Pres­sured by Mom to in­clude autis­tic brother in wed­ding

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

My brother is on the autism spec­trum, high-func­tion­ing but not in a cute, Shel­don Cooper way. He is mostly stand­off­ish, and when he does en­gage it’s usu­ally pretty harsh. He’s my brother and I love him, but he can be tough to be around even if you know him well.

I’m get­ting mar­ried next year and we are in the early plan­ning stages. My mother made it quite clear she ex­pects my brother to stand up in the wed­ding. I’m hav­ing flash­backs to childhood now where I was ex­pected to in­clude my brother in ev­ery­thing so­cial, even if he didn’t want to be there and my friends didn’t like him. I can al­most guar­an­tee my brother would be hap­pier at­tend­ing as a guest in­stead of the stand­ing up at the re­hearsal din­ner and the wed­ding.

Ac­tu­ally, he would be happiest not at­tend­ing at all. I don’t take this per­son­ally. Hav­ing him in the wed­ding would be for our mother, not for ei­ther of us.

My mother has a huge blind spot when it comes to my brother and I am tempted to not have any at­ten­dants to avoid the whole thing. That is just avoid­ing the con­ver­sa­tion I need to have with my mother, that she pushes me and my brother to in­ter­act in a way that isn’t sat­is­fac­tory to ei­ther of us. How do I have that con­ver­sa­tion with her ef­fec­tively?

“Mom. You’ve raised us. Mis­sion ac­com­plished. I’m go­ing to take it from here, and that in­cludes but is in no way lim­ited to de­cid­ing who stands where at my wed­ding.

“Thank you for all you’ve done. Please now trust me. Trust Not-Shel­don, too, to know for him­self what he wants.”

Then live your life as you see fit, and roll with mom’s dis­tress when it flares up: “I’m sorry you feel that way. I asked you to trust the per­son you raised me to be, and I’m stick­ing to that an­swer.”

And if needed: “With all due re­spect, this is my de­ci­sion to make. I’m happy to talk to you about other things right now, but not this.”

And if needed: “I’m go­ing now, bye Mom.”

Just know that if your par­ents are pay­ing all or even some of your wed­ding ex­penses, you’ll need to be pre­pared to pay for ev­ery­thing your­selves as the (fair) price of call­ing these shots.

My brother ve­he­mently did not want to be an usher in my wed­ding or be part of the church ser­vice, de­spite be­ing very happy for me and my hus­band as we cel­e­brated it. We spoke with him about other ways he could be “in the wed­ding” without be­ing a tra­di­tional at­ten­dant.

If this brother would be com­fort­able tak­ing video, or de­sign­ing the pro­gram that would be passed out to at­ten­dees, or some­thing else that taps into a tal­ent or in­ter­est he has, then the bride and groom are (a) in­volv­ing him in a way that may ap­pease Mom and (b) re­spect­ing who he is as a per­son by ac­knowl­edg­ing his real strengths and weak­nesses in­stead of mak­ing him fit a pre­scribed vi­sion of how sib­lings are in­volved in each other’s lives. Ex­cel­lent you. idea, thank

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