Who is that woman with my son?

Who is that woman with my son? She just stands there as Philip messes up the craft. At this table, the public library has a project in which a coffee filter is supposed to be glued to the top of the green rectangle of construction paper to become a flower on a stem. Philip is gluing it in the middle! Wait, is she helping him do it wrong? Why didn’t she point out how the other kids are doing it the right way? She acts as if this gymnasium full of families won’t notice.

Philip should now select a pastel cupcake liner and glue inside the filter as the flower’s blossom. He touches the pink, blue, and yellow cups, but puts the cap back on the glue stick. And that woman lets him.

Now he is moving to the other side of the table. He has discovered the librarian’s stash of black markers. And instead of telling him not to touch them, that woman is chatting with the librarian. Wait, she’s finally taking action. Maybe she’s going to yank the marker out of his hand.

She takes a photograph.

imagination library 011

From one table to the next, Philip refuses to complete the activities at this event as designed. That lady doesn’t correct him once. He takes stickers from one table to embellish his not-flower. He borrows the bright markers from another to decorate it even more. She does nothing to stop him.

I would have pushed Philip to stand on the right side of the table like all the other kids were doing. I would have fixed his projects, taking over so they more closely resembled the samples displayed by each organization. I would have apologized for Philip’s errors.

I would have compared Philip to the other children and noticed how different he was. I would have been too self-consciousness to stay. “We’ve been here long enough,” I would have said in a falsely cheerful voice.  My discomfort would have pushed me to skip the rest of the displays and leave.

I am the mother that Philip was born to, but I no longer exist. I am the mother who worried about sideways glances and whispered comments from others about her autistic son. I was slowly replaced by that woman sitting on the floor (on the floor!) as Philip eats frosting off a cupcake. She’s not thinking about what others think. She knows her son is just right as he is.

Philip does not have the same mother. But now his mother is happier, and she hopes that Philip is, too.

 

Featured on BlogHer.com

 

Featured in the parenting section

Featured in the parenting section

A big thank you to Emily of The Waiting Blog for selecting this post as guest curator for Freshly Pressed.

A big thank you to Emily of The Waiting Blog for selecting this post as guest curator for Freshly Pressed.

239 thoughts on “Who is that woman with my son?

      1. I am, but my ex used to work in a school for special needs children so I know for a fact a lot of parents of children with special needs are not so caring or loving with their offspring. In fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite.

        Of course, the same could be said for a lot of parents, but I knew of some parents who coddled their children without special needs and neglected the child with special needs and it made me incredibly angry.

        Like

  1. I resonate deeply with this– both from the perspective of the writing and the message. I LOVE the way you wrote this. I was actually a little creeped out at first, which made me read on with some anxiety, but then I started to gradually realize what you were doing. You took me on a journey where the change in perspective snuck up on me– just as it must have snuck up on you. Bravo!

    And in terms of your message– Oh yes. I am so not the mother my kids started out with — and we are all better off as a result!

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  2. Hurrah. I was hoping about midway through (when we got to the photograph) that it was you. I loved this perspective of the self-discovery of letting go. I’ve had to do a lot of that lately. Surrendering controlling everything (or feeling like I should.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t sure how obvious it would be that I was writing about myself. Hard to tell as the writer.
      Trying to control everything is exhausting. And that applies to more than parenting.

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  3. Love love love this! You’re so right that it’s much easier to be happier once we let go of being the mom we thought we’d be before we knew our sons. Brilliant and beautiful.

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  4. What a great post! I have taught art to kids of all ages. Some of my students have been autistic and some not. But every creator/artist deserves the respect to follow his or her own vision, (as long as the materials are safe). Sometimes the most compelling creations come from the students who don’t approach projects in the anticipated way. You are the kind of mother I love having contact with; flexible, appreciative, and open minded. I have found that the children who don’t always color the sky blue make the most engaging art

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  5. Oh my gosh. I feel you but yet…am not as enlightened. In speech therapy I’m clenching my jaw as he refuses circle time and wants to play in the kitchen and as he refuses to trace the letters in his name and instean wants to trace the trains…as all other kids comply with rules and procedures.

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    1. I was thinking that I gave myself too much credit in this story. I’m not always as unflappable as I felt at this time. It’s definitely a process, and we parents are human and make mistakes.

