"Is she the one with an autistic brother?"
"Oh my god, things must have been so tough for your family!"
"Your brother is not as bad as I initially thought. There are much worse cases out there."
As a child, I grew up hearing all of these things from the adults around me, and it's sickening. For as long as I can remember, I always had teachers casting pitiful glances at me and giving me words of consolation throughout my elementary school education when my brother enrolled.
As a special needs child, my brother requires consistent supervision. During his teenage years, he was never left alone— only recently did my parents decide that it was time to let go and see how far he could go.
Children can't possibly be sheltered forever. Otherwise, they won't be able to survive in this society. Even a special needs child is not an exception. My parents understood that all too well.
I have a complicated relationship with my brother. I would go many extra miles for him, and I have zero tolerance for anyone who dares to insult him or my family. I won't hesitate to shut anyone down if they ever cross that line.
However, looking at my brother does spark something in me. I grew up with the heavy weight of responsibility, and I felt the need to make up for every one of his limitations.
Just in case you assume that my parents forced this mindset upon me, they didn't. Not at all.
The reality is, when you grow up with a special needs child, you feel the need to grow up quickly. When my brother is unable to fend for himself, I have to be the strong one. I have to be more mature than peers my age. Naturally, this caused me to develop traits like striving for perfection, independence, strength and empathy.
The imperfections of humans are often magnified, and needless to say, a special needs child certainly sticks out like a sore thumb in public. People would try to console my family, as if having a special needs child was like having poison. At times, their hypocrisy disgusted me to the core.
The highs are high, and the lows are low. The thing about being a family is that we always encourage and push one another to be the best version of ourselves — even when things go utterly wrong.
Having a special needs sibling does have its fair share of "bad moments," but that doesn't mean that the familial love and bond can be extinguished.
For me, the hardest part isn't the reality of having a special needs sibling. It is the thought of committing to having children one day. There are women who are afraid of marriage and commitment due to the fear of being cheated on.
However, for myself, my concerns are on a whole different spectrum. I can't envision marriage and having children like other women, no matter how hard I try.
I have witnessed how much my parents struggled with the disciplinary component for me and my brother. They tried their very best to be fair, and they had to use different methods for both of us. Back then, it was difficult to understand the difference in treatments.
Undeniably, my years growing up were filled with love. But they were also mixed with loneliness from time to time.
Having children should never just be an item on your bucket list, not unless you are dead certain that you're ready for the commitment. As a parent, you don't give up on your child no matter what he or she does. You don't give up, even if they don't take your advice. You don't give up, no matter how much they piss you off.
And most importantly, you don't give up — even if they turn out to be a special needs child.
Escapism is unforgivable, and it's cruel to the child. So, unless I am confident enough in my decision — and able to overcome the fear of commitment — marriage and having children will never be on my bucket list.
There is still more to life I'd love to explore first.