Unforgettable Hugs: A Mother’s Journey with Her Extraordinary Son

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I can count on one hand the number of times my son has initiated a hug with me.

While I hug and kiss him as many times as he will let me, always have and always will, he isn’t one to give them out freely. He’s quite choosy.

And even if I request one, he typically does this thing where he leans in, shoulder first, and sorta falls into me.

But over the years, I’ve gotten a few. With arms. And a squeeze. And so much love.

I remember each one.

That’s a gift I tell you. At least that’s how I choose to look at it.
How many of us can remember every perfect hug we’ve ever received from our child? Hard, right?

But I get to treasure each hug as a memory.

Autism has this way of turning things upside down and inside out like that. It stops time. Shows us what matters. And then starts it again.

But the hugs…let me tell you about the hugs.

Once after his 12th birthday party. It was at a train store. We invited all of his friends. When it was over he tapped on my shoulder while I stood at the kitchen sink. He signed thank you with his right hand and then hugged me. I’ll never forget it.

Another time after I had been traveling for a few days. He waited for me in a chair by the window. He waited so long he fell asleep. When I put my key in the door he woke up, ran to me, and wrapped his arms around me. He held me for so long.

And a few days ago, I was crying silent tears while vacuuming up bits of dirt, chewed up nerf gun bullets, and a box of Kleenex that had been shredded. (Thank you to Tank, our puppy.)

As I pushed the vacuum, I felt overwhelmed by life. Motherhood. Marriage. And the tears started flowing.
I’m not one to cry, especially in front of my kids. But truly, I didn’t think anyone would notice.

I cried for a while. I just let it all out.

And then, a familiar tap on my shoulder. Clumsy like.

I turned.

My Cooper, nearly as tall as me.

He brought his face close to mine, our noses practically touching.

He studied my face. My eyes. My tears.

He even sniffed them. And then giggled.

We stood there for a split second, eye-to-eye. No words of course.

Then he signed, ‘I’m sorry’ before throwing his hands out in front of him.

At first I wasn’t sure what he was doing.

I quickly realized he was waiting.

Waiting for me to hug him.

And for the first time ever I walked into his arms. He wrapped them around me. Tight. And held on.

It’s a gift.

The ability to stop time and grab onto a moment and record it as a memory.

And to be an ordinary person belonging to an extraordinary boy.
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.
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Kate Swenson

Kate Swenson lives in Minnesota with her husband Jamie, and four children, Cooper, Sawyer, Harbor and Wynnie. Kate launched Finding Cooper's Voice from her couch while her now 11-year-old son Cooper was being diagnosed with autism. Back then it was a place to write. Today it is a living, thriving community of people who want to not only advocate for autism, but also make the world a better place for individuals with disabilities and their families. Her first book, Forever Boy, will be released, April 5, 2022.

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