I Am That Mom

I am that mom. The one you see running around at the park, covered in sweat, and continuously redoing her pony tail. The one climbing to the top of the jungle gym and sliding down with a kiddo between her legs.

I See You

I can see you out of the corner of my eye sitting with a group of women leisurely drinking your coffee. I see you watching me. We’ve bumped into each other a few times.  I know you are a lovely person. You smile and wave. I do the same. Oh, how I’d love to come over and speak with you. And possibly even sit down and drink coffee out of a Starbucks cup and laugh about our kiddos latest preschool adventures.

I see your kiddos as my son runs by…every time dangerously close to running them over. They are the same age as my boys. They are playing together. They are sitting.

You wave me over and I just smile. I tell you I can’t…’gotta chase the little man.’

See, I’d love to join you. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not anti-social nor am I avoiding you. Maybe you even think I’m a helicopter mom. I’m not any of those things. In fact, I’m the opposite. See, I have a son who has Autism. He can’t communicate with other children. He is pretty clumsy on the slides. He can’t stop moving. And he doesn’t have any understanding of safety and danger.

So, I am that mom. The one who climbs every ladder, crawls through every tunnel, and slides down every slide. I am always smiling and laughing. I’m the mom who is always communicating to other kiddos and motivating my son to keep trying.

Always Ready To Run

I am that mom. The one who never sits down. I am the mom who longs to sit at your table. You see me running and it appears that I am playing. I’m not actually. I’m actually pretty stressed. Leaving the house with an autistic child is a challenge. But I do it. I want my son to be happy. And to be perfectly honest, I just need to get out of the house sometimes. I need to be in the real world.

If you knew me you’d know that I am always wearing tennis shoes. No flip flops for this mama. To easy to trip up when chasing. I’m also always in a tank top…even when it seems chilly out. I do this because I’m always sweating. I never stop moving and after an outing with my son I feel like I’ve ran a marathon.  My hair is a mess. Mostly because I am covered in sweat. I am that mom who never brings a purse. I can’t run while holding it. I don’t bring a water bottle. I could never maneuver my son while holding it. I need my hands free at all times.

Have you noticed that in the few short minutes my son and I have been here we’ve climbed every play structure, crawled through every tunnel, and slid down every slide. We’ve covered every piece of ground. I’ve even cased the perimeter better than an FBI agent. I know all the exits. I know every danger. I see everything object that could go in his mouth. I even know where the small children are.

I’m also ready to leave at at any minute. I know that at any moment my kiddo might have a sensory overload and push another child. I know this because it happened to me before. I’ve lived it. I’ve witnessed strangers yelling at my child. And I can’t do it again. So, I stay one step ahead at all times.

I know I look like an amazing mom. You’ve said that to me before. We chatted once when I was at this park with my other son. You told me that you don’t know how I do it. You said that the other moms are in awe of me. You joke that Cooper is keeping me in amazing shape. I can pick him up and throw him over my shoulder in an instant. You laugh that I don’t even need to go to the gym like you do. That stung a little bit. I know you weren’t trying to be mean but it hurt. It made me feel so different than you and your friends.

I Am Jealous

I see you having a picnic with your friends and your children. You are all laughing. I see your children sitting. I see them eating the food put in front of them. I am so jealous it hurts. What I wouldn’t give to sit down and enjoy myself. And even more…what I wouldn’t give to sit down and enjoy my son. And friends. If the situation was different maybe we could be friends.

As I glanced at you I realized I looked away for too long and my son had made his way to the sandbox. Oh, the dreaded sandbox. I watch one of your friends grab their toddler out as Cooper sits down. At first I am offended. He is just a little boy. And then I watch him pick up two handfuls of sand…one to eat and one to throw. And then I’m thankful you grabbed your toddler out. Saved me an apology.

I plop down in the sandbox just as my kiddo jumps up to go to the next thing. See, he can’t stop moving. He struggles to play and enjoy. He is a sensory seeker. And I am off again. I take a second to glance back at my audience. This park is really amazing. And wow, it is a beautiful day. Except I don’t get to enjoy it. I don’t notice anything around us because I am too busy chasing and waiting for the meltdown that will happen if we stay too long.

I see you walking to the bathroom. Did you know I can’t do that. I could never take Cooper into a public restroom. I’ve had to pee since I got here and I’ll have to wait until I get home. Another reason why I don’t carry a water bottle.

Mom, Watch Me!

As I follow Cooper from the platform to the slide I take a second to hear all the noise around me. Giggles and little voices. What I wouldn’t give to hear those sounds. ‘Mom, watch me!’ “Mom, Mom, Mom!’ See, I’ve never heard those words. Or any for that matter. My almost seven year old has never asked me to watch him do something.

