We Have Perfected Splitting Up

We were standing in a group of friends.

Sawyer and I.

Waiting in line with five other families.

Dozens of kids.

I watched him subconsciously glance around.

Taking it all in.

I wonder if he ever realizes that most of these kids, his friends, are his brother’s age.

8.

They are talking about scary movies, Pokémon cards and mini doughnuts. As kids do.

Part of me thinks he doesn’t even realize Cooper’s age. Probably because his favorites are Barney and First Word Books.

I get it.

He tugged on my sleeve discreetly and pulled my ear down to his level.

‘Mama, why can’t we do stuff as a family? I think dad would have loved this.’

Such a thoughtful thing to say.

He’s right. His dad would have loved this.

I thought about how to answer him but in a split second he was gone. Someone mentioned giant Jenga.

I don’t think he really wanted or needed an answer from me.

He knows.

It’s not a secret. It’s not even the white elephant in the room.

His brother can’t go. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

Autism.

He knows we are working on it. Practicing. Because he is often in tow.

‘Sawyer, we are going to practice walking through the store. Can you help mama hold brother’s hand?’

But even with all the practicing, he knows.

We could never do something like this as a family.

And we may never get to either.

The number of places we can actually go is less than a handful.

For us, outings are planned way in advance. Every detailed organized. There is no simplicity. No last minute plans.

But mostly, we split up.

And of all the parts that are hard about severe autism, splitting up our family tops the list.

It stings. Always has and I suspect always will.

What other families take for granted, we can’t do.

Our son can’t handle loud noises, or crowds, or waiting. He doesn’t sit. Or understand how to be quiet.

If we get in a public place, any place besides our home really, he runs. He runs far away. He self injures. He flops to the ground.

There is no reasoning with him. And we would never, ever force him. Not for his sanity or our own.

That means no restaurants, parades, movies, fairs, malls, zoos, haunted hay rides, or sporting events.

It means we don’t travel. Not really.

We don’t go camping. Or fly in planes. Or take road trips.

What we do is split up our family.

Either Jamie or I take Sawyer and Harbor and the other one stays home with Cooper.

We have perfected splitting up.

Negotiating who goes with who.

Dividing up time.

Sending snapchats, photos and video.

Sharing updates.

Missing the other half of our family.

If it’s something really important, we have the grandparents stay with Cooper. But that can only happen so often.

Plus, we don’t want to be apart from Cooper either. He is our son too.

So, it’s a balance.

The tightrope we walk daily.

Giving Sawyer a life outside of our home while allowing Cooper to thrive in his safe space.

Later, on the ride home, I asked Sawyer if he missed Dad. I tried to start a conversation.

I prodded a bit. I could tell he was tired. A long day.

In my rear view mirror he looked 3 years old.

And he simply said, ‘sometimes I just wish it was different mom. I wish we were like all of the other families.’

I nodded.

‘Me too bud. Me too.’

And that was one of the most innocent and honest things my son has ever articulated.

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, subscribe for exclusive videos, 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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