Last winter my son took swimming lessons at the Mountlake Terrace pool. While my daughter and I splashed around in the “leisure pool” and I tried to get a bona fide workout in three feet of water, my mind would wander to people-watching. Two mothers in particular really stood out to me.
One mother was bald and often wore a pink-ribbon track suit. Sometimes her husband came with her, and they would sit together on the bleachers and watch their children swim. I’m sure that every other adult in the pavilion noticed this mom, and probably sent up a private prayer for her. It was readily apparent that she deserved our empathy because she was fighting for her life.
The other mother I noticed also deserved understanding, but I think I might have been the only person there who realized this. Her fifth-grader appeared to be a total brat. The swimming teachers were really frustrated with this child, because sometimes he wouldn’t even get in the water. When he did get in the pool, he splashed around in a really odd way. Instead of sitting on the bleachers chatting with the other parents or reading a magazine, this boy’s mom sat by herself, tensed up. At times, she even wore her own swimsuit, in case she needed to get in the water with her son if he caused problems.
As a former teacher, I was pretty darn sure that her son had some form of autism spectrum disorder. The thing is, he was high-functioning enough to seem “normal” to people who are unfamiliar with the many nuances of what ASD can look like. The other adults probably just thought this kid was a terror.
I wondered if the mom with breast cancer and the mom of the child with ASD ever noticed each other, and if so, what they thought of the other person’s circumstances. The mother with breast cancer was fighting for the chance to see her kids grow up, but at least she had the comfort of knowing that her children are neurotypical, and will be able to follow a straightforward path in life. The mother of the child with ASD might be with her son every day for the next 40 years. She will have to forge ahead, and clear a path for her child through schools, swimming lessons and ordinary living. But she will see her son grow up.
Last January I wished I could have found a way to tell both of these women how much I admired their courage. They were ordinary women doing heroic things. That’s why it has been such a privilege to write for The Weekly Herald. Each week this paper has shone a spotlight on my neighbors, and told stories that have been inspiring to hear. It has been a shot in the arm of love for our whole community.
The good news is that the events that matter to Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace will continue to covered in The Daily Herald. You can also continue to follow “I Brake for Moms” on HeraldNet, at www.heraldnet.com/ibrakeformoms. Thank you neighbors, for your readership.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at http://teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.