REAL LIFE

Why this is the best ever school photo

So sweet.

Rebecca’s kids have a beautiful bond.

Here, Rebecca Wiffen, 38, tells the story in her own words.

Popping a Burger Ring smothered in tomato sauce into her mouth, our two-year-old daughter Kayden was in heaven.

‘I love you, Daddy!’ she declared.

We’d never normally let our bub have junk food for brekkie, but it was likely her daddy’s last Father’s Day. And my hubby Chris, 36, loved sauce on Burger Rings.

‘They’re burger-flavoured…’ he’d say, like it made perfect sense!

Battling a congenital heart defect, Chris’ condition had deteriorated so much that docs said he wouldn’t survive a transplant.

Now, he was in palliative care – and I was 26 weeks pregnant with our baby boy.

‘Tell him I love him, that I didn’t want to leave him,’ Chris said, broken. ‘I’ll never stop talking about you,’ I promised.

No matter how much it hurts… you’re worth the tears, I thought.

Kayden and her daddy
Kayden and her daddy

Two days later, Chris told me he loved me, then he took his last breath.

‘Daddy is in heaven now but we can still talk to him, he watches over us and he still loves us very much,’ I told Kayden.

In a bubble of grief, it felt like the whole world was rushing past, while I could barely take a step forward.

But I had my babies to look after. So, every day, I forced myself to get up.

Kayden is his world
Kayden is his world

Then, 10 weeks after Chris passed, I gave birth to our son, who we’d decided to call Fletcher.

Walking into the delivery room, Kayden burst into tears realising Fletcher hadn’t miraculously turned into a girl like she’d wished!

Back home, she quickly changed her tune though.

Nearly three, she became my little helper – passing me nappies and finding dummies.

If her little brother was grisly, she’d take his tiny hand in hers, and he’d settle straight away.

Fletcher Bear, as Kayden called him, met all his milestones as a baby, then as a toddler.

But as he grew, my loving boy struggled to express himself. When it all got too much, he’d nestle beneath a pile of blankets and hide.

Sometimes, if he didn’t get his own way, he’d refuse to talk or move. No-one could make him budge – except Kayden.

‘Don’t worry, Mum,’ she’d say, before negotiating with her brother.

For Fletcher, his big sissy was his world and she knew how to get through to him. But a thought kept niggling. Could he be autistic?

Chris never met Fletcher
Chris never met Fletcher

Last year, leading up to Fletcher’s sixth birthday and with school looming, I knew I couldn’t bury my head in the sand any longer.

Getting him tested, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level Two, which meant he’d require substantial support.

Enrolling Fletcher into Kayden’s school, they made sure he’d get all the help he needed. Still, I was a little worried when the term started this year.

How would Fletcher cope without me or his big sissy by his side all the time?

Our first big hurdle came four weeks in – school photos. Fletcher Bear’s never been fond of having his picture taken, but having lost Chris so early, I know how fleeting life can be and was determined to document these precious moments.

So, I paid $110 for a single shot of each child and a family portrait.

Baby Fletcher and Kayden
Baby Fletcher and Kayden

‘Let’s practise your school photo smile!’ I exclaimed on the morning of the big day.

Instead, Fletchy’s face grew sterner by the second. Dropping the kids off at school, I hoped for the best. ‘How did it go?’ I asked Kayden that afternoon.

‘Oh Mum, I sat with him and talked to him, but Fletcher didn’t want to get his photo taken at all!’ she said.

Still, she’d done her best, promising to play his favourite game, Minecraft, that afternoon if he did.

Then a few weeks later, I was called into the principal’s office to discuss the photos.

Sitting down, she handed me a photo.

‘The office staff saw this and said, “You can’t send that home!”, but I just love it…’ she began.

Holding the snap in my shaking hands, I choked back tears.

In the frame, Kayden smiled right at the camera, while her little brother nestled into her shoulder, his eyes closed. ‘It’s perfect,’ I said.

It was a perfect representation of where my kids are at right now.

Kind Kayden, wise beyond her years, faces the world head on and is always her brother’s biggest cheerleader.

Kayden is Fletcher’s cheerleader
Kayden is Fletcher’s cheerleader

Our Fletcher Bear needs extra support. And his big sissy is his safe space. Her brother’s keeper…

Showing Kayden the photo, she laughed. ‘It looks like he’s smelling my armpit!’ she giggled.

Kayden hadn’t even realised the snap had been taken!

‘He said, “Sissy I need a hug”,’ she explained.

As Fletcher leaned in for a cuddle, the photographer captured the gorgeous shot.

I just wished Chris was there to share it with us.

‘Daddy is the moon and stars,’ Kayden’s always said. ‘The moon is very big and bright,’ Fletcher will echo.

And my beloved hubby shines on, in our two beautiful kids.

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life, on sale now.

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