He Is Tethered to Me: My Journey With an Autistic Teen – Finding Cooper’s Voice

He is tethered to me. This son of mine. Although imaginary, connects us at all times, his lifeline.

As he’s aged the rope has started to reach farther. I can move throughout the house without him following me from room to room. But he knows. He always knows where I am.

I can go in the front yard and visit with neighbors. He waits for me, typically on the porch or just inside the glass storm door, watching. The tether seeming to expand and contract.

I can go on my nightly walk but I know when I return he will be on the porch waiting. Gasping and pointing when I turn the corner. I will feel the rope tug, pulling me home.

He can visit grandma and I can go with friends for a drink too. But he asks for me. Sometimes hourly. If it’s an overnight visit, his max is two sleeps.

See, he’s growing up. A teenager. He doesn’t need his old mom all the time. He can go with his brother’s friends to jump on the trampoline or watch cartoons in his room.

But, when we are out in public, that’s different. The rope seems to shorten to arms length.

He holds me now. A hand on mine or on my shoulder, me leading him.

Always touching me. And if he does pull his hand away for a second, I see a bit of panic in his eyes before he reaches out again.

At times I feel like his eyes and ears, as if he has a blindfold on and I’m telling him where to step and sit. Or as if he’s a 95 year old man, unsure of this crazy world, and I am his translator.

We are connected. Mother and son. I translate what he cannot understand.

There is pressure in that. Worry. Fear. Beauty. He’s nearly as tall as me now. He’s not little. I feel like I’m leading a man at times. I know how to calm him and talk him off the ledge but what if someday I cannot? I feel the weight heavier some days. So I choose to see this as a gift. I am blessed.

I am his person. We speak the same language.

I wonder how far the tether will reach when he and I are older. What will it look like then. Will he be taller than me? Will he still sit on my lap? Will people notice us walking hand in hand?

I smiled today as we sat on our boat, his arm on my shoulder. Then his hand in mine, and eventually his head in my lap. My other two sons building sandcastles and a fort. And my Cooper, needed the tether to be a little shorter today.

I found myself thinking how lucky am I. To be such an important person to an amazing boy. What a gift I have been given. To belong to someone in such a way.

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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