I so wanted a little girl, I so looked forward to having a little girl who would feel safe enough to confide in me, the way I have always felt able to confide in my own mother. (I feel a great deal of gratitude for that.) I know how fortunate I am to have an amazing mom. I have conversations with friends who audibly groan when the subject of their own mothers come up.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother,” is something I’ve heard on more than a few occasions, uttered by exasperated adult children. The famously “bad mothers” occupy several shelves of literature, poetry, plays and movies. We all know them by name and every few years a few more get tossed onto the pile. Beyond enjoying the guilty deer-stuck-in-the-headlights-horror of those stories, I cannot relate to them, thankfully.
My mother taught me how to sew and macrame, (this was the 60’s & 70’s) embroider, quilt and knit. She showed me how to bake bread, make baclava, beef wellington and a fifty layer Daubache Torte. I think I can justifiably credit my mother for my love of design and current career. She read stories to me at bedtime and sang songs. I remember sitting on the vanity in her bathroom as she got dressed to go out to a party. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I watched her as her hair turned grey and her fingers became deformed by arthritis. I spoke with her about the aches and pains that come with growing old. I looked to her the way one consults a Michelin Guide in a foreign country, she has always shown me the way.
Perhaps it is the same for Emma, I cannot know. I know she feels connected to me as I do her. I know when she wants something and I can often understand what she’s trying to say, even when the words come out wrong. Lately she has even run to me when she’s hurt, though more often than not, I will have to prompt her, much the way I still must remind her to – “wrap your arms around and squeeze” when she hugs.
“You have to go see the nurse!” Emma will shout when she hurts herself. Then she’ll hightail it into our bathroom where she knows we keep a large supply of bandaids.
“Hey, Em! How about coming to see nurse mommy?” I’ll ask blocking her way.
“Ouch! Emma has a boo-boo!” Emma will tell me, wiping the tears from her eyes, but keeping her distance. Unlike neuro-typical children who instinctively seek out the comfort of a parent when hurt, Emma will instead cry out for the school nurse or say nothing and just take care of things on her own. Often this means returning with a half dozen bandaids applied to various parts of her body, making it difficult to know exactly which part was hurt.
I think the thing about all of this that’s perhaps most important, is, while I don’t have the relationship with Emma that I envisioned when I was pregnant with her, we do have a relationship. It’s a different relationship than I have with my mother. But it is a relationship and it continues to evolve.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com