Sawyer has started this new thing where he makes sure Cooper is included in everything we do. I’ll say…’we are going swimming tomorrow’. And he will immediately say…’can Cooper go too?’ It’s adorable. And most times the answer is yes. ‘Of course your brother can go.’ But sometimes there are things that Cooper simply cannot do.
Sawyer has a memory of going to the fair last summer that he talks about often.
Last night he asked me….’MOM, can we go to the fair soon?’ And I said…’yes, but we have to wait until summer.’ And per the usual he said to me…’can my brother go?’ And this time I told him no. His face immediately fell. ‘Cooper can’t go with us buddy.’
And I went onto explain how the fair will be too scary for him. ‘Too many sounds and people for Cooper.’ He thought about that for a minute and then looked up at me and said….’is that because he has ‘tism?’ And I said ‘yes, Cooper’s autism makes things harder for him but it also means that you get to do really special things with just your mom and dad.’
And he asked again, ‘can we please bring Cooper? I want my brother to go.’
Again I said, ‘probably not bud. Cooper would really have a hard time and would probably end up getting really sad.’
And this barely three year old looked up at me and said…’I’m getting bigger mom. And someday I will be able to carry Cooper when we go places so you don’t have too.’
And I just stared at him.
A million emotions flooded me.
The first one was love. This baby is so full of love for his brother. He is kind and sweet and smart. At age 3 he understands my struggles at times to care for Cooper. That is pretty amazing.
The second was anger. I had the typical I hate autism flash. Why does my 3 year think carrying his 5 year old brother is even an option? Why does he even know what autism is? I hate this his life is harder because of it. Yes I know I am raising a loving, empathetic, amazing child. That’s a fact. But I still hate that Sawyer’s life is different because of autism. He misses out on things. He spends time at appointments and therapies and sees things I believe a baby shouldn’t have to see. But that’s inevitable.
The third was sadness. I hate that Sawyer has and shows this undying love for his brother and Cooper doesn’t pay him any attention. I wish Sawyer could have that bond returned to him. I wish he could have that amazing friendship with his brother. Or that Sawyer’s big brother could and would protect him. It would never happen at this point. That’s hard to swallow.
And the fourth was straight up fear. Sawyer has no idea the truth behind that statement…‘someday I will be able to carry my brother so you don’t have too.’ Or the responsibility that might actually be put on him to care for his brother after I am gone. Someday Jamie and I are going to have to actually decide who will take care of the vulnerable person after we are gone. Will it be Sawyer? I have no idea. But lord that is a scary thought right now.
Sawyer continued to stare at me as all of these emotions flooded through me. I told him he will never have to carry his brother alone. We will do it together. And he laughed and off he ran to watch Curious George.
That conversation really shook me up.
It’s just sad I guess. Cooper has autism. I get that. I accept that. We all do. He is a perfectly wonderful, amazing, and joyful little boy. He is the love of so many peoples lives. But I don’t think I could even define or begin to explain what Autism did to us as a family. Or as parents. And now as a brother.
We will never be the same again. Maybe we are better. Stronger even. Who knows. And I feel like it’s fine that it’s hardened me and Jamie. We can handle it. But leave the kids out of it. Right?
**Pictures taken by Kacie K Photography in New Richmond, Wisconsin. SHE IS AMAZING!!