Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – Petting Cows and Skydiving

In Their Own Words – Petting Cows and Skydiving

The boys and I were hanging out in Sean’s room, winding down from the day. Sean (my son who has autism) was getting into his covers and his brother was sitting at the end of his bed. I turned off the lights to get Sean ready for bed and he said sweetly, “Can you talk to me, Mommy?”

I sat down on his bed, the room dark, and he said quietly, “Sometimes I have good dreams.”

“You do?” I said, surprised. Most of the time, when I ask him what he dreams of he says quickly, “Nothing.”

“Yes,” he whispers.

His older brother, curious asked, “What do you dream about, Sean?”

He pulled the covers over his face and said happily, “Farms. And petting cows. And sometimes I am skydiving.”

His older brother laughed kindly and said, “Yes, Sean. Sometimes I dream that I can fly, too. It’s so awesome. Maybe you’ll have a dream that you are skydiving and you parachute down into a barn and you can pet the cows.”

“I love petting the cows in my dreams,” he said, his voice softened with the memory.

His brother said, “Yeah, I love the good dreams. I don’t like the bad ones. Sometimes I dream that someone is chasing me and I can’t scream for help. And one time I dreamed  that a bad man took Sean and I couldn’t stop him.” his voice scared.

Sean said, “I have bad dreams about zombies.” his voice shaky. “I don’t like those dreams.”

I smoothed his hair and kissed him on the forehead, “No bad dreams tonight, pumpkin. Think of skydiving. Dream of the cows.”

I stood up and took his brother to his room, his hockey posters and medals hanging on his walls. I pulled back his NFL covers and tucked him in.

“What are your good dreams, mom?” he asks, burrowing his body into the blankets.

Do I dare tell him that everyday I dream that Sean will come to me, with promise and hope in his eyes, words like honey dripping from his lips, his conversations on-topic and his body free of the impulses and hopping and the strange noises that he often makes. That he will be the boy I have always dreamed of – a boy who can run and play easily with others, who can read books and comics, who doesn’t cry or scream when things don’t go his way and who can live in a world that doesn’t feel like it is swallowing him whole.

But I don’t. I tell him that my favorite dream is that I am flying, my arms stretched, scraping clouds and blue sky with my fingers, looking down over green hills and pastures of wheat below, and my heart beating electric.

And I don’t share with him the nightmares I have had either. The one where he and I are playing with Sean near a river, the water clear, cold and rushing with purpose. I look away for the briefest moment and when I turn back, Sean is falling into the river, his body disappearing, the river water turning muddy, almost black. I frantically reach my hands, my arms into the freezing water, searching for his little fingers, a shoulder, a hand but pull out only smooth rock and silt. I yell at my oldest to help me, his small arms, shaking and panicked, hot tears on his cheeks and his hands surface with nothing, nothing but river water and sticks and pebbles. And I cry, my fingernails digging into the earthy riverbed and yell until I am sitting up in my bed, a scream caught in my throat, my armpits damp and I finally wake. It’s not real. He is sleeping soundly in his bed. It is not real. I haven’t lost him.

But I cry anyway because this nightmare (and I have had it several times) seems too real to me. And because the metaphor of this dream, that I’m losing my child to autism, haunts me, not only during the daytime, during the tough moments, but also the fear stays with me at nighttime, penetrates my sleep and plays itself out in my dreams.

Sometimes this dream takes place at the ocean or a swimming pool, but it always ends the same, my oldest son and I are crying and searching for the little boy who has been stolen away from us, trying to touch his skin, hear his voice, trying so hard to keep him with us, in our arms, our relieved sighs against his sweet red hair.

I don‘t share this with my oldest. I am sad that he is even in this terrible dream, that he is standing next to me, frightened, doing his best to save his brother, doing all that he can to save me from such despair and not being able to do so.

Then I am reminded that my favorite dream is realized. It’s the luck of a good husband, of two little boys who teach us everyday that all we can do is just love them simply and kindly. So I try to push the bad dream out and replace it with the one where my beautiful boy is laying in the hay, the sun warming his shoulders, his cheeks and he is with his beloved cows, petting their soft, shiny coats. He is happy and he is laughing and he is safe.  And yes, he dreams. My boy has dreams.

This week’s “In Their Own Words” is by Katie Bevins. You can read more of Katie’s writing at http://autism–tearsofaclown.blogspot.com.

  1. Cindy
    April 23, 2010 at 1:27 am

    I also have a little boy with autism. This is very well written and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. kamesh
    April 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Dear Katie,

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful and realistic feelings, Each of us parents with autistic children do have our share of dreams and nightmares but have never expressed it. May you and your sons find the real meaning of happiness as a family.

    Kamesh M

  3. Hope LaVare
    April 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    My little girl LOVES cows. We have a farm that is right next to our property. She goes out to see the cows almost everyday, and they come to see her when she calls. She talks to them, and they moo back or just watch her as she flapps her hands in the air and rocks back and fourth. They follow her from one corner to the next and back again. On weekends when she’s with her dad, the cows still come looking for her. There are times when she wants to come home early. It’s not to see me, it’s to see the cows. I just smile because it makes me feel good to see her so happy and free of the worry.

