The Honesty of Six Year Old Boys

Our world is completely different than it was less than a week ago. A week ago we lived in a neighborhood without any children. So, our five year old son Sawyer really depended a lot on mom and dad for entertainment. He had a bit more screen time than he probably should have. He often told me he was lonely. He wanted more friends.

This week, we live in a new house in a neighborhood full of children. All kids Sawyer’s age. All wanting to play and have fun.

On day one in the new house, Sawyer became part of the group.

The kids came in and out of our house. They went upstairs, downstairs, and in the backyard. They rode bikes. They climbed dirt piles. They built forts. They dug holes.

They did everything six year old boys should do.

Their giggles and shouts filled our house. A noise I hadn’t heard before. Their shoes and toys were everywhere. And I loved it.

This is the number one reason why we moved. Our life is different with Cooper. Our job is to keep him safe. To balance the rigidity of autism with the chaos of life. He likes being home. He likes being safe. He likes being comfortable. That clashes with Sawyer’s need for socialization.

I will be the first to admit that as the boys age, meeting their individual needs is getting harder. Sawyer wants to go, go, go and Cooper wants and needs to stay, stay, stay. Our thought was, if we find a neighborhood with kids, we can have the best of both worlds.

And we found it.

Many are probably wondering if the chaos of kids in and out of our house is disruptive to Cooper, our autistic son. The answer is no. Sometimes he acknowledges them. Sometimes he does not. If they are shooting nerf guns or making forts he simply takes his treasures and moves to a new part of the house. My son likes to be near the chaos but not directly in it.

Cooper and his treasures

Over the past week, I have watched Sawyer and his friends have the time of their lives playing, eating ice cream, laughing, loving life, and Cooper will be five feet away oblivious to them. It has taken me years to realize that he is also having the time of his life too. Just in his own way. And that’s ok.

The first day the boys came over to play they immediately noticed Cooper. They noticed he didn’t play or talk. They noticed he made funny, loud noises and flapped his arms a lot.

I watched them as they stared with wide eyes, confusion and wonder. Almost mesmerized. I remember Sawyer saying, ‘Come on guys. Let’s play.’

As they stared in awe on day one, I talked to them about Cooper. I asked them if they knew anyone with autism. They said no with big, wide eyes and a head shake no. I told them that Cooper is autistic and he doesn’t talk. He loves trains and dancing. He can be loud and silly. And he really likes it when they are over here.

I asked Cooper to wave. Which he did. Without a glance at the boys.

And off they ran to play. I didn’t push it but it is incredibly important to Jamie and I to include Cooper in conversations. We don’t hide his autism. We never have. Sawyer understands too. If children have questions, I want them to ask. Ignoring it or hiding it seems like we are ashamed of our son.

WE ARE NOT. He’s the best kid ever.

I immediately had visions of these boys all being teenagers together. Of Cooper moving along side of them. Of them knowing autism. And being a protector. I saw Cooper being part of their group.

On day two I heard Sawyer say, ‘yeah, my brother doesn’t talk.’

On day three I heard the boys say, ‘he’s eating all the Nerf gun bullets!’

I immediately had a fleeting thought of the boys not liking Sawyer because he had an autistic brother. Just one thought that I quickly squashed.

Last night, on day six, the kids were once again over and this time, Cooper ran up to them and waved. He smiled. Two boys immediately sat down next to him to watch his Kindle. This was the first time they sat next to him. Just for a second.

And then they were off playing again. Sawyer and his new best friends. Destroying my new house like only little boys can.

As I shooed them outside to stop them from shooting Nerf guns in my living room, Cooper ran by, dropped his pants and went in the potty. He is seven. Still little. But, he also likes to be naked. And I think this caught a few of the boys off guard.

The boys got the giggles. Like all little boys would.

I told them that sometimes Cooper may do some silly things like that. But he’s learning. And they have to be extra patient with them. They nodded.

And I said, ‘I can tell that someday he is really going to want to be your friend. Will that be ok?’

One little boy replied with, ‘Ok. Like best friends? Cooper is funny. Will he be able to talk when we become best friends? I think he should talk.’

I said, ‘I don’t know buddy. Maybe. But if you listen really carefully you’ll see and hear that he’s saying stuff to you. You just have to watch really closely. It’s easy to miss.’

The little boy thought about it for a second, looked at me and said, ‘Ok. I can’t wait until he talks.’

And off he ran. I choked up a little. Of course he wonders if Cooper is going to talk. We all do.

In that moment I realized that these neighborhood kids aren’t here just for Sawyer. They are here for Cooper too. And Jamie and I. They are here to bring us out of isolation and back to the real world.

For years our family has been consumed by autism. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing so don’t scold me. I’m just saying, we have another son too. We have lives. And living our whole world inside the walls of our house isn’t healthy either. Both of our boys need fun. And people. They need to experience life.

At this moment,  I’m so glad we moved. We found what we needed.

My boys

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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Comments

  • Susan

    May 4, 2018 at 3:24 pm
    Reply

    I don’t think you are helping Cooper by constantly telling people in front of him that he doesn’t talk. It seems like that just […] Read MoreI don’t think you are helping Cooper by constantly telling people in front of him that he doesn’t talk. It seems like that just reinforces that behavior. You should say he is still learning to talk, or something like that, which is true. If someone constantly tells you you can’t do something, you’re far more likely to believe them and stop trying. Read Less

  • findingcoopersvoice
    to Susan

    May 4, 2018 at 3:53 pm
    Reply

    Aw yes the thinking that I am making him autistic by saying he is autistic. Or making him nonverbal by saying he is nonverbal. I […] Read MoreAw yes the thinking that I am making him autistic by saying he is autistic. Or making him nonverbal by saying he is nonverbal. I disagree. This is also one conversation. How do you know that I am CONSTANTLY telling people that he doesn't talk? Are you secretly in my world Susan? In our home, we acknowledge our son's differences and celebrate them. We encourage, teach, model and praise. That is how we choose to raise our son. Read Less

  • Kate

    May 5, 2018 at 4:16 am
    Reply

    I have no idea why you get criticism. You are doing a fabulous job under very difficult circumstances! You're boys are very lucky to have […] Read MoreI have no idea why you get criticism. You are doing a fabulous job under very difficult circumstances! You're boys are very lucky to have a mother like you. 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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