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 every 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.


Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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  • 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

  • Cody Morrison

    September 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm
    Reply

    I was in tears the whole time I was reading this post. I too am that mom. I have two children who are on the […] Read MoreI was in tears the whole time I was reading this post. I too am that mom. I have two children who are on the spectrum. One who is 13 and functions like a 6 year old but does speak. And one who is 6 and has some words but uses a communication device and is addicted to electronic devices for use in closing out the world and entering his own. When we go out in public if I make a comment to my mom how it would be to much for my little one she says things like if you give him your phone he will be fine but she is not the one dealing with the inevitable tantrum that is going to erupt from the 50 causes that I already know are going to set him off. I applaud you for putting your experience to words! Read Less

  • Cindy

    September 22, 2017 at 10:49 pm
    Reply

    I am the grandmother of a non verbal autistic grandson. This article was very moving as I watch my daughter struggle with the same issues […] Read MoreI am the grandmother of a non verbal autistic grandson. This article was very moving as I watch my daughter struggle with the same issues as you do. Sometimes it's nice just to know you are not alone. Read Less

    • Casey
      to Cindy

      October 2, 2017 at 12:17 am
      Reply

      Please contact us at Optimal Rhythms / ACCESS Academy for ideas! We have a different approach to autism and it is working!

  • Jo Ellen Lee Shaw

    September 23, 2017 at 9:08 pm
    Reply

    My son, Andy, is 3 1/2. He is beginning to notice other children. Up until now, everyone has been kind of peripheral to him. He […] Read MoreMy son, Andy, is 3 1/2. He is beginning to notice other children. Up until now, everyone has been kind of peripheral to him. He knows they're there but he has not had interest in interaction. In some ways, he's displayed that "normal" side by side play, as opposed to interactive play. In the last few months we've found a park and an indoor soft play area that Andy seems to enjoy. Inevitably, other children approach him to initiate some sort of contact and when Andy does not respond, the give up and walk away. Andy is completely non-verbal and simply does not understand the attempted interaction in any capacity. The children get bored of trying to interact, and eventually just walk away. I see the other moms glance my way wondering what is wrong with my kid. The part that is breaking me is that recently he IS trying to respond. He's beginning to recognize emotion on other children's faces, but it's too little, too late and it only leads to him feeling confused and my heart hurting a little more each time. I don't know the answer. I don't know the fix. I don't know how to even comfort him when he just simply does not understand. What I do know is that it hurts. It's exhausting and every single time it chips away small pieces of my already broken heart. This life is hard. It's lonesome, and it is exhausting. Read Less

  • Zina Crowe

    October 2, 2017 at 11:31 am
    Reply

    I am not that mom but that grandma and I want to tell you what a blessing it was to read your story..may you continue […] Read MoreI am not that mom but that grandma and I want to tell you what a blessing it was to read your story..may you continue to help Cooper find his voice and I will continue to help my grandson, Caynen to find his..God has truly blessed us even if at times it seems so hard...we can't ever give up..!!!! Read Less

  • Shelley Hanson

    November 11, 2017 at 9:22 am
    Reply

    I love your posts, thank you for sharing your heart with other families that are affected by Autism. Our daughter who is 27 yrs old, […] Read MoreI love your posts, thank you for sharing your heart with other families that are affected by Autism. Our daughter who is 27 yrs old, still has little safety/ stranger danger. I want to encourage you though, our daughter is able to do many things we never thought she could do! We have been there in the same situations as you, running & worrying non-stop over your child. hang in there mom! it is hard, but you can do this! :) I really encourage you to seek out other mom's (with AI kids) and support groups etc.. they were a life saver for us when our daughter was young. You will develop life long friendships. Remember, your strength lies in the help and support of friends and family. Our faith really carried us through some rough times, and still does to this day. you have lots of AI mom's who know exactly what you are going through! Thanks for opening up and sharing your experience! Read Less

  • Julie Paul

    January 28, 2018 at 10:26 pm
    Reply

    Dear Kate, I have never commented or written anything on any blog before, so I hope this works. I am the antithesis of tech savvy. I […] Read MoreDear Kate, I have never commented or written anything on any blog before, so I hope this works. I am the antithesis of tech savvy. I have been following you since Carrie Carriello posted your story a month or so ago. I read her blog every Monday morning with my second cup of coffee. Your story struck me. I don't peruse social media often, but these past few weeks I seem to keep coming back to your page. I know your story. I too, like many others, have a son the same age as yours, with the same diagnosis. He is blonde like your son, he likes pictures like your son, he is very silent , like Cooper. I have cried at the park, at church, actually I cried last Thursday because I had to take him out of the high school gym and missed my daughter's final pom performance of the year amd my son's basketball game. I know when autism smacks you in the face and catches you completely unaware...I also know when it settles in and you perseverate on it like our sons stim on a familiar DVD cover. That is why I'm writing you. I've been praying and thinking of your family for a while and I just want to encourage you that even though these events of isolation weigh us down, the Truth is, Autism isn't forever. Yes, it is here as we walk and breath on earth. All of the things you write about are true and real and valid and most families don't have to deal with them in their everyday lives. But , my real hope Kate, comes in knowing that the true forever is in Eternity with Christ where my son Jesse will be with me and we will talk and laugh and sing together as we praise God who taught us so much here on earth about His love and mercy and forgiveness and kindness through the life of a silent little boy. There, forever, Jesse will be fully whole. I truly pray this isn't offensive or disheartening in any way. Your posts are so lovely and real and raw and depict the true sorrow we grieve each day for our dear ones. I just write to encourage you with what sustains my husband and our 4 kids and what gives us hope. It navigates our life through every tough time, and there are so many, but we keep our eyes toward the Son knowing He holds us in His hand. Much love and grace to you wonderful Mother Kate. Love, Julie Read Less

