I am Jealous of My Own Son

492065b7c96765d8c0821c7b27bd7754Life has been crazy lately. And again, in a way, I love it because I don’t dwell on the little things. I ran a half marathon yesterday and I’ll tell you that one thought crossed my mind a dozen times. ‘One more step and maybe Cooper will talk.’ So silly, right? I can’t help it though. It’s the way my mom brain works. I am his voice. I am strong for him. When the running gets tough I always think of him. Like maybe in God’s spare time he is watching me. And maybe my running will mean he can talk one day. Like I’ve previously said…I can rationalize with the best of ’em.

In the past couple of busy weeks Sawyer has changed into a new kid. He is talking and learning and eager and curious and more. To be honest, he is a pure joy. He loves baseball and at any given time is carrying a baseball glove in one hand and a ball  in the other. And then a second later he is putting a hat and diaper on a baby doll. Next he is attempting to ride a bike. Two minutes later he is sitting on the bathroom counter putting on makeup and jewelry. And then asking me for an apple.

I didn’t know it could be like this. Or more honestly, I didn’t know what I was missing. And it makes me feel really weird half the time. Am I supposed to happy for Sawyer or sad for Cooper? I have always been jealous of other kids Cooper’s age. It devestates me to see them. And now, I am jealous of Sawyer. And to take it one step farther, in tough social situations I manage Cooper. Sawyer is SO easy going that he can go with Jamie or anyone. I am the one walking Cooper around the yard or pushing him in a stroller. Half the time I feel like this mom looking in at my family. I am on the outside. I love Cooper and I will do whatever it takes but it sure is lonely when my whole family or friends or whomever is sitting at the kitchen table eating dinner and I am begging and pleading with Cooper to not freak out.

The other day Jamie was wrestling with Cooper. Jamie asked Cooper if he could see his teeth for whatever reason. Cooper instantly went limp and threw his head back and started screaming. I sat on the couch as this was happening and watched Sawyer try and get Jamie’s attention so he could show him his teeth. It was so simple. First, he patted him on the shoulder and then he opened his mouth and said ‘ah’ and then clenched his teeth together and smiled. And even more adorable, he wanted to show us. He was so proud. Then he put his fingers in my mouth to see my teeth.

I started crying. Now I know in this blog that I mention crying a lot but I REALLY am not a crier. It just hit me so hard. I saw these two boys that look so much alike and they have so many similarities. And then I saw a flash of different paths. And it hit me like a ton of freaking bricks.

Their brains are hardwired differently. It’s as simple as that. I get it. I really do. But how do I raise them and give them both the same opportunities. Is my life destined to be struggling with Cooper and missing everything Sawyer does? Will Sawyer miss out because Cooper can’t do certain things. It’s not fair.

How do I celebrate Sawyer and not be sad for Cooper? It’s so confusing. On the car ride home today Sawyer said a dozen words or so and Jamie and I chatted with him and laughed. He’s 16 months. And my 3.5 year old isn’t talking yet. And my heart is broken.

To put it simply: Hello, my name is Kate and my heart is broken. And it is what it is. Life is passing Cooper by and I feel like I have to choose which son to be with. It’s not fair. Right now, with Cooper, it’s therapy and movies and struggles over EVERYTHING. And with Sawyer it is so easy. And my biggest fear, right now, is that this is their future. I am jealous of my own son.



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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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  1. Meg C. DeBoe on June 23, 2014 at 3:09 am

    If you get the opportunity to, try talking to an adult who grew up as a sibling of a special needs kid. All of the ones I know have amazing stories to tell and none of them – none of them- was ruined by it. If anything, they are more confident and empathetic people than any you will meet.

    • Avatar photo findingcoopersvoice on June 23, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Hey lady. I sure hope so. I don’t want any resentment between brothers.

  2. Jill on June 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    OMG I totally get the “That was so easy”. I say it all the time. One time I watched my friend put on his son’s coat, hat, gloves, scarf and boots and say “lets go play in the snow” and I was literally like “ummm WTF that is all you have to do???” It took Mason 8 weeks of ABA therapy (I think at the time he was only getting 10 hours a week) just to understand “touch your head”.

    • Avatar photo findingcoopersvoice on June 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you for getting it!!! I was worried about writing this post but it’s ALL true. If we don’t challenge Cooper life is good. If I try to challenge him in anyway all hell breaks loose. And with Sawyer, anything goes. It’s just so hard.

  3. Dina on June 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    I totally get what it is like to have two very different children. I have one autistic 6 year old boy and one neurotypical 3.5 yo daughter. There are huge differences between them – she engages in over-the-top imaginative play while he is scared of pretending. She easily engages in long back and forth conversations while this is something that he still works on. She has school friends who she can easily fall into play with, while my son has never had an official friend that wasn’t part of a playgroup. When she was younger, we were blown away by how OBSESSED she was with being *just like us.* Not so for her brother. Okay, so just a small handful of the many HUGE differences between my two children. We observe all of them – we don’t have to ignore them or pretend they don’t exist, or that one struggles more and has to work so much harder than the other. We celebrate our daughter’s wonderful qualities – all of them – including the ones that make her so different than her brother. But she is her very own individual – and you know what, God ONLY KNOWS what struggles she may have in her life down the line. At the same time we celebrate all the uniquely awesome things about our son. He is extremely smart. Sure, he is often a handful, but he has a gentle spirit and an intuitive soul. He loves going on long, long walks, just like his father. This is not a zero-sum game where if you are happy for Sawyer’s great attributes that in no way whatsoever needs to be “balanced” by sadness for Cooper. We can celebrate our son as an equal, because he is not a tragedy. Don’t get me wrong: I know heartbreak. My heartbreak is his classmate telling me that maybe he would be friends with my son, but he doesn’t want all the other kids to think he is weird, too. But: that is not about my son. That is about these kids needing to learn what acceptance really means. To me, tragedy is a child floundering in a refugee camp, because chances are they will NEVER get to fulfill their god-given potential because the evil of humanity has interfered. Cooper is not a tragedy because he has loving parents, food, shelter, and a community that will make sure he reaches his God-given potential – whatever that is – he will be the child he was created to be. And I don’t think ANYONE knows what that is now. I have a favorite mantra: TODAY IS NOT TOMORROW. It just isn’t. I think fellow poster Cyn at one point linked to Emma’s Hope Book blog. I would highly recommend it for a parent of a currently non-speaking child.

