This “In Their Own Words,” is written by Alysia Butler of Hopedale, Mass.
I’m sitting on the floor of our toy room watching my son.
He’s at our Fisher Price toy kitchen, pretending to turn on the water and wash his hands.
He fills up a cup from the pretend blender and hands it to me, pushing it towards my mouth so I’ll pretend to drink from it.
I take a sip, say “that was delicious!”, and hand it back to him.
With a smile, he pretends to wash the cup in the toy sink and puts it away.
He picks up the toy phone from its pretend cradle on top of the kitchen, and babbles into it (sounds vaguely like “Hello? Small cheese pizza with a side of garlic bread? Bye!)
I smile. He turns to me and laughs. He grabs a plate from inside the toy refrigerator, takes a spoon, and hands it to me. “Eat!”, he says.
I know enough to recognize what this all is now. This is pretend play.
But it’s not from my four year old.
It’s my 22 month old.
And it’s making me very sad.
My four year old never did this at 22 months. He didn’t do it at two years old, or even at three years old. Just now, after a year of special services through his school, are we seeing this type of pretend play.
I’m trying hard to stay in the moment – to sit and laugh and eat my pretend food like a good mother should. I should be celebrating the fact that my youngest is meeting all his milestones. He’s finally starting to talk in a way that doesn’t sound like he’s underwater. In almost every way, he’s right where he’s supposed to be.
But all I can do is think how different that has been for my 4 year old.
My 22 month old plays better, eats better, holds a spoon and fork and crayon better and sleeps better than my 4 year old. For goodness sake, they are only three pounds apart, even though two and a half years separate them. And it worries me. For both of them. What will happen when they are both older and the distance between their skills becomes more noticeable – more obvious – to the outside world and to each other?
I’m snapped out of my sadness by a sudden hug from my 22 month old. A real hug. A “thank you for playing with me Mom” hug. I hug back and ask for more pretend juice.
My four year old spots us playing and comes running into the room. “Can I have a tea party, too?”
I make room for him in front of the tiny pretend kitchen and he gets himself a cup. He asks his baby brother to pour him some juice from the pretend blender and they both pretend to have a drink. They giggle and I have to laugh too.
They are pretend playing together. And I realize that I have to stop comparing my kids. All three boys will do their own things in their own time. One may be reading chapter books at age six, one may be able to name every single Hot Wheels car in our house, and one may be able to sing along with Lady Gaga. It doesn’t matter how long it took my four year old to get to this tea party. Every milestone and every step, he’ll be a bit behind where he’s supposed to be. But he’s here now. That’s what my focus needs to be.
In my house, there can’t be any supposed to be anymore. Just where we are now.
Back to my tea party. Because my pretend tea is getting cold.
“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.