because we’re friends


I am a working mom.

For me, that’s a hard thing to be.

I am a working mom of an autistic child.

For me, that is often an even harder thing to be.

When Katie was small, she asked questions – by God did that child ask questions. She asked why I went to work and if I liked it and who I worked with and what I did there and who I sat next to and if I liked them and what I would do if money were no object and if my boss was nice and if he had kids and what would happen if I didn’t go at all.

It took some time, but I grew confident that she understood that I didn’t leave the house to get away from her. That I work because I have to. That, no matter what, I would return every night.

Brooke did not ask questions. Our conversations, if you chose to call them that, were different. I asked her questions. We created scripts. I didn’t know how else to make her understand. And I needed – selfishly, I needed – to know that she understood too.

Do I like being away from you?

No, you like being with me.

Do I love you a little?

No, you love me a lot!

How much?

More than anything in the whole wide world!

She’s nine and a half now, and still I struggle with wondering if she really understands. We’ve made a game of it now. Every morning, it’s the same. Of course every morning it’s the same.

¿A donde vas?

A mi trabajo.

¿Tu trabajo? I will take you!

Sometime, sweet girl, sometime.

Last night, as we always do, Brooke and I cuddled together before bed. Those last few minutes of the day are, for me, the most precious, the most intimate, the most sacred. There is nothing that can come close to that time with my girl. We don’t say much, but that’s not the point. It’s never been the point.

But last night, Brooke had something to say.

Out of nowhere, into the darkness, she said, “I don’t like being away from you.”

I held my breath — as if somehow not breathing would make the moment last longer. It wasn’t a script. A script would have been a question. And no less real. But this — this was a statement. This was big.

“Oh baby,” I said, “I don’t like being away from you either.” I pulled her closer. “I like being with you.”

“Because we’re friends,” she said.

“Oh, sweet girl, we are so much more than friends. We’re Mama and daughter.”

“And friends,” she said.

I laughed. “Ok, Brooke, and friends.”

“You would stay and cuddle for another minute,” she said, “because we’re friends.”

And stay I did. Ushering in the night with my arms around my beautiful daughter. And my dear, dear friend.


28 thoughts on “because we’re friends

  1. I have always said that Brooke grows in “leaps and bounds”. She understands because of the way you help her to grow into herself. The words “I don’t like being away from you” are bittersweet but the fact that she can express them is incredible. You are indeed her Mama and her friend.

    Love you,

  2. Bedtime is surely the most blessed time for us too. There is nothing in the world like lying next to my Aaron, listening to his sweet breath as he falls asleep. It’s the only time I truly relax my soul. While asleep, I know he is “ok”… nothing and no one is troubling his body or soul as he lays there. It’s my mini-mental-vaca every night. Thanks for snuggling with your old Mama Aaron J, and granting me the privilege of sharing your peace with me! Thanks Jess for reminding me how amazing that experience is every night… aren’t those kids just delicious?

  3. when i first started to babysit for my granddaughter, she hardly noticed when her parents left and came back. now, at 3 1/2, she is excited to see them when we take her back home, or when they come here to pick her up. the last time she was here, right before bedtime she stood in the hallway and said “mommy”. and i felt like we hit the jackpot. not because she wasn’t happy here, but because she missed her mommy and was able to express it.

  4. This made me cry. I previously thought that parents shouldn’t be friends with their kids, but the relationship with a special needs child demands that we be both mother and friend. Of course Brooke gets that.

  5. You always remind us to highlight the “good” parts of having a child on the spectrum. My 13 year old AS son hugs me when he comes into the kitchen every morning. He cuddles me every time we sit together to watch TV. He makes me feel loved and worthy. My now older NT kids at 13…well, you know. Monosyllabic answers, cuddling and hugging not allowed, or tolerated while they stay stiff. All developmentally appropriate. But my ASD child? Food for the soul.

    • It IS the one nice thing about different development, isn’t it? My 15.5 year old son is the same way, very open to affection. Wasn’t always this way, and he can’t always tell me what he needs, but it’s gotten light-years better, and there is nothing so nice as someone who wants to be that close to you while you are reading to them, or watching tv together…. 🙂

  6. Love this…so cool that she gets it and considers you her friend!! I used to love bedtime cuddling with my girl…right now she is so overwhelmed by the end of the is hard to watch her struggle. She is scratching me…biting her hand…pulling out her own hair…all while telling me she wants to go to sleep…..and “mommy sit stay”. . ;(. These are rough nights…..

    • This tears at my heart, not because I don’t get it but because I do. I searched for this – I wrote it in Oct 11. I share it because it’s the best way that i can say, ‘It’s cyclical. Just stay there with her. Even when you can’t do anything you do something by riding out the storm with her. By BEING there. Our kids know. They just know.’


      I fell asleep in Brooke’s room last night. I was curled around her, my head on her pillow and hers on my side. I was dreaming.

      All of us were together. You were there – every one of you with your beautiful kids. We were smiling and laughing. I was helping Jeneil (or was it her twin sister? I wasn’t sure in the chaos) to open a popsicle for Rhema. Hope and Katie came careening by leaving a trail of giggles behind. Miss M and Roxy were in hot pursuit. Gerry yelled from the den, ‘Hey you guys, wait up!’. The girls laughed as they dragged him into their game.

      There was a sharp, pained cry from another room. Everything stopped. It was my girl. My Brooke was in trouble. I ran to find her and scooped her up in my arms.

      I woke up panicked, out of breath. It took me a second to get my bearings, to figure out where I was and to realize that the pained cry was real.

      My baby was yelling.

      The damn demons wouldn’t even leave her to sleep.


      Hugs to you, my friend. It gets better. And worse. And better again.


  7. When my daughter was a teenager, I had to explain to her why I couldn’t be her friend. I said, “When you are hurting the worst you have ever hurt, who do you want, ” she replied, “My mom.” That, I explained, is why I have to be your mom and not your friend. It is a different relationship.

    Fast forward, my daughter is a mom to a child with autism. She and her daughter are mother and child and friends. My daughter and I are mother/daughter/friends. Ah, your post rings true for my daughter and granddaughter, Jess. All the rules fly out the window with autism, as you have pointed out.

    Hope your week is grand, dear one.

  8. Amazingly beautiful! I read this and have lived very similar experiences lately! We learn to appreciate the very small things, don’t we? Those very small things that are more huge than we can believe. 🙂

  9. This is so sublime. I love every word. I am headed back to work next week and remember how sacred the nights become when the days are spent apart. Lovely, lovely piece. Thank you.

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