  • Amy Walter

    February 26, 2018 at 5:11 pm
    Reply

    My 12 year old son has severe autism. We had to put him in a residential school last year due to his increasingly bad behavior […] Read MoreMy 12 year old son has severe autism. We had to put him in a residential school last year due to his increasingly bad behavior and that was very hard to do. He is thriving there though. We look forward to getting him back this year. God bless you and hang in there. It gets harder. Put your faith in God. Read Less

  • Sharon

    April 1, 2018 at 1:44 am
    Reply

    I am not that mom. But I am that Nana. My grandson Collin has autism, he is 16 now but I have been in his […] Read MoreI am not that mom. But I am that Nana. My grandson Collin has autism, he is 16 now but I have been in his life from his birth. I was he primary caretaker when he was diagnosed at just past 2yrs old. I ran with him to different therapies 5-6 days a week. He was always running and I was always trying to catch him out of fear that he could get hurt or hurt someone else. He was verbal at 18 months and by 2 he lost the few words he had. I knew that there was something wrong with him but I couldn't tell my daughter . I would have crushed her and myself just saying the words. His dad and I went to see a developmental specialist. It was the hardest day in my life to see a man who doesn't know you or your family take an eraser and wipe away all the hopes and dreams you had for your grandson. We as a family had to learn sign language and let me tell you how great it was, Collin was quicker and better at it then any of us adults. It was a gift from heaven to know what he wants. Instead if him banging his head on the floor because he couldn't talk and I didn't know what he wanted. Eventually we were able to drop the signing because we would all say the word and sign always together. Then he just started to say the words without the signs. He kept the one sign up until about 2 years ago. When he would want something he would get all excited and rub his chest and say pleeease Nana, rubbing his chest meant please. He is high functioning and in regular classesof is so 6. He is a sophomore in high school now, but don't take this the wrong way, he still has bad days but not like when he was 3 or 4 yrs old. We are now dealing with puberty and it has got him so different. He has gotten mean and talking back a lot. I just pray this to shall pass. I have to believe that it has always gotten me to where I am now. It breaks my heart now as much as it did when he was 4 and the other kids made fun if him and picked on him, only now it is worse cause those boys are big now and so is he and things can get bad under the right circumstances. He is 6'3 and none if us could stop him if he did get that angry. I hope he will calm down when he is done with puberty and be my handsome love bug. That's what I have called him since he was so tiny. He says now Nana you can't call me that when we are by school, but he said I can call him bug. He us my purpose in this life. When he was in 3rd grade I was picking him up from school and as we were walking back to the car he says Nana I got a secret and I told him it isn't goid to have secret it can get you in trouble. He says no Nana its a good secret, hes says when i gtow up im gonna marry you Nana. I judt went to tears. That boy and I have an unconditional forever. I don't know how he got to be 16 already and 6'3 it seem like yesterday I was in the room watching him being born and held him. He means the world to me. God gave him to a good mom. She is such a driving force behind him no going backwards only forward. God knew she was a strong woman and rhat she would take good care if his special angle and she sure does. I always tell him he is so handsome and I know I'm partial but he really is very handsome. I guess you can tell I like the boy. I will try to get a pic of him up here if I know how. If other mom's are experiencing the puberty years k am all ears this has been some trying times for mom and me and Collin. Anyo e who has gone through these times I would love to hear from you. Read Less

  • James Askham

    May 4, 2018 at 6:47 pm
    Reply

    I am that DAD. I run all over the park with my son watching other dad’s kicking soccer balls and playing catch with their kids. […] Read MoreI am that DAD. I run all over the park with my son watching other dad’s kicking soccer balls and playing catch with their kids. I keep it together for those special moments together when we can sit at home peacefully just after wake up time when we laugh and cuddle. My wife (ReeAnne) and I feel your pain all to closely. There is a community of us out there going through the same thing! Much love Read Less

  • Louise

    August 15, 2018 at 5:11 pm
    Reply

    To all parents of hold Rennes who are autistic. I can not day I know what you are going through. But what I can say […] Read MoreTo all parents of hold Rennes who are autistic. I can not day I know what you are going through. But what I can say is that God is a powerful God he sees all that you do he sees all the work and love you are giving your child or children. At times one can say it’s not fair or why me, but please consider yourselves blessed. Blessed to have a child, others can’t bear children. Blessed to be in a country that provides help for autic children other third world counties don’t have that opportunity. So when you have a tough day, try to keep your chin up high. And always know there is a support group, and you are never alone. Read Less

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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