She calls me what her brothers don’t.
Because they are boys, most likely, or perhaps because they are impatient and “MOM!” hollered from somewhere else is easier to get out of their mouths. Loudly.
Grace is walking up the stairs, calling my name before she reaches the top. But it’s not the “Mom!” of Noah’s tween insistence. It’s her calling, “Mama?” It is sweet and gentle. And it lasts only for a second, as most sweet and gentle moments do. It’s probably extra sweet and gentle because she wants something.
“Can you help me with my project for science class?”
In school, Grace is always ahead of the curve. She surpasses her brothers in this way, as they are “forget-it-until-it’s-due-tomorrow” kinds of kids. She’s a week out from the project’s due date, but I cringe internally. Because, well…I don’t feel like helping her right at that moment. THERE. I said it. Sometimes, my mothering’s sucky, ok?
I wasn’t super excited about this project because it was a diorama that was going to take a fair amount of work. Dioramas are like the black jellybeans of school projects. They are a necessary evil thrown in among the mix of book reports and artwork, and they mostly prove that you can shop for supplies you will never use again, and then stick everything in a shoe box with tape and rubber cement and glue. And glue. Dear Lord, the hot-gluing.
Undaunted by my not-hidden ambivalence, Grace today is begging me for a trip to the Dollar Store. We go together. Grace takes all my suggestions – not because she’s super-compliant by nature (yeah, no), but because my being with her alone to do this thing makes her happy.
If given 30 seconds, my daughter will remind you she is the only girl among our children, and the only one without an autism spectrum disorder. This is the song she plays frequently, with her tiny, sorrowful violin. Yes, it stinks, Grace. It totally stinks. But we’re tired of your whiny refrain. And the poor behavior.
But you know what happens when she is alone with me?
The bad behavior miraculously disappears.
There is no stomping of feet, no yelling or slapping or throwing of things. She’s docile as a lamb when we’re alone. But I cannot always be with Grace alone. So, like every mother since the beginning of time who’s had more than one child (I’m looking at you, Eve), there’s a daily struggle to provide 100% of myself to each of my children when I am only one person and can only find 33% to give to each, leaving 1% for Matt. Poor Matt. One percent might be generous.
You know the person who gets forgotten in a house with boys who have autism? NOT the only girl in the house, the one who doesn’t have autism. Because for mercy’s sake, there is no way to un-hear her screeching about how hard it is to be the only one like her.
It’s what Grace DOESN’T say that actually hollers the loudest.
The tantrums and stevedore-screaming, the demands and the tattling, all the rotten behavior are part eight year old, and part middle child. But also, they are part howling for the attention and affirmation she needs because her brothers have an “excuse” for being bad. Somewhere in her mind, no matter how it is explained to her, nor how many times, Grace believes her brothers are favored because they require more effort.
“I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16
I have been shown mercy, and have benefited from immense patience.
I have screwed up time and again, and God’s love for me remains, unaltered, continuing in force. I am a fortunate child. I am so fortunate that I want to bless my Grace with that same immense patience and mercy. Because being “typical” is sometimes harder than it looks.
I will find ways to shuttle her away from her brothers, and keep our rituals of riding ponies, and running errands, and braiding hair. I will wrap her in bear hugs when she is anxious, and snuggle her in the early morning, and hot glue sand, grain-by-detestable-grain on an “aquarium” floor, so that the one who calls me Mama gets the best of me I can offer.