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  6. Beautiful way you presented how you have changed as a parent and revisited the past and moved forward. I hope that you are able to hang on to this attitude once you and Phillip take your first steps into the public school system. Lovely post.

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      1. Thank you:) it’s not easy especially when schools are churning out “cookie cutter kids” re: NT children. I remember walking down the kindergarten wing of my son’s school and the teacher told me another mom to look for our kids art. We had to walk along and every name til we found our child’s project because the expectation is not individual but to follow the teachers instruction and copy what the teacher is making. When I saw my son’s name I knew right away that wasn’t his work;) Acceptance in our schools balanced by nurturing individuals in all children would be a nice goal 😉

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  7. Yay! This gave me the warm fuzzies! Love, acceptance, joy, letting go of expectations and constraints! Go, you! (Also, I thought this was really well written. So, double go you!)

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  8. True I taught at an ESE magnet school and wish every Mom was like you. There is a peace that comes with acceptance and the ignorance of other peoples problems.

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  9. I recognized, in your telling, the cumbersome burden of otherness and the blessing of individuality that mark emotional milestones in a familiar journey. There is strength and vulnerability in allowing others to see you, and your son, more completely for the complexities of your truth. Lovely.

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  10. So beautifully done. You had me believing some stranger stepped in as you stepped aside. Thank you for reminding us that our children shape us and change us along the way. That we continue to become different parents for their needs, and in turn they make us happier with who we’ve become for them.

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  11. Really enjoyed this post! Nicely written story with a wonderful moral to it – that to simply observe and notice what is going on around you can teach many great things. The fact that you are constantly growing and learning through experiences such as this is really awesome as a mother. I could see the opposite ending in a weaker relationship between mother and son, but this perspective seems to be the seed that grows a strong bond because you really get to know your son by observing and helping rather than acting and hindering.

    It reminds me of something my own mother tells me happened in nursery school when I was little. She was called by workers or a teacher there who could not get me to put a puzzle together or something like that. She told them to leave me be for a little while and keep busy with another task, lo and behold I completed the puzzle in my own way in my own time. I suppose I didn’t like the pressure of being watched, or maybe it’s the way I am now even where I dislike the sudden excitement and applause for me doing simple tasks that don’t feel like they deserve a ton of recognition by any means. In short, I don’t like being put on the spot/being the center of attention. Not sure if that completely relates to your story but there’s a loose relation I suppose.

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  12. Hey! I’m new to WP (moved from Blogger) and I stumbled on this Freshly Pressed post. This is so well written. And yikes! I am so THAT mom. The kind who “helps” my kids do things the “right” way instead of their way. I really appreciate your perspective on this. Our kids change us in such profound ways. They are the best teachers, aren’t they?

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  13. There is so much pressure on kids these days to do things “right” that I think any chance a kid can just be is quite magical. i just wish that at home, they just weren’t so messy!

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  14. This was lovely. I was expecting this to be a general beating up of yourself and your parenting and was quite nicely surprised at the end that it was you now, comparing yourself to you in the past. Evolving into the parents that our special kids need is a beautiful thing, even more so when we recognize the changes, and the way you chronicled it with this little story was just wonderful.

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  15. I use to aid a bus driver who drove special needs children. I empathize with you. A smile on their faces is worth so much. We will not know what they comprehend but they understand things we overlook. They are a special prospective into the world. Sincerely, Barry

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  16. This is an amazing and insightful read! Regardless if your son is autistic I think it’s wonderful that you grew to start showing him to be more creatively expressive and not pushing him to conform. That’s a lesson all patents could stand to learn 🙂

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  17. You are a great mother! I think that some parents are ashamed or guilty if their kids don’t do things ”right” instead of being amazed by their creativity and that’s a pity. Congrats for the FP!

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  18. I emailed this to myself yesterday before I had a chance to read it because I thought you were going to write about seeing your child with a “stepmom”-type figure somewhere.

    But what you really wrote was something every parent with insecurity issues (most of us, but maybe me more than most) can relate to.

    I loved this. It’s beautiful. Very handsome young man you have there.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

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  19. Nothing bad, but – I was a little disappointed to hear your kid was autistic. I’m still waiting to here these sorts of stories, this sort of change among parents of the “normal.” That would be heart-warming too.