See, his Autism is pretty severe. And I know he looks like every other little boy. And I know that is why his behaviors confuse you all so much.

I watch children try to take a peek at Cooper’s iPad. I even see a few parents giving me the side eye. I get it. We are at a park. Why does my kid need an iPad? Oddly enough I feel the same way. And some days I do wrestle it away from him. But some days, he just needs it. It’s his crutch. His comfort. And to be honest, some days I just don’t have the energy to fight with him. I am so thankful to be out of the house that I don’t care about the stares from strangers.

I am the mom who seems invincible. You say I inspire you. When in reality there are some days I don’t know how I can continue doing what I’m doing. I slept terribly last night. I stayed up way too late thinking about new therapies, diet modifications and giving myself a pep talk. Scary thoughts about losing Medicaid were trying to creep into my brain and I forced them out. I can’t worry about that. I just can’t. I am tired today. I probably couldn’t even chitchat if I had time. I am conserving my energy to get my little boy safely to the car when I tell him it’s time to go.

We Are So Different

I hear you talking about your weekend. You are going to a fair. Your kids are so excited. In a way I am drawn to your life. You are me. I am you. Except we are completely different. We both have two children. They are the same age. And yet, you are sitting and enjoying your day. Blissfully unaware that I am crying behind my sunglasses.

I want you to know that I often feel the most alone with my son’s disability when I am at public places like this. We are surrounded by people. There are children everywhere, running, screaming, and laughing. And yet, my son and I are completely isolated. I am that mom. And, oh my God, it is lonely.

And just like that my son is melting down. I need to throw him over my shoulder and carry him out. You wave at me as I walk by. I’d wave back but my arms are full with a 65 pound failing child. I really can’t hear much over my son’s screaming but I think I hear you say…’Let’s sit down and chat next time you are here!

Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a mom putting her toddler back in the sandbox. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Who knows.  And I look at you and smile and nod as my eyes flood with tears and sweat drips down my forehead. My arms are aching. I have the typical fleeting thoughts…’how am I going to be able to carry him when he’s 10?’

I look over my shoulder at you and smile. ‘Sure, I say. Let’s catch up soon. I’d like that.’ We both know that’s just something we say. Unless you want to lace up your shoes and run with me it’s not going to happen.

I wait to lose it until Cooper is safely buckled in the car. I look back at the park and see the moms and kids and wonder if they are glad we are gone.

I am that mom.

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Comments

  • Shellye

    July 17, 2017 at 4:18 pm
    Reply

    I'm that mom too. See you at the park.

  • Lindy

    July 17, 2017 at 5:02 pm
    Reply

    I know how you feel. My daughter is 8.5 and has autism. I will tell you one thing, my daughter used to be all over […] Read MoreI know how you feel. My daughter is 8.5 and has autism. I will tell you one thing, my daughter used to be all over the place just like Cooper but in the past couple of years, that symptoms has decreased tremendously!!! So while I know it is hard to have hope on rough days like this, I want you to know, it really does get better:) Read Less

    • Lesley
      to Lindy

      July 18, 2017 at 2:54 am
      Reply

      So beautifully written. Made my heart ache and my tears fall. Thank you for being a voice.....not only for Cooper, but for all of […] Read MoreSo beautifully written. Made my heart ache and my tears fall. Thank you for being a voice.....not only for Cooper, but for all of us moms who have a child that isn't like all the other kids at the playground. Thank you for helping me less alone. You are a force to be reckoned with. All my love to you mama❤ Read Less

  • Jennifer Hudson

    July 17, 2017 at 5:23 pm
    Reply

    I do not have a child with autism, but many friends that do. All of their sweet children are different, but I could not […] Read MoreI do not have a child with autism, but many friends that do. All of their sweet children are different, but I could not imagine me not living, laughing, kissing, running and doing all they do. I love them dearly, actually more than their parents. I never let anyone sidestep their precious souls or others at the park, fair, dr., grocery store etc., that I do not know, I'm the first to interact, catches some parents by surprise. You are a fantastic, loving, hardworking and discipled lady. I wish I was half the mother & woman that you are. TEAM COOPER!!? Read Less

