What if he never loves her?

A little boy and little girl in a wood, surrounded by sunshine, almost in silhouette

Watching my son around other children can be difficult. Yes, his differences, his autism, stand out clearly – but there’s more to it than that.

At his nursery, I have come to pick him up. Two little girls are on the floor at my feet, playing with toy horses.

“Amelia, Amelia, we can make them both jump!”

They are completely engrossed in what they are doing, focused solely on one another. In turn, they make each pony jump over different obstacles – a building block, a plastic doll. They are in a little world together, hanging on each other’s every word. I smile.

On the other side of the room, away from the other children, my boy is alone. He is in a corner, repeatedly bashing a small shape on the side of the sorter, talking to himself.

“Circle, circle, circle, ciiiiiiiir-cle!”

He doesn’t seem aware of the other children at all. He is in his own world too and perfectly focused– on the feel of the shape, on the noise and pressure as he hits it, on the sound of his own voice as he repeats the word and makes it something absurd.

Only recently, as he turned four, has he started to speak to other children of his own volition. He still does not understand them. He speaks only to scold because they are doing something ‘wrong’ or tries to answer their questions but does not understand what is expected.

When his baby sister was born, he was mute except to scream when she did.

The dark thought has flittered around my mind often since then – what if he never loves her? What if she is never more than an inconvenience, a disruption in his routine, an unpredictable rival for our attention? What if he is always lonely? What if she is always frustrated, never getting the interaction she so desperately craves from him? What if she never loves him?

But then, slowly, surely, imperceptibly – like the opening of a flower – beautiful things start to happen.

Three Beautiful Moments


Littlest is hugging my knees, repeating a word over and over but I can’t make out what she wants.

“Warrweee! Mummy warrwee! Mummy warwee pleaseee!”

“What’s a warwee sweetheart?”

She begins to get distressed.

“Waaaarrrweee mummy!” she sobs

“Baby, I don’t know what you want!”

Her brother skips over, flapping his hands in anticipation of the help he can provide.

“Mummy, I know what H wants! She wants her fairy costume! She is saying fairy!”

Of course.

“Ohh bubba of course! Let’s get your fairy costume! Say thank you to E for helping.”

“Ankk you Ehhhh errr!”

And for the first time in his life, my boy has helped me to communicate, instead of the other way around.


My children are chasing each other. They run from one end of the lounge, through the dining room, into the kitchen and back again, giggling as they shuffle along, trying to grab one another. I watch, nervously; this will end in tears. She will do something unpredictable, not follow his imagined rules. I must separate them.

“Sweetheart, this isn’t a good game. Don’t pull H over. You’ll hurt her.”

“It is a good game mummy!” he giggles, breathlessly.

“We are having fun! And I won’t hurt her. We love each other.”


My daughter is balancing blocks. She is very good at it, adjusting each one to make the edges meet up so they don’t over-balance and fall. My son watches.

Biggest and Littlest play with blocks

And then he adds a block and waits for her to take a turn.

I hold my breath. This has never happened before. Never once has he engaged in joint play – the kind of play that comes so naturally to his peers, to his sister.

“Now you put one H. We will build a tall tower!”

For the next few minutes, they take turns, Biggest giving instructions and narrating, Littlest following and steadying the blocks on her turn, the ones he can’t quite place perfectly.

I watch in silence and awe – their faces, the way they get excited as the tower grows, the way they both clap with exhilaration when it finally collapses.

And those dark questions melt away, overwhelmed by the love that radiates from them.



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21 thoughts on “What if he never loves her?

  1. This is beautiful. I don’t think I can truly understand your fears, not having experienced it myself, but perhaps H is just what E needs to encourage his interaction with other children. It seems like they have a very special bond already and I really hope this continues to develop. Those moments you described were so lovely and something to really cherish and I hope there are lots more for you all in the future xx

  2. Love, love, love, love this post. And with every passing day and every passing year it will get easier, he will learn more, he will interact more. It sounds like they are the perfect siblings.

  3. Gosh, this brought a tear to my eye! There is something so special about the gradual developing of a sibling relationship. My oldest adored Tink from the second she was born (he was there) but the feeling wasn’t really reciprocated until quite recently. Now they play together – in a fashion – and make each other laugh (as well as scream). It’s wonderful. #SpectrumSunday

  4. Beautiful and exciting to see the siblings connect-it made me hold my breath while I waited to see what happened.Who knows what their connection will make them capable of?People just don’t write this kind of thing in textbooks.

  5. A recent report given to me this week informed me that my daughter was appearing to cope with friendships more than what, in reality she actually is. She spends a great deal of time ordering the other children in her class into line and also likes to take control over games and struggles if it doesn’t go her way.
    The relationship that is forming between our 2 girls is facinating, oldest would hold her hands over her ears when youngest was born and still has deep jealousy when it comes to her sister, but I see some fab moments between them, like this morning when they had my broom and decided that it was a horse and the 2 of them trotted together around the living room ! X

  6. I love to watch the bond form between special need siblings. I honestly believe that one of the strongest there is. They will always love one another unconditionally, accepting them for who they are and will grow to be protective of one another. From one autism mumma to another. #SpectrumSunday x

  7. Your description of your son at nursery is like one I could have written aboout my boy when he was only 4. It’s wonderful when you see your child do something that gives you a glimpse into a much more positive future than you’d previously been able to imagine. I’m still getting those moments now with my teenage son and I hold on to them dearly. What for a regular family would be a complete non-event can be an event worth celebrating in our house. Thanks so much for hosting #SpectrumSunday

  8. One of the worries I have is of similar nature. We can only hope that as they grow they look to get more interested and involved

    At the moment we’re more involved in communication skills as our son is non verbal at 5. Speech open up so much moreof the world

    I wrote a post on similar worries as I think we all may share worries such as these

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