    Nice write.

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    1. I am someone that this resonated with. I try hard to step back and let my son do things his way and not mine. I think, sometimes, the autistic kids are the lucky ones because then us mums have harder lessons to learn and faster. My son is not autistic so I have to work harder to let him do things HIS way.

      And my son would have cut the flower into little pieces, by the way. Very few craft sessions ever ended with anything tangible for us to take home. And boy did that stress me out!!

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      1. Yeah, and everything else in their children too.

        Oh, and I just saw my abysmal cyber-typo: ” . . . waiting to HEAR . . . ”

        Yeah, it wasn’t intended as any criticism for you, and as you can see Not Quite 40 sees it too. The lesson you’ve had to take is one everybody could use.

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      1. And that’s what matters. its not what other ppl see or how they feel. its about how you and your son feel. besides people don’t see the world threw his eyes.. maybe he is making the flower right.. that he sees life from a better set of eyes.i believe that kids with special needs are better in more ways then the “normal” that they see a different world that is just for them.

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  20. It sounds like you both had a beautiful day. I will be honest, I am not a mother, I dream of being a mother pretty much daily, but Hubby and I have issues there. I have nieces and nephews and in particular I spend many hours a week with my oldest nephew/godson who is almost 3, he loves learning and doing new things, but is quite behind when it comes to speaking. My mother is a retired teacher librarian and I am a librarian and between us we continually develop new and interesting ways to engage him and help him develop in a number of ways – one huge winner we didn’t expect was when we do an activity with him and he has enjoyed himself or created something we take him to someone who wasn’t involved in the activity and ask him to tell them what he did. A lot of it is gibberish, but before he did not like even trying to use words. To be honest I on average spend around 24 hours a week with him (all waking hours) mostly on my own or with my mother.
    Instead of now asking to go to Nan or Raow’s house (my name is Cat, he calls me Raow, because that is the sound a Cat makes lol), he asks to go to Nan’s school or Raow’s school. He’s learning in general and his language has come leaps and bound in the last 7 months since we have started this and to me it really highlighted the fact that there is no “right” or “perfect” way of parenting, some kids like lullabys and others (like my nephew Hendrix – aptly named it turns out) prefer to be lulled to dreamland by ACDC. Different kids have different needs and parents perform this amazing transformation to become the people their kids need them to be to meet their needs.
    I’m really sorry I think I made this comments so much more complicated than I meant to… I should have just written, “kudos – you seem to have butterflied into the ideal mother for your child” 🙂

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  21. Thanks for the post! I definitely do things the odd way as well. It is so much better to embrace differences than conforming to the world. 🙂

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  22. Fantastic post which surprised me, in a great way, as I expected the blog to be about an entirely differeng topic. Congrats on being FP! My grandson, though not having an Autism spectrum diagnosis, has some similar issues. I love him as he is and wouldn’t wish him to be any different. Thanks for writing this post which reminds us all to love others as they are – perfect in their own imperfect humanity. Cheers!

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  23. This post was fantastic! It is well written and it’s urgency drew me in. I am the old you, the earlier narrator. I am still learning to not compare. We adopted our now nine year old daughter when she was 5 and a half years old, from a country that does not make diagnoses of the alphabet soup of acronyms we have since found to explain her different behaviors. I know she is perfect the way she is, only I need to work on me and my different behavior. Thank you for this glimpse of how it can be.

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  24. Lovely post. As a mother of four, I have to say, we can all learn from this. Because however our kids each learn, it’s nothing like perfect most of the time. And it does seem that being “the best Mom” we can be often means sitting on the floor and watching them lick icing off the cupcake wrapper. Thanks for the reminder.

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  25. Thanks for your post, and I mean thanks in the most profound way. In addition to being the mother of a child with autism I am also a therapeutic riding instructor. Sitting on the barn floor and playing in the gravel and arena dust is my life. I love your child, and every special needs individual who graces my life. Their way informs my way on every level and I am a better person for it.

    As are you. Keep being a warrior and advocate, he needs you so much to make room for his special gifts in this blind world. Never cage that tiger.

    I blog my journey at http://Www.trippingovercancer.com. I support you with joy (and the perspective of a fellow advocate.)

