Redefining Typical

A Mother, A Son, A Journey…..with Autism

What will she remember? March 18, 2013

What will she remember?

I just shuffled her off to school.

Her short-sleeve tie dye t-shirt with a black long-sleeve shirt underneath.

Her capri jeans and her heart socks.

Her long hair pushed back with a silver sparkle headband.

Pink puffy coat.

Out the door.

She is gone.

And this morning, like so many other mornings.

There were tears.

Not his, but hers.

It is a ritual at our house.

One that I wish I could break.

Her whining over having to wear a long shirt under her short sleeve shirt.

Her yelps that I am brushing too hard as I attempt to detangle the rat’s nest that has taken over her head during the night hours.

My voice getting louder telling her that she is going to be late.

My patience gone.

Out the door.

As I throw my hands in the air and scream at her to put her coat on.

Moments I wish I could reel back.

Do over.

And I think.

What will she remember?


And she is tired.

Worn out.

She had a sleepover the night before and her whole body shows she is pooped.

We sit at the dinner table.

Her soft voice.

Mommy, can I sit in your lap?

I hold out my hands.

Sure, sweetie.

She puts her knees on my thighs and hoists herself onto my legs.

She puts her head into the crick of my neck.

She places her hand on my back.

Mommy, do you think they can teach Dawson at school not to watch Baby Einstein videos? I don’t like it when he watches those videos. They are for babies.

I take a deep breath.

We have had many conversations in the last few weeks about Dawson’s video choices.

Her anger and embarrassment about his love for these movies have been felt in the pounding of her fists and the sting of her tears.

I touch her hair.

Sweetie, I know that it has to be so confusing that Dawson is older than you and that he likes videos that are made for babies.

It has to feel really strange that he is nine years old and likes Baby Einstein videos and you are seven years old and you don’t want to watch them.

It has to be so confusing.

I feel her warmth on my chest.

Her voice serious.

So, can’t they just help him not watch them? Can’t they just work on that at school?

I breathe.

Sweetie, you know those videos help your brother to feel good. He knows exactly what is going to happen in those videos. They are kinda like your lovies. They make him feel safe.

Her voice is sad.

I know. I know Mama. You have already told me that.

Then a crack in her voice.

Mommy, it is like I am the oldest. It is like Dawson is younger than me and I am the big sister.

The confusion swirling in her head.

I see it.

I know it.

You know, sweetie. It was like that for me too. You know John was older than me, but it was like I was his big sister.

We often talk of my older brother who died when he was sixteen.

I have told her stories about me playing with my brother. Jumping across the wide gully in our backyard and games of “pickle” with our neighbors.

She knows the love I hold for my brother.

Her body stills.

Mommy, how? How were you like the oldest?

My arms around her.

I share.

Well sweetie, you know John had seizures and he also had what is called a Learning Disability.  So John kinda had a hard time learning things. Just like Dawson has a hard time learning things.

So because of that, it was like I was the oldest.

Her body begins to relax.

So John had a hard time like Dawson has a hard time.

I rock her in my arms.

Yes, sweetie, yes. Now, John did not have autism, but learning new things was really tricky for him and making friends was really tough for him too.

And you know, I did feel like the oldest in the family just like you feel like the oldest.

And I felt sad and confused sometime like you might feel sad and confused.

Her body begins to wiggle.

She has moved on…

Hey Mama, is it still six more sleep nights until we get our puppy?

I nod.

Yes Mae Mae, six more sleep nights.

And she begins to dance around the room. Howling and barking like a dog.

Mommy, I am just so excited about getting a dog.

I smile.

Me too sweetie. Me too.


And what will she remember?

Both. My prayer is both.

Because they do not stand alone.

They can’t.

The mommy loosing her patience.

The mommy holding her sweet girl.

They are one.


But full of love.

May she remember both and know that I love her.




Copyright Cheairs Graves March 18, 2013


10 Responses to “What will she remember?”

  1. Karla (Mom2MissK) Says:

    Bleaasings for you, Cheairs. You have a wisdom about you — knowing that it’s not one or the other of those memories that makes up a lifetime but a happy mix of both.

  2. Kathy Buehler Says:

    I cannot see how she would not remember the love she has, but if there is ever a doubt, just have her read some things you have written, After the tears, I am pretty sure she will “get it”, that she is a very well-loved child.Beautiful and touching, as always..

    • Cheairs Says:

      My hope is that one day she will read these posts and know that my parenting was not perfect….but know that it was full of always thank you for your support!

  3. rhemashope Says:

    She is such a gift. I love the way you listen to her and patiently, gently help her make sense of life with her brother. The world is/will be better because her. Because of them both.

    And not enough can be said about those talented, twinkle piano toes!!! Can’t wait to show Hope!

  4. Diane Says:

    Another beautiful story, that tugs at every emotion. Margaret Ann will remember what a loving, honest, kind, special Mom you are, and that she was blessed. The challenges she faces now is only going to make her a more compassionate, genuine adult. She already has such a wise soul. Somehow, someday this will all makes sense.

    As far as losing patience, that’s a standard, almost daily situation around here. I don’t know of any Mommy who doesn’t struggle with the difficulties of raising and guiding little ones. I just live by the saying, “pick your battles”.

    Thanks again for sharing, you truly are a deep, kind, loving, wonderful woman….and friend!

    PS. I aslo can’t wait to meet the puppy. YEAH, only 4 more sleep nights.

  5. Deb Says:

    This touched my heart. I have a brother with autism and a son with autism. I too have a daughter who sometimes doesn’t “get” her brother. I too have shared stories from growing up. You are a good and caring mom, doing all you know to do.

  6. Kathy Boren Says:

    So beautiful. So honest. Your words are a treasure to all who read them. And they will be a treasured gift waiting for Mae Mae to unwrap one day – and she will cherish them as no one else can. I wish we lived closer so we could know Mae Mae and Dawson personally & deeply. Thanks for bringing them close to our hearts as you pour out yours.
    Love, love, love you, dear Cheairs,
    P.S. Please tell your budding pianist that her piano teacher cousin thought her “Toe Performance” was toe-tally awesome!!

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