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!
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.