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To the Mom Who Wrote 'I Still Carry My 5-Year-Old Son'

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To The Mom Who Wrote “I Still Carry My 5-Year-Old Son,”

I still carry my 7.5-year-old son.

We should be friends. We carry our sons for different reasons, but the responses we get are similar. And, like you, I don’t really care what other people think, but…you know… sometimes you just wish people had the whole story before they judge you.

My son is not a bolter, though he’ll run into traffic if startled by a loud noise. He will not regularly let me hold him, or even hold his hand, so my best defense when we are near traffic is to put myself between him and moving cars and never let my guard down.

No, I don’t carry him for the reason you carry your son. I carry mine because he’ll reach a point of exhaustion and be unable to walk on his own. Sometimes this can happen after a long time out and about, but sometimes it can happen after a short time. You can’t see his low muscle tone and poor endurance, but I’m here to tell you he’s got both of those. With great periods of intense, physical exertion comes the antithesis, and when he reaches his low points he’ll fold himself up on the ground and completely retreat within himself. Sometimes, the world just gets overwhelming regardless of his activity level and he simply cannot function. This is what takes my breath away, this complete withdrawal from the world around him. What am I to do? Sit at home and never go anywhere? Abandon an activity we may be invested in? Maybe. But we’re not in a position to do that.

So, I pick him up and carry him. This is me carrying him on a hike the day after running a marathon:

mom with son on her back looking at a waterfall

At the time, one year ago, he could still squeeze into a baby backpack (safety rated to 70 pounds – there are no products I could find that are actually intended for his height and weight, much like finding diapers to fit a 6-year-old). His mid-back is where an infant’s head would be, so though the way I used it is not as it is intended, at least I was able to distribute his weight enough to comfortably make it through our hike (by the end he had fallen asleep).

A year later, he is taller and now 58 pounds. This was us just last week:

mom holding son

When we stopped for a bathroom break, he said, “I wish you had the strap thing.” I knewhe meant he wished he could be on my back instead, so we switched positions:

mom giving son a piggy back ride

Look. Look close.

This is not a lazy child. He is deadweight in my arms, with his head resting on my shoulder. Sometimes he’ll put his face in my neck and breathe in my scent. This is not a burden. This is a gift. It’s in these moments that he allows me to touch him. This is how he shows me love, how he tells me, without words, that he needs my help. Even when I am carrying him because he refuses to go to school, he’ll go into my arms and put his face on my skin and inhale and I think ah…this is peace. And, because reaching him can sometimes be so, so hard, I feel proud when I can finally offer him something he needs.

So, I carry him.

I’m also proud of myself for being physically able to lift and carry him for good amount of time. Like you, mom of the 5-year-old, I worry I can’t sustain this forever. I started CrossFit a year ago to become a stronger runner but quickly realized a greater purpose. While most at the gym are there to become stronger and fitter (and I have those goals too), I am there to prolong the amount of time I can carry my child. I know I can comfortably squat more than he weighs (I could push press him too if needed, but just barely), and that should buy me years of, at the very least, piggy back rides. I’m fairly certain the 20-somethings next to me are not wondering how the weight on their bars equates to the weight of carrying another person. Yes, he is going to get taller and older and it will get more awkward, but as I wrote a year ago… if my choice is to make things accessible for my son or not, well, there is no decision to make because the answer is easy.

So, carry on Mama, carry on. You are not alone. I’ve got two and a half years on you, and I’m not ready to put my son down yet either. I will carry him as long as he needs, as long as I can. Because, as you already know, if you think the need to protect your children is strong, the need to protect your children who cannot protect themselves will make you dig deeper than you ever thought you could.

Carry on…


Another Autism Mama Just Carrying Her Child Through Life

Originally published: August 1, 2016
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