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  26. I am “that woman” at the little library where I work, and I must confess that I once stood idly by while a pre-schooler glued five wiggly eyes on a paper lamb and then proceeded to color each of its legs a with a different marker. Why? Because when I first started doing story hour, those who had done it before me advised me to “think like a kid”, and let others do the same. Good advice, though sometimes its difficult to remember how. Isn’t it fascinating how we’re all born with the ability to think outside the box?

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  27. I absolutely adore this post! When my son was younger (he has an Aspergers DX) ibises to worry about what people thought. But what matters most is that we let them do and discover things their way. Wonderfully expressed!

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  28. Heck yeah! I was cheering for you, because I think at some point, all mothers go through this transformation concerning whatever it is that is different about their child. It is a beautiful thing when you can finally just sit and watch the way your own child navigates the world, instead of worrying about the ways others may perceive him as not navigating it correctly. Beautiful post. Philip is a lucky little boy to have you for a mama.

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  29. This brought a tear to my eye. My son is autistic too and we had to learn pretty quickly that he was only ever going to march to the beat of his own drum, and he plays a pretty brilliant rhythm.

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  30. I really like this post. It’s the same, autistic or not. Kids are kids, and when they’re little, they do things their own creative way. I’m with you– Let them. Let them be who they are.

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  31. Reblogged this on JeKaren Taylor, Writer and commented:
    Accepting yourself starts here. From taking who you are, and what you do as your guideline, and not allowing anything to change that. This mother learned an valuable lesson that day, to let her son just BE! Even as a teacher, I remember telling students they were doing things the ‘wrong’ way and now I realize that I was hindering them from true creativity. There is a question floating around Pinterest that says:

    It is so important for all of us to go back to basics, to stop being who we think we should be and embrace who we are.

    Question: What is one thing about you that you wish you never changed?

    Like

  32. As I read this, I kept thinking–why would you kill this boy’s creative heart? I do not have an autistic son, but clearly remember my kindergarten teacher telling me that I could not color the leaves of my tree with a purple crayon. The leaves had to be green. I argued that the tree in yard had purple leaves (a purple leaf plum tree) and that I liked it because purple was my favorite color. I remember crying because she sent me to the principles office for arguing with her. Because of this moment so early in childhood I squelched my creativity and followed the “rules” as ordained by whoever was in charge–until HS. Then I found my creative voice. This post is a lesson for all parents and adults who work with children. All children should be encourage to be creative. Thank you for sharing. It brought joy to my heart!

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  33. Well told. I am so happy for you and Philip. I have been both moms as well, and sadly, sometimes revert between the two, but I’m learning. God is teaching me the finer points of love and joy and He is using my special needs daughter and her Special Olympics friends to do it. I’m slow, but I get there. We all will I hope, given time and patience. And love. -Shalom to you

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  34. Very well written. Going through something similar myself it can suck the joy out of raising your child from you but we can’t let it! We need to see the beauty in all our children and foster imagination not squash it! Now a loyal follower!

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  35. Great writing and shows so much understanding of children’s need to create independently and also the additional challenges faced by parents and children with ASD. Ive worked with a lot of people who have autism and wish that more people could see past the condition and learn to appreciate their unique view of the world. Respect to all parents learning to share the world of an autistic child. Looks like you are doing an amazing job.

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  36. I loved this! My daughter is always marching to the beat of her own drum and it pains me not to correct her! i often find myself basically finishing crafts for her-how did you let go and let it happen! thats what i need to do

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  37. A beautiful story that reminds us how easy it is to get caught up in the ‘suppose to dos’ and ‘should dos’ that often crush a child’s creativity and uniqueness. The message here is relevant for every child, autistic or not. Who are we to adapt a child’s imagination. Imagination is a precious trait and should be encouraged to grow and expand with our children x

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  38. You know, it never occurred to me your son might have special needs until i hit the comments. I see creative defiance that sounded like brilliance, and a mother who learned not to let the need for normalcy push her genious-in-the-making into conforming. But your compassion makes the tale beautiful either way. I too have a goofy smile as tears stream down my face. Don’t think for a second any real parent doesn’t know how human you are, but you needn’t apologize for “giving yourself too much credit”. What you’re struggling to become will be a daily battle until the day you battle no more. Please take a moment to realize you have inspired at least one, your son. And judging by the posts, the rest of us too.

    Liked by 1 person

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