The Skills We Have

When you were about six, we had a party at our house.

By this point, you talked pretty well. You were still behind other kids your age, but you could get your point across for the most part and ask for juice and tell us which DVD you wanted to watch.

Jack-a-boo, language has always been hard for you.

You didn’t say a word until you were well past three.

Sentences were slow to come.

Even now, as a teenager, you hesitate for a few beats when someone asks you a question.

I imagine words as a thousand bees buzzing around your head. Again and again, you reach out to grasp them through the noise. This is not easy work for you. It takes time.

There were a lot of people at this party, because all of Daddy’s family was there, and you know how many people that can be—cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

I can’t remember why we had it, but I remember every time I looked at you, you were trying to sneak upstairs to the playroom with a plate of food.

Over and over again, I took your plate and told you to sit at the table.

You threw the plate on the floor.

You banged your head.

You cried.

Everyone around us shifted awkwardly and cleared their throats.

My face burned as I picked you off the floor and held you in my lap and reminded you that no, we cannot bring food upstairs.

That was a bad day.

Two days later, we walked down the driveway to wait for the bus. It was springtime, and the leaves were beginning to bud their green buds.

Just as we reached the mailbox, you said something.

Cousin Tommy. Brought food. Upstairs.

I flashed back to the party, and all of the teenage cousins balancing plates of hamburgers and macaroni salad and headed out of the kitchen.

Remembering it, I felt a familiar twinge of frustration, sadness, and weariness.

I mean, why did this all have to be so hard? Why couldn’t you just explain why you wanted to eat upstairs and save us all from a lot of tears?

But it wasn’t until a few months later, when I was telling someone this story, that I finally understood.

You didn’t tell me because you couldn’t tell me.

You couldn’t tell me for one simple reason—the skills we work the hardest for are the ones we lose first under stress.

In other words, the bees became frantic, and they swarmed higher and further from your hands.

On top of the buzzy bees there were lots of people, and different kinds of food, and all sorts of noise.

Stress.

You had a big idea in your brain and you couldn’t make it pass through your voice.

Buddy, listen. I lose my good skills when I am stressed too.

Patience.

Resilience.

The ability to slow the room down and look for clues and listen to the boy before me.

What I am trying to say is there are many, many days I would like to do over again.

If I could travel back in time, I would stand in my crowded kitchen and connect the dots for myself and let you bring your hamburger upstairs to eat.

I make mistakes. I am making mistakes.

Unfortunately, there are no do-overs, or second chances. There are bad days and good days and okay days and days when the sun shines bright orange in a breathless sky.

Jack-a-boo.

I am sorry.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. 

Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

Interested in writing for Finding Cooper’s Voice? LEARN MORE

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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