  • Kristi Jones

    July 17, 2017 at 7:07 pm
    Reply

    Me too. I have three. Three kiddos, three different sensory processing profiles, one autism, one cerebral palsy, three fetal alcohol and prenatal drug exposure, three […] Read MoreMe too. I have three. Three kiddos, three different sensory processing profiles, one autism, one cerebral palsy, three fetal alcohol and prenatal drug exposure, three kiddos from hard places who had no voice, three precious innocent lives that were turned upside down by diagnoses and life circumstances that are really hard. I was that mom at the park, the SAME one with the same desire to sit and chat or read a book while my children played like all the others at the park. Mine didn't play. My autistic child ran and darted and couldn't be still, knocking other children over because they were "in the way" while my daughter with CP tipped over or fell or got stuck somewhere causing a traffic jam on the slide or in a tunnel. The other kids couldn't get up the ladder. Moms got frustrated. Sometimes my son had meltdowns in the sandbox because he didn't like it touching him, and sometimes he picked it up and threw it at other kids. My daughter usually ate it or peed in it. Yes, I. Was. That. Mom. Meanwhile my little one with auditory processing disorder who never seemed to listen and always seemed to be ignoring learned early that she could close herself in away from the tantrums and live with the fairies and unicorns. She was hard because she was so quiet and in the midst of the meltdowns and my frantic attempts to keep other people's' kids safe from swinging canes, flying rocks, or a raging tantrum, little one would disappear. She was (and still is) my little wanderer. The park was hard. The park was lonely. I remember looking around like you wondering when my kids would play like that and when I would be able to sit with girlfriends and chat. I thought I'd meet moms at the park and make connections and friends for my kids. We didn't make friends. People watched and people stared, but nobody tried to connect. It was a lonely place. It's still a lonely place. They are growing-- they're 12, 13, and 14 now. We don't go to the park anymore. But the hard stuff is still hard, and the isolation is still real. It's different but still the same. The tantrums are much bigger, but the peeing has stopped. Little one is still a wanderer who is friends with the unicorns. People still stare and wonder. We stay home more. It gets better, but then it doesn't. We move forward and then have really big setbacks. Hope remains, but fear takes over. Isolation is big and ugly. Exhaustion is palpable. Emotions are raw. Sometimes as That Mom, I feel like I have no voice. Thank you for sharing your story. Finding Cooper's Voice may help some of us find our voices too. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your transparency and willingness to be vulnerable. Hugs from This Mom to That Mom. Read Less

  • Nina

    July 19, 2017 at 4:46 am
    Reply

    I feel like you plucked the thoughts and fears out of my head, like you wrote this based on watching my son and I […] Read MoreI feel like you plucked the thoughts and fears out of my head, like you wrote this based on watching my son and I out in public. I feel for you so much, and every time someone tells me I inspire them, or says " I don't know how you do it ," I want to laugh and say "neither do I!" Things have gotten better in some areas, and more difficult in others (for us). Thank you for sharing this. Please know you aren't alone, even though it feels like you're drowning in a sea of normal families. Read Less

  • Jen

    July 20, 2017 at 9:50 am
    Reply

    I am that mom too! And I love this because I know I am not alone! Thank you for writing this so eloquently and so […] Read MoreI am that mom too! And I love this because I know I am not alone! Thank you for writing this so eloquently and so truthfully! Sending you a big mom fistbump from St. Louis! Read Less

  • Georgie

    July 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm
    Reply

    This has honestly touched me so deeply, it is as if you have taken my exact thoughts and feelings and exsperiences and written them down! […] Read MoreThis has honestly touched me so deeply, it is as if you have taken my exact thoughts and feelings and exsperiences and written them down! It is so tough when you are in a place that no one else can truly understand and your feeling so low and defeated and then out of the blue you stumble upon a page like this and read someone else writing about your life and realise that for us it is normal to have these fears thoughts and feelings and I'm truly so greatful that you have created such an honest page as you have lifted me up with your words and I feel ready to do it all again tomorrow! Read Less

  • Karen

    August 11, 2017 at 5:23 pm
    Reply

    I am teary-eyed just because I am so darned tired this week, and this all hits a welcoming cord. I wish I had a sign […] Read MoreI am teary-eyed just because I am so darned tired this week, and this all hits a welcoming cord. I wish I had a sign on sometimes to explain that I'm a helicopter mom by necessity...and the strength! My son is almost 8 and small... 40 lbs, 41 inches ... and so ungodly strong, too. You echoed what I think sometimes, too.. he is growing, I am not. I will be 4' 11 1/2" until I shrink with age and I can barely physically handle his power now. Read Less

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About Me
About Me

Hi, I'm Kate. I am the mother to a little boy with severe, nonverbal Autism. This is a glimpse into our heartwarming, sad, scary, funny, loving and secret world. Check out my video tab to hear me ramble about Autism.

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