When I started blogging, one of the first topics I wrote about was motherhood. Before posting, I gave the series to my daughter Jess to read because I wanted her permission before publishing such a detailed account of her childhood. I think she was a little shocked by some of what I wrote, but she was fine with me publishing it. At the time, we talked about how it would be interesting if she wrote something for the blog from her point of view. She’s all grown up now, a thoughtful, well-adjusted adult with her own take on her childhood.
So, fast forward a year to yesterday morning. I open my email and find that she’s sent me a post (which is right after this intro). I was super excited because I’ve been hoping she still wanted to write something but I’m not the kind of mom who nags (much).
Also! Jess says she wasn’t sure what else people might want to know but if anyone has questions for her about being raised by an autistic mom, she’d love to answer them. You can leave comments or questions for her here or on my blog’s Facebook page. Maybe we’ll figure out some fun way to turn this into a mother-daughter conversation.
Okay, enough from me. The rest of this post was written by Jess . . .
As a student in college a few years back, I studied identity, mostly related to race, which led to a lot of writing and talking about myself. Because my father is Korean, a lot of my discussions focused on him. One day, one of my professors asked me, “What’s your mom like?”
“What?” I laughed, surprised at such a vague question.
“What is she like? Does she live with you? You don’t talk about her.”
What was strange about this is that I always felt like I was closer to my mother than my father. My mother worked at home my whole life, so we fell into routines together. In the inconsistency of childhood, I found comfort in the daily routines of going to the post office, making the same things for dinner, and the never ending cycle of trying to teach the dog complex tricks.
I never thought my mom was anything out of the ordinary. She was younger than most other moms, which was cool, but that was just another thing that made her awesome. She didn’t really have a lot of friends or enjoy going out with other moms, but that just meant that I got to spend more time with my parents. I never really felt like a true “only child” because my friends who were only children seemed so weird, lonely or maladjusted.
But my mom was cool. She listened to Nirvana and REM, she worked at home, and she genuinely liked the same things I did. We drove up to Boston for concerts, had really great family vacations, and watched college basketball games together. My friends were jealous that my mom liked Star Trek and let me write on my bedroom walls.
In my work in education, I’ve worked closely with students of all learning abilities. I was familiar with Aspergers but had never considered how it affects adults. When my mother began to explore the possibility that she might be autistic, I resorted to a defensive, confused reaction. Despite my college education that specifically focused on how to discuss and explore notions of self across different identities, I retreated to a very insensitive reaction. I suppose my inner-child felt threatened and confused, as if I somehow didn’t know my own mother—as if autism masked some authentic mother that I would never know.
As we started to talk more openly, the questions my mom asked herself and the family were reminiscent of what I was asking in college as I explored challenging parts of my own identity. When I was trying to make sense of my identity, my mom asked thoughtful questions and never once invalidated how I felt or what I was trying to understand.
My parents have always been determined to create their own paths in life, and I admire how my mom has taken on these questions with a clear goal of progression, rather than regression. Of course there are challenging points, but of all the challenges a family could face, I’m thankful that we all share similar identity questions.