    She has bad dreams as well – of vampires or aliens coming to get her. I try to talk her thru them, but she still has trouble understanding what is real, and what is not. I hope someday a switch will turn on and she won’t be so afraid.

    I too am thankful for a wonderful husband that can hold me up when I don’t think I’m doing enough.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  4. April 23, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Thank you for this essay. My grandson is autistic. He and his mother live with me. You said it all in the one paragraph about the real dream you have. I want all those things for our “big boy” as he calls himself! I must say though, I would not change a thing about him. He is such a joy and wonder. He never ceases to amaze me! An awesome child is he! Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Sonja
    April 23, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    This was very touching. Hard to read. But, I thank you. My recurring dream has my son and I enjoying a train ride. When that train comes to our desired stop, I let go of my son’s hand and step off the train motioning for him to follow. However, as I am reaching out for him the train doors start to close and we exchange horrified glances as we realize what is about happen. The doors shut, separating us. The train pulls off. I usually awaken at that point and the familiar emotions of a parent of a child with autism flood – guilt, fear, isolation, longing. But, then I too realize that it is just a dream and my love is in the next room peacefully resting. [Exhaling….]

  6. mindy
    April 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    beautifully written! I resently had a conversation with my boyfriend about taking our 2 boys camping. my oldest is autistic.your dream about the river, is EXACTLY what I imagined as soon as he even mentioned the word camping.I expressed my concerns, what if there is a river, he would think nothing of it to go right in, im sure he would think of it a pool. or him wondering in the woods. It only takes a blink of an eye. we have surrounded our selves with a safe enviroment for our son, gates ,locks ,alarms. taking him outside of the comfort zone is a nightmare of all the possibilities of what can go wrong.

  7. April 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Wow – what a beautiful story! How nice of you to share your feelings and perspective…you give strength to so many!

  8. April 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Never stop dreaming, hoping, believing or writing! Thanks for sharing

  9. Mariel
    April 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you for writing this. My younger brother was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was around 10. After years of treatment and so many different medicines, we’ve finally found the balance that works for him. He’s in college and doing well. Has friends, good grades and yes, dreams. Sean’s dreams reveal that he is a good boy, with a kind heart. I wish the very best for you and your family.

  10. Yvonne
    April 23, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    You are a wonderful mother Katie!

  11. Angela
    April 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story I have 3 boys….12,6,and 4 my six year old Sean has recently been diagnosed PDD-NOS he has so many sensory processing problems he says he never sleeps because his dreams are too scary…I would love to find out what he really dreams about I ask but he can never remember but I know one day he will have the ability to share his dreams good or bad with me thanks to all the people that are helping me to raise my beautiful children (teachers,therapists,church leaders,and friends and family)It takes a village to raise a child you know…
    I also wanted to tell you that the picture you have on your post is almost the splinting image of my Sean The red hair, freckles what a wonderful gift

  12. Lorie Lindal
    April 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    My son is 5 years old and has a form of autism called ppd. He reads, even hard words and types on the computer but is unable to write. He cannot most of the time tell me what he ate for lunch let alone what he dreamed, but when I hear him talk in his sleep, many times he is laughing. It brings joy to my heart.

  13. Adrienne
    April 23, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    What a beautifully written and touching story! Bravo!
    My bad dreams are the same as yours. Usually walking in a river, or swimming in a pool, holding my son’s hand while he goes underwater. It is that same frightening and suppressed feeling we all have in the daytime of losing our lovely children. Not being able to reach them, no matter how desperately we try.
    I have only had a few dreams where my son speaks – those are the ones I cherish and feed. One day….one day…

  14. Kendra
    April 23, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    What a sweet and heartbreaking story. I teach children with autism and have a son with a language delay and some sensory and processing issues. Sometimes I wish I could duplicate the calm and serenity they get from cows, or whatever that particular child finds comfort in. When I get frustrated by the fact that I can’t comfort them that way I try to remind myself that at least God blessed this earth with cows (or elephants, or whatever) so our babies can find the comfort that humans can’t provide for them.

  15. April 23, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    This is awesome!!!!

    I am currently in a new opera in Seattle that evolves around a little girl named after the famous flier and how her life evolved around the elements of flight.

    I wish I have as much dreams as I did when I was younger, partially because all those visions are now reality. I love te fact that your boys talks to you about their dreams, and maybe look forward to maybe sharing your own later, and be hopefully delightfully comforted.

    Keep dreaming!!!

  16. Mary
    April 23, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Katie, your essay was so feeling and true! It drove me to tears. Thank you for sharing your experiences. As a teacher of children with autism I’m amazed every day by the uniqueness of these individuals.

