I chatted today with the woman who will become my son's help, the doctor who will help him learn to cope with the compulsions which rule his young life. I timidly asked her if this were something we had done or was it simply a part of the person he is. "It is a part of him," she told me. "We don't know why some people need repetition or stimulation or any of a hundred different things to comfort themselves, it's just a piece of who he is."
She went on to tell me that the greatest blessing to a person with OCD is to grow up in a family with many siblings. As parents, we make excuses for the weirdness of our children. We don't want to admit that they are less than perfect because they are a reflection of us and our own strangeness. Brothers and sisters are having none of it. They don't put up with the obsessive hand washing, or the compulsive chewing, or any of the rituals which a person with an anxiety finds comforting.
Parents excuse, but sisters whack you upside the head if you eat their Barbies. Brothers will pull you out of the bathroom as you wash your hands again because they have to pee. They force you go out of the comfortable areas you build for yourself and stretch as a person. They help us and hold us up and require that we return the favor, even when that means putting aside our own comfort.
The brothers and sisters who I worried might be a contributing factor in all of this, by somehow taking attention from him, they are the greatest help he has. They are not a symptom of this dark time, they are its light. They are what will help him to learn to balance between what he wants to do and what he needs. They are his blessing.
And he is theirs. Through him, they will learn patience, tolerance, and acceptance. They will learn compassion, and learn what it means to truly love.
This thing, this curse, may turn out to be a blessing for all of my small, dear ones. May they learn to see the gift in the pain, and the hope in the midst of fear, the hand of God at work in their lives.