Where’s My Mother?

Filed Under (Adam, Development, Single Parenthood) by Estee on 06-07-2010

In the sweltering heat, Adam has returned to the camp he has attended for several years now.

“Hey Adam!” the counselors greeted, eager to embrace him under a tent yesterday which did not quell the wall of heat in Toronto. Adam processed the swarm quietly, standing before the semi-circle of enthused pubescents taking his time to assess the environment and some new faces, let alone the emotional excitement and kindness before him. Sometimes it just takes some time before Adam is ready to jump into their arms with a like embrace.

Before yesterday, Adam and I spent the week together — that space and time between the end of school and the beginning of camp. Long, hot days needed to be filled because Adam doesn’t love to stay at home. He loves to go out and explore new places all the time. He likes to walk and walk, and if there is an intriguing pathway or staircase, he might convince me to go along with him. Sometimes I can convince him to come with me too, and so “well-behaved” is he with his now single mom who needs to get “stuff” done. I find myself, in my newer role, asking for his patience with me and he obliges generously. I realized that we have become quite a dynamic duo in our new circumstance, although I admit that being a single mother of an autistic child isn’t always easy in the sense of Adam’s differences and my need to always check my beliefs and expectations at the door.

It also occurred to me that my mother, in a different time and circumstance, spent a significant amount of time with me. She lugged me to the grocery store, her doctor’s appointments. Where-ever she went, I accompanied and I recall what an important life lesson this was. I got to see how my mom acted around the doctor and the dentist; how she interacted with the butcher, the neighbour, the banker, and how she negotiated with life.

In this day and age of programs — and don’t get me wrong, I believe children benefit by them — I not only thought about how children lack going outside to play the way we did when we were kids, but that I tend to get things done only when Adam is in his programs or in school. My parents didn’t have the benefit of such programs. Nor were they considered as necessary in the day-and-age of “go outside and play until the sun goes down.” I suppose our parents got things done when we were out of the house too, but I remember being more connected to their activities overall.

Certainly it’s not safe these days to let our children out all day long without supervision. The world is a changed place indeed. For my autistic boy, safety is of vital concern, friendships are not made easily, and he would wander off and get lost if left to his own devices. Adam’s playmates are aides and kids with aides, camp-mates and like children in music, art or sports programs. Sigh…the world today.

Yet last week, that dear week, I had Adam to myself. Adam accompanied me (almost) everywhere and didn’t complain, in fact, he seemed to enjoy every moment with me. When someone stepped in for a bit to see him, he took me by the hand to insist I come with. All parents know those days when the babysitter arrives and the child doesn’t want mom or dad to leave. My son Adam didn’t express that all too much when he was two and three-years-old. At eight, he is able to show it more.

And so, last week when I left to do some more grocery shopping on my own Adam asked his aide, “where’s my mother?” For a child only beginning to talk in sentences, and ones that are still very hard to come by, it’s quite a question. Perhaps he had been thinking that all along. In those earlier days, we parents may be inclined to think that just because our autistic children are not verbally articulate, that they are not wondering, thinking or understanding so many things the way a typical child might. Surely this sentence, relayed by his aide to me, was music to my ears, but I’ve never ignored the fact that I think Adam often wondered many things.

As I walked into the house carrying a load of groceries, overheated and glad to be home, I saw Adam at the end of the hallway in my kitchen, eating his snack looking at me, beaming from ear-to-ear.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.