  17. Lisa
    April 23, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    While I sat here reading this tears just rolled down my face. I go through the same thing day in and day out. My son (John) who struggles with everything you describe every waking and sleeping moment is my youngest of four. He has 3 older sisters that addore him. I have the same fear of loosing him to autism every moment of my life. I fear that since I had him later in life who is going to be there for him when he is a grown man and I am an old woman??.. But, just like you I have to push those bad dreams aside and be thankful for having a beautiful family that all you can do is enjoy the moment with and love. Thank you for sharing this with me. It helps, me anyway, to know I am not alone in the world with these fears, hopes and yes joys!

  18. May
    April 23, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing – your story is poignant and real. It made me cry. My daughter is autistic. I also have dreams that I’ve lost her or that I’ve left her somewhere and I can’t remember where. Keep hoping, believing and sharing…always.

  19. DC
    April 23, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Thank you for your story. I have a boy who is five and every day I remind myself to think of all of his gifts and not focus on the difficult times because life is too short to focus on the negative , and our boys are true gifts who will teach us life’s greatest lessons ..

  20. April 24, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I am too have a Child that is autistic.Iam too spent nights crying ,asking why me?,but after awile I learned to cope and trust God.My child is now 47 years old,she is doing the best she can,loves to work at WalMart.When she was a child she loved to go to the children zoo and pet and kiss cows.I lost my husband 27 years ago,it was hard time for my 2 children too.With God everything is possible.

  21. Tama
    April 24, 2010 at 12:52 am

    I love this essay!

    I am so happy for you that your son has been able to express his dreams to you. I hope he continues to open up to you. I pray you hear his words of happy dreams daily…

    : )

  22. April 24, 2010 at 2:38 am

    It is a very touching story.! am too have a child who is autistic.I spent many nights crying and asking why me? After awile I learned to cope with and trust God. My child is now doing the best she can, she is 47 years old and loves to work at WalMart. When she was a little girl she loved to go to the children’s zoo and pet and kiss the cows. My husband died 28 years ago, it was hard for my two children. Now she is as independent as she can be. She lives in a group home and she is happy. With God everything is possible.

  23. An Margaret Abanes
    April 24, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Thank you for your beautiful words. I’m from the Philippines and I have a 5-year old son who has autism. Reading your words reminds me how much I need to be strong for my son. When all seems to fall apart, I just need to remember that I am not alone in this journey. Thanks again, Katie.

  24. April 24, 2010 at 8:02 am



  25. Nancy
    April 24, 2010 at 11:00 am

    My only son is almost 10 and he has aspergers he is a delight but he also wouldn,t sleep in his bedroom because of nightmares thank you for letting me know he is not alone and thank you for a very well written story I too have some very real fears but they are of people taking advantage of my special gift because of his bright eyed innocense I fear the day he looses that sparkle when he realizes he is different from other peers.

  26. Christie
    April 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I just cried and cried. My son is named Sean and has red hair too, this hit home is so many ways, the fears I have for my Sean. I have the same terrifying type dream. My Sean has such vivid dreams sometimes that it is comforting to know with all the other issues he dreams of so much more. And I pray that those dreams of his come true.

  27. Maria Andreatos
    April 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    As a mother and a therapist I can relate to both fears and hope of your story. I wish I could give you both a hug and say, thank you for sharing your dreams with us. Your son has a wonderful gift just like you and I wish he can continue to share it through dreams, stories, poems, drawings…..

  28. Renita Taylor
    April 26, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    As I read your story I cryed, reflecting on what just happend this morning, with my son replaying what happened during the night! My 7yr old has Aspergers, and has sufferd with dreams/nightmares for most of his life! Now that he has shared them with others, my older son who is 12yrs.old has been removed from my home, DHS is involved, and I’m facing another custody battle with my youngest father in Aug. By then,I pray that the true stories of Autism and the affects on the family, are shared in court! Thank you for sharing.

  29. April 27, 2010 at 1:36 am

    This story so touched my heart. Our son John is Asperger Syndrome. The things he has taught me, well I wouldn’t change it for anything. He is a delight and my hero. John is 22 and working in a job that he loves. For parents just finding out about autism, don’t be afraid, learn from your child. Embrace every moment you can. It will be alright.

  30. Nadine
    April 28, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love to read ‘In their own words’ even though I don’t know anyone with autism. What a sweet story and picture.

  31. Jeanie Bresser
    April 28, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    This is my first experience with this website. I cried while reading the story and other comments. My grandson, Marty, who is 3 was just diagnosed with autism. I didn’t know anything about autism but it now scares me beyond words. He is such a joy and I have fun with him and his sister. It is great to know there are a lot of people out there who can help and understand what many are going through.

    • Debi Neal
      May 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

      I too have a grandson with autism. Gunnar was diagnosed at the age of 18 months and will be 3 in June. It still scares us at times but our family has become very active with Autism Speaks and somehow the more we know the easier it gets. Our daughter is a wonderful mother and it is as if God knew what he was doing when he blessed us with our beautiful grandson, it makes you grateful for all the things you used to take for granted. Gunnar has added a new dynamic to our family and continues to teach us that little things are cause to celebrate everyday.

    May 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm


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