The Thing He’d Never Do

by Outrunning the Storm


Tommy had a friend over the other day.  They played together in the play room, while I kept Charlie occupied elsewhere.  When I heard an excessive amount of giggling from the boys, force of habit sent me in to check on the source.

Upon questioning, the boys gleefully divulged they were making jokes about Charlie, because he is weird and they don’t like him.


The first time I ever saw Charlie show aggression towards another child he was three. We were in a public play area. Tommy was quietly digging with a shovel in the sand, while Charlie collected leaves. An older boy, maybe 6, took Tommy’s shovel away from him and began to walk off. Charlie sprung up, grabbed the shovel from the boy, and whacked him with it several times shouting “you not to Tommy, you not to Tommy.” He then calmly walked over and handed the shovel back to his brother, before returning to his leaf collecting.

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Charlie was invited to a preschool classmate’s birthday party last spring. While he has enviously watched his brother head off to many such occasions, this was the first time he was actually invited on his own to a party. He was saddened when he realized his brother couldn’t go as well.

When he returned he handed his brother some squished cake wrapped in a napkin and his goody bag he had saved for him because “it would be like Tommy had gotten to go.”



Yes, Charlie.

When I grow up am I still going to live with Tommy?

If you guys want to, my love. Why?

Because he is my best friend and I love him and you said when we grow up that is who we will want to live with.


I have a brother, two years older than me. He has a PhD in bio-chemistry and a law degree. He is an accomplished violinist and sails competitively, yet has never had a significant relationship in his life.

As a kid, I was embarrassed by his social fumblings. I eventually gave up trying to coach him and became angry that he didn’t try harder to please people and make friends. I resented being associated with him and the damage I felt he did to my social status. Time after time when the occasion arose to stand up for my brother, I instead chose to join in the teasing in the hope that I wouldn’t be dragged down with him.

It pains me to admit those things. I so wish it weren’t true.

I wish, instead, I had understood a lack of skill is not a lack of will.

I wish had understood that over the years the shame of turning your back on someone in need, someone who loves you, weighs heavier than the memory of any party I wasn’t invited to or date I was not asked out on.

In the end, I just wish that I had understood.


When his friend had gone, I sat Tommy down and told him this.

I know that things with your brother have not always been easy for you. The way he has treated you has not always felt kind. But there is one thing I know he would never do.

He would never allow someone to laugh at you and still call them a friend.

One day I hope you will understand what a treasure that is.

About the Author: Outrunning the Storm is the mother of twin boys, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. This piece first appeared on her blog, Outrunning the Storm, and is reprinted here by permission.



7 thoughts on “The Thing He’d Never Do

  1. Madmother says:

    Oh, oh, how heartbreaking.

    I can honestly say we have never faced this. At 19 months apart my two fight, argue and love and support. When asked in Grade 1 (Boy 1 was in Grade 2), “What is wrong with your brother’s brain?” a giggling Boy 2 replied “He has to be nutty, he is going to be a famous scientist when he grows up!”. No hesitation, no anger, no doubt.

    As they have grown older sometimes the challenges have worn Boy 2. But it was when we lost my mother that things changed. The younger lost his path and the older stepped up, protected, supported, loved unconditionally.

    At 12 and 14 (and at different schools this year as Boy 1 has hit High School), the relationship takes your breath away. It is how siblings should be, but in reality rarely are.

    This is what can be. And with your words and help, it is what your boys will find as they grow.

  2. Karen V. says:

    The honesty of this post is beautiful.

  3. […] was with this thought in mind that I wrote the post highlighted today Autism and Empathy.  Please visit and take a look around at the work Rachel […]

  4. sam says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your words help to heal others.

  5. Jean Carroll says:

    I’m pretty sure you could hear my heart break all the way from Ireland. XXX

  6. Jim Reeve says:

    I’m lucky that I didn’t have to go through these things when I was a child. I have a brother, but we’re 15 years apart so we never had those issues. The important thing to remember is, that your boys will remain friends forever. And whether they like it or not, they have to rely on the other one at some point. I’m sure they’ll both realise this in time.

  7. Stephanie says:

    A beautiful and brave post. It’s still a struggle, but I’m trying to teach my boys the importance of being there for each other. But they do slip towards what’s easier in the moment sometimes.

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