  4. Lyndsey on June 23, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    I’m new to following your blog. I have 3 kids (1 with similar issues as your adorable Cooper.) It’s tough and I’m a runner who isn’t a cry baby either 😉 I’ve come to find that my two typical kids are the constant “peers” for my special needs son. It’s a blessing and a heartbreaker but having Sawyer close in age to Cooper will be a great advantage (even if it’s hard to see now.)
    Also I don’t know if you have tried any diet stuff but a lot of these kiddos respond positively to removing gluten, dairy and soy. Last Summer my son was 3.5 minimally verbal, not potty trained, and struggling with daily transitions. He had a very limited diet (sounds like Cooper does too) and we didn’t know how we were going to implement any diet changes. We were just at the end of our rope and had to give it a try. Long story short, a year later my son is 4.5 fully potty trained, talking in 3-6 word sentences, and rarely struggles with transitions. We have a long way to go but hands down diet has given us back our kiddo and I have so much more hope. There is a huge gut-brain connection.
    I’m praying for your family. Congrats on your 13.1 🙂

    • Avatar photo findingcoopersvoice on June 25, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      I am so glad you found my blog. And thank you for the comment! And a fellow runner!! So, we tried gluten free a year or so ago. I honestly don’t know if it made a difference. I think the key with Cooper is to cut back on snacks and sugar. But, as of right now, it seems so daunting. His diet is HORRIBLE. I would say he eats 5 real foods and the rest is crackers/cookies/snacks. Lots of goldfish and cereal. I think I might try again though. I need to muster up the strength! How did you start? Can you email me? swensonkate@yahoo.com

  5. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? on June 23, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Not being a mom of a special needs kid, I don’t understand how life is passing Cooper by, it sure sounds like he is living life – a lot differently from others, but he is living it. He does spend his time with different types of activities, but that is what he enjoys. I guess that I don’t think just because he lives his life different from what is expected/normal/you want for him that it means life is passing him by. Life is just different for him.
    But, again, I’m not in that exact situation – so I could be full of hogwash! 🙂

    • Avatar photo findingcoopersvoice on June 24, 2014 at 2:11 am

      I totally get what you are saying. Here is how I will describe it. Sawyer learns 10 new things a day. Cooper hasn’t learned anything new in months and months. His speech is still at 6-9 months. It’s just hard. I feel like the world keeps going and Cooper is stuck in time. Except his body is growing so we can no longer get by on the fact that he is little. Not anymore. He is the size of a 4 year old. It’s hard. (I love that you said hogwash! That’s awesome!)

      • Kate @ Did That Just Happen? on June 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

        Okay, I get the stuck in time reference – that does help me see things from your perspective and have more understanding! I remember how challenging it was when my son was that age and had such a hard time processing emotions and I thought it was going to be the end of the world for me – fortunately, with lots of work, we got over the hump… and now, reading your adventures, I realize that I had it so much easier than I thought!
        Thanks for taking the time!

  6. Laura on June 25, 2014 at 2:28 am

    Ahh I totally relate to this. I can’t believe all the things my younger son does that I never had to teach him or someone else never had to teach him. Now that he is almost 2, I can tell you that he actually helps Ashlynn’s development because she sees him do things and she wants to do it.

    • Avatar photo findingcoopersvoice on June 25, 2014 at 2:36 am

      I am hoping for this too. I’ve noticed that sawyer already challenges Coop. He is constantly trying to wrestle and tickle him. And that’s good for coop.

  7. This Ability Of Mine on June 25, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    You’re doing the best you can for both your boys and even when it doesn’t feel like it, I promise you’re doing great. I can tell from your posts that you are a wonderful mom. Keep it up and don’t be too hard on yourself. Being a mom is the hardest job ever and being the mom of a kiddo with special needs is even harder.

    • Avatar photo findingcoopersvoice on June 25, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      Best comment ever! Thank you!

      • This Ability Of Mine on June 25, 2014 at 5:55 pm

        You’re so very welcome!

  8. Jenn Soehnlin on June 30, 2014 at 4:41 am

    Aww, love this post so much, because this is how I feel with my two kiddos. Special needs Kiddo is 4, Little Brother will be two next month, and Little Brother is about to surpass Kiddo in speech and gross motor skills soon, if not already. Makes me sad for Kiddo, but proud of Little Brother’s new skills that come so easily. Hard to put into words, you know? But, I’m honored to be the mother of both of them, even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, like This Ability of Mine said above. 🙂