Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Cooper

Today you are seventeen.

I sit here, a million words running through my mind, because there is so much I could say. None of it seems quite enough. You, my son, are a man of few words and like-wise there are few words to adequately describe you. 

In the eyes of the world you are practically an adult. At six feet tall, you look every bit the part of being grown up. But when I look at you, I still see a little boy, my buddy.

You have been my buddy your entire life. From the beginning, waking up at the exact same time every night, we spent quality time together as I rocked you back to sleep. This is when I first discovered Martha Stewart...thank you.

You explored the world your own way and taught me that we didn't have to do things like everyone else. Why bounce a basket ball when you can lick it? This is where I learned not to care what anyone else thinks...thank you.

You refused to be hidden, tucked away "out of sight and out of mind". The school superintendent knows your name, that's ok. This is where I learned the importance of standing up for what I believe in...thank you

You gave me a voice, and I have tried so hard to give you one. 

Now more than ever I realize, you have always had a voice. You have used it from the very beginning it has just taken me and the rest of the world a while to catch up and learn to listen.

Autism brings with it many challenges, and some have been very hard on you, but through them all you have taught me many things:
  • Because of you I understand someone can have a voice with out speaking. 
  • Because of you I see and hear things I never would have noticed.
  • Because of you I have learned what it means to be patient, and determined.
  • Because of you I am grateful for successes and failures, and I have seen the value of both.
  • Because of you I found a voice I never knew existed.

Time has moved quickly and I often feel I have failed you, that I haven't done enough. It's not that I wanted to "fix" you or "change" you...I just wanted to give you what you needed and help you understand the world around you.

But I think that maybe, it is you who are helping me understand.

Happy Birthday Cooper

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Happy Birthday Little Sisters

Oh little sisters, you have known your brother and Autism from the very beginning of your lives.

It is your normal,

it's our family's normal now.

You didn't have to adjust to it.

You didn't have to accept a change in your routines or learn to do things differently.

It is all you have known.

A life with Autism.

It doesn't seem that long ago that you realized not all brothers were "buddies" and it started to occur to you...

your brother is different.

Watching you two grow these last eleven years has been an incredible gift. You are loving and smart, soaking up everything around you. Quick to use humor and your kindheartedness overflowing, you are the perfect little sisters for a brother that will continue to face many challenges through out his life.

I have watched you take his hand in parking lots, and while the casual observer probably assumed he was watching out for you, I knew you were making sure he was safe.

I have listened as you asked to be the one to give him a special treat because you wanted to see how excited he would be.

I have watched as you carefully picked out the perfect gifts for him on his birthday and Christmas, knowing he would not do the same for you.

I held back tears as time and again you protectively explained to your friends things that might make your brother upset.

Today is your birthday.

You are growing up so fast and as much as I would like to freeze time, I am equally excited to see what God has planned for your lives. Because I know that the kindness and patience you have shown to your brother so far, is only the beginning of what you can do in this world.

You have both asked why I do not write about you, why I write about your brother. So I want to tell you why.

I write about your brother and the impact of Autism on our lives so that others will know they are not the only ones. I write about him to hopefully help people understand his potential and see his value to our community and world. I share his story because he can't and his story is important.

The truth is, I don't write about you because, it's not my story to tell.

It is yours.

The two of you will write your stories, and you will write them well.

What I want you to know is this, I can not wait to read them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

School Pick-up Line Confessional: Braless Patience

Cooper and Carlton taking a rest on the rocks
I remember my mother commenting once on how much patience I have with Cooper. At the time I just said, "well what else am I going to do."

Cooper does things his own way, in his own time. 

That's not so different from the rest of us, except in some ways it really is.

Yesterday we went to Lowes. My husband was shopping for a new leaf blower and we also wanted to look at some rocks for landscaping. 

Our daughter was driving in from college to spend the night. She was almost in town so she met us at the store and picked up her two little sisters, for some extra visiting. This left just me, my husband and Cooper to shop. 

Sounds lovely doesn't it.

I could leave it right there and you would think what a perfect day, perfect family. Man, they are really doing great. Some of you might even think, "if only we could do that." 

Well, you can stop, because how does that song go about a rolling down hill like a snowball headed for...you know where I am going with this...

it did not go well.

Mind you it's went worse, but it did not go good. 

It had been a while since we have had to abandon ship, but abandon ship we did and Cooper led the way.

We arrived at the store and everyone got out. The girls ran over to their sister's car, hopped in and they were off. Cooper was headed for the store and my husband and I were right behind him. We were almost in the store when Cooper started asking for the little girls. 

It was at this point that I knew we were headed for stormy seas. I also realized it was all my fault. I did nothing to prep him.


When we are going somewhere, or I am leaving, I write out for Cooper what is going on. He reads it and he's good. You see, he doesn't easily process a lot of spoken words, but he can read.

So here we are with a guy who has no idea what is going on or where his sisters are...and my husband wants to read about every leaf blower the store has to offer, and go up and down every isle twice looking for just the right rocks.

And me, well...I was trying to have patience...with both of them and myself. I was blaming myself because I should have known better, but still...I make mistakes.

Patience: "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset."

None of us were overflowing with patience on this trip. Cooper was pointing at every leaf blower saying, "that one!"
My husband was determined to finish reading, and I was determined not to say the bad words in my head, out loud.

I put my hand on Cooper's arm and I could feel him trembling, and I knew. We had pushed him to the limit. 

He ran.

We ran.

We caught him and we left.

When my husband put Cooper in the car he turned the child safety locks on the doors. Cooper has only opened the door on a moving car once. Once is enough. When Cooper is upset we child lock the doors.

So this morning I had to take the little girls to school at the last minute. Typically their daddy takes them, but every once in while I do. I'm just going to keep it real here and tell you that I was in my pajamas and without a bra. I have never, not put on pants and a bra to take my children to school.

Until today.

I have never, ever had to get out of the car when I have taken the my children to school.

Until today.

I pulled through the drop off line, stopped the car, told them to "have a good day" and they said...

"mom unlock the door."

Child locks.

I held up the very long drop off line as I got out in all of my glory and walked around to open the door and let them out.

Braless Patience, 

Free flowing, unhindered.

Oh God you do have a sense of humor and a lot of patience.