I’m Not Always Good at Being Mom

I yelled at Allen last week. I could blame the lack of sleep, the arm that ached from the latest COVID-19 shot, or my very full class schedule. But the truth is that I was out of patience with my autistic adult son. I’d explained innumerable times over the past two weeks why his car was in the shop. That I understood he wanted his car back. That I knew it bothered his routine that his car was not sitting out front. I was calm. I was aware of the synapses in his brain that took longer to process information because the rich club network had failed to pare down the pathways when he was young. I knew his inability to multi-task resulted in a dogged determination to hang onto one thing at a time.


But I was tired.

“When will my car be done?” he asked the minute I walked in the door from a long day at school.

“I don’t know. They’re waiting for a part.” I dropped my schoolbag in the dining room and headed up the steps to change.

“Why don’t you know?”

“Because I don’t. Because I have nothing to do with the part. Please, please, stop asking.”

He didn’t. “I just want to know when I’ll get my car back. It’s MY car. I should know that. Can’t you find out?”

I paused halfway up the steps. “No. I can’t find out. I’m busy all day. The mechanic will call when it’s done!” I finished my climb and, totally over it all, leaned over the banister and shouted, “Sometimes it’s really hard to be your mother!”

I saw the shock on Allen’s face: eyes wide, mouth open. I seldom yelled. I went into my room and, for good measure, slammed the door.

I needed a minute. One minute away from parenting this wonderful but challenging adult. Maybe two. I sat in the rocker in the corner of my room, kicked off my shoes, and rocked.


Here was where I’d rocked all my babies to sleep. Even Allen, my youngest. I remembered the feel of him in my arms, all 8 pounds and 15 ounces in a blue sleeper, snuggled against my shoulder. I closed my eyes, remembering his baby smell, sweet and powdery, the warmth of him as he slumbered.

I regretted slamming the door. His brain worked the way it did. It was just the way he was born.

I rocked a little more, each motion the memory of a hope I’d had for him. He’d been a docile baby, easy to pacify. He would have friends who would hang around the house and go to school dances together. He was long and tall. Perhaps he’d play basketball. I dreamed of a career for him, a girl who would fall in love with his beautiful blue eyes. Grandchildren I could rock in this chair.

Not this. Not still living with me at past thirty, only able to work part-time at Walmart because social activities and sensory issues fatigue him. Not a brain that worked differently and confused both of us. Not a father who’d died too soon. Tears fell onto my lap.


One more minute, I told myself. I’d go downstairs and apologize. I’d be grateful to God for who Allen was, not what he was not. The rocking soothed me. It would be alright.

There was a soft tap at my bedroom door.

“Come in,” I said quietly, continuing my gentle rock.

Allen slipped in, his large frame filling the doorway. His beautiful blue eyes glistened with tears.

“It’s NOT hard to be my mother,” he said, his voice little more than a whisper.

I continued rocking, remembering the early diagnosis of learning disabilities, the years of special education classes, and the later news of autism. “Sometimes it is,” I said. “Sometimes I don’t think I’m very good at it.”

He stepped into the room and sat on the edge of my bed, reaching out a hand and laying it on my knee. “You ARE good at it.”

I kept rocking, the door slam still echoing in my mind. “Sometimes I don’t  understand you.” I sighed.

He nodded and moved to the floor, where he rested his head on my lap. “I NEVER understand me,” he said. “At least you do sometimes. But you keep trying. That’s what a good mom does.”

We stayed where we were, rocking. He let me smooth his hair back from his forehead, accepting my touch. There’d been no rules to follow after the diagnosis of autism and my husband’s death. We did the best we could. We would just keep doing the best we could. There might be other slammed doors, other loud shouts, and other feelings of not being up to parenting this autistic adult.

But Allen and I are in this together. With his older siblings off to their own lives, and his father living in Heaven, we continue to function as a family of two.

With an occasional slamming door.

2 thoughts on “I’m Not Always Good at Being Mom

  1. Imperfect; not always easy, but always love unconditional ~
    That’s what I see in you two, Linda. 💕

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Linda Cobourn

Linda Cobourn picked up a pencil when she was nine and hasn’t stopped writing since, but she never expected to write about adult autism and grief. When her husband died after a long illness, she began a remarkable journey of faith with her son, an adult with Asperger’s syndrome. The author of Tap Dancing in Church, Crazy: A Diary, and Scenes from a Quirky Life, she holds an MEd in Reading and an EdD in Literacy. Dr. Cobourn also writes for Aspirations, a newsletter for parents of autistic offspring. Her work in progress, tentatively titled Finding Dad: A Journey of Faith on the Autism Spectrum, chronicles her son’s unique grief journey. Dr Cobourn teaches English as a Second Language in Philadelphia and lives with her son and a fat cat named Butterscotch in Delaware County. She can be contacted on her blog, Quirky, and her Amazon author page.