I’m Thankful For You: My Son Parker

(Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Alyssa Hartwell and is part of Cooper’s, ‘I’m Thankful For You’ Campaign.)

This November I would like to thank my son Parker.

There are so many people in my family’s life that I am thankful for but before I get to my specific thank you, I want to tell you a little bit about our family.

First, we are from Canada. My husband, Steve, and I are parents to three beautiful boys. Parker is five, Aiden is almost three, and Finn just turned one. They are loud, busy, sweet, spoiled, funny and smart. Needless to say, special needs or not, we have our hands full!

Our sweet, little Aiden surprised us by arriving two weeks early. He arrived on Christmas Day and not without lots of drama. To make a long story short he aspirated, required 35 minutes of resuscitation, and was transferred to a children’s hospital in a different province with a very grim prognosis.  But, being the little fighter that he is, Aiden left the hospital after three weeks with many of the doctors in disbelief at how much progress he had made. Sure, we knew there would be some impairment but he was alive and he had brain function. Aiden is now officially diagnosed as having spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which means it affects all four limbs. He is unable to sit, crawl, walk, talk, feed himself, etc.  But rather than the cant’s (which I always find daunting and try not to dwell on) I like to talk about Aiden as a person and the things that he can do.

Aiden is a smiley boy. He knows all his body parts and can point them out when asked. He knows his family by sight and by name. He can (after much hard work by his dedicated physios) roll over. He loves to eat and has a very sweet tooth. His brothers (especially Parker) are the apples of his eye. He has a laugh that comes from deep down in his belly and you cannot help but join in once he gets going. Though nonverbal, you can almost always tell what he wants. This is the side of his cerebral palsy that very few people actually see.

My son Parker sees Aiden for the beautiful soul that he is. Now I’m not saying it’s perfect and they always get along – quite the opposite in fact – but Parker gets Aiden. He understands him in a way most people do not. He knows that Aiden is different compared to other kids but to him he has always just been Aiden.  He will tell people, when they ask, that Aiden has cerebral palsy and can’t walk. And then he’ll get mad at him for pulling his hair or taking his toy and just like that people can see that they’re just like all brothers, one of them just happens to have a disability.  It may just be my perception but there seems to be less pity this way. If there’s one thing I hate it has to be pity.

Parker is protective of Aiden. He tells us when Aiden wants something and will play with him if we’re busy. His favorite game with Aiden is to drag him around the house on a blanket or by his legs. Sounds awful but Aiden REALLY loves it! My hope is that when Finn gets older he will also have that same connection to and protectiveness of his brother.

I want to share a little bit about Parker to because he is a pretty cool dude. He loves all things Star Wars and dinosaurs. He’s recently discovered a love for LEGO and it’s so great to see his imagination at work. Parker, though sometimes shy, can be a big talker and has a pretty extensive vocabulary – he was able to say hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (Aiden’s brain injury) at 2 1/2 years old. He can be quick tempered, a ruthless negotiator and there are days when he tests my patience to their absolute limits but man, oh, man, do I love that kid!

So, to end this novel, I’ll direct this to my son.

Thank you Parker!

Thank you for being the best (most of the time) big brother. Thank you for understanding that Aiden is different but also recognizing that does not need to always treated differently. Thank you for your patience (again, most of the time) when Aiden needs a little more time from mom and dad. I know it is not always easy and that Aiden cannot always play the way you would like him to but please know that Aiden adores you and eats up any and all attention you give him. We’re so proud of you Parker. Thank you!


You can still nominate the doctors, therapists, teachers, friends and family that make a difference in your special needs world. Click HERE to learn how!

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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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