I’ve Never Heard I Love You

My son is eight. And he’s never once said I love you.

He can’t. And maybe he won’t. He doesn’t know how. And maybe he doesn’t want too.

There are so many reasons why or why not. I don’t know the exact one.

I just know that I would give anything to hear it.

He has autism. And he’s nonverbal. He also has Apraxia.

Add all three of those reasons together and hearing the three words, I love you, can feel impossible.

I actively waited for a long time. I envisioned it happening. We practiced the sounds. And then signing it. And then using his speech device to say it.

And then, I sorta just stopped waiting. We stopped working on it quite so much.

We had other goals. More important ones.

We needed to work on communicating basic needs. And safety. Self care. We needed to work on calm body. And playing.

There are so many other things more important.

So, I moved on from that one.

But every night, as I tuck my two little boys into bed, one on the top bunk and one on the bottom bunk, I always tell them I love them and secretly wish he’d say it back. Just once.

Every day we end the day talking about anything and everything.

Me and my two boys.

Sawyer tells me about his upcoming birthday. And asks how many sleeps until his party.

I always climb into bed next to Cooper and we talk about his treasures. The many photos, cards, and pieces of paper that he sleeps with every single night.

Some days there are one or two treasures. Some days there are dozens. I always point out the faces of the people and ask him questions.

I want him to know I care. That I am listening when he is ready to tell me about them.

Of course Sawyer always needs one extra drink of water.

And Cooper requests a few more blankets. He likes a dozen all gathered up around him. His bed looks like a nest.

I give one more kiss and one more hug to each of them.

I shut the light off. And say I love you.

Sawyer screams it back. So loud. Immediately.

I always pause. Subconsciously I think. Because really, I know he’s not going to say it back.

And Cooper says nothing at all. Silence.

So I say it again. He gets an extra I love you. I say his name in the sentence. I make sure he is looking in my eyes. I want him to know.

Some nights I get a grunt. Some nights it’s more silence. A confused look. A blank stare.

It doesn’t bother me anymore. The silence that is. I talk to myself so much that someone outside our world might think I’m crazy.

I ask Cooper about his day. I tell him about mine. I say I love you before school. When he gets home from school. When he does something silly and he’s just so cute that I need to tell him again.

I’ve never had a response back.

This morning, I walked into my office and  sat down at my computer to write.

And right in the middle of my desk is a birthday bag. A bag that Cooper has been carrying around for days. He loves anything that has to do with birthdays.

I look inside. And smile.

The bag is full of photos of our family.

His brothers. Me. His dad. Drawings. A valentines day card. An invitation to his brother’s birthday party.

These are the treasures that Cooper brings to and from school. He takes them to the bathroom. And in the car. He eats with them arranged next to him. They are lined up on the floor when he takes a bath. And they are eventually arranged around him as he sleeps.

And every night, when he climbs in my bed at 5 am, I hear the crinkle of their paper.

My son has never said I love you. And while I would give anything to hear those three words, I am realizing, that what they say is true.

You don’t have to say the words to feel it. You just have to show it.

This kid loves his people more than any other person I have ever met.

I really can’t ask for anymore.

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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 our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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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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