found your feed and blog I have been so impressed by Oliver and how he is such a loyal brother and just outstanding your man! Well done to you as a mum!
Thanks so much C x
Sending hugs and love to Oliver Harry and you Charlie x And a big Hello From Cornwall xx
Thank you Kim C x
Sending love to all your family, we often as parents worry about this for our older son. Your words are so true. X
Thank you Donna C x
Just saw your story on SBSK and came over to your site. Such a lovely family. I thought Harry was an absolute sweetheart and it was great to get to know him a little in the video. But honestly, I was mostly stunned at how incredibly kind and wise Oliver was. It was amazing to see his responses to Chris’ questions and I just wanted to hear more and more from him. I don’t know how it is for everyone, but for me, I assume that Harry is the one who is overlooked and maybe people want to reach out and let Harry know he’s important, too. I’m sorry to say that I wouldn’t have thought of supporting Oliver in that way, as well, just because he seems so incredibly confident and caring and strong. But your post helps me understand that better. Just to let you know, I thought Oliver was an amazing person, or honestly, more like an angel than a human being. He certainly has so many positive traits and his maturity and caring capacity is well beyond almost any adult I’ve ever met. So glad I got to see a glimpse of this amazing person!
Thanks so much for your lovely comments
I just want to tell Oliver how valued and cherish he is. My daughter is just like you. She is such a great visual example to her brother, she loves him and is his biggest support really. They need kids to support them even more than the adults and to remind them that they are lovable and valued. Yes, she too takes the back seat because she understands that it’s medical and that medical needs of all of us, sort of take priority. This happens when someone is in need of assistance but this will make us more patient, understanding of others and their differences and quite mature for our age as well as independent. Be confident that your life has made a big difference in the life of your brother, your company and just being there. It’s always good to know your value and that sometimes it’s as simple as being loved as a brother, a son and a person who is willing to sacrafice a bit of time for a person they know needs it. Sacrafice is a natural part of life and though you are learning big lessons younger than most, you will benefit greatly in the future for this in other ways.
Beautiful comment. Thanks so much C x
This is such a beautiful comment and clearly from a heart full of genuine empathy and knowledge. Thank you Cx