Happy Mother’s Day to All the Non-Bio Mama Bears6 min read

To all of the women and non-binary folk out there who don’t have chil­dren for what­ever reason, or if you have chil­dren but still play a role of “mama bear,” I would like to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day on behalf of The Aspergian.

Autistic people have a high rate of trauma and abuse.  Many of us come from par­ents who attempted to nor­malize us, whether or not they knew we were autistic and whether or not they thought they were doing it for the right rea­sons: so we would fit in, so we would be more respon­sible, so people wouldn’t think we were weird.

So, it’s not uncommon for us to have been taken in by some benev­o­lent “Mama Bear” type who has helped us to feel we were safe, loved, nur­tured, and seen by at least one person. These people have been life­savers.

Recently, I read a heart­breaking blog from a friend of mine, and she said some­thing which took my breath: I wasn’t a timid child, but was easily fright­ened and some­times I wonder about the life-long effects of never having had anyone com­fort me EVER. No one ever took me into their arms as a child and said, “Things will be alright.”

I wasn’t a timid child, but was easily fright­ened and some­times I wonder about the life-long effects of never having had anyone com­fort me EVER. No one ever took me into their arms as a child and said, “Things will be alright.”

I have had a few Mama Bear women in my life, but there is one who stands out. Her name was Beverly. She was a spe­cial ed teacher in the school where I worked for 11 years.

As a teacher, I occu­pied the same space I have in every role I have ever played: not quite a fit. I was mis­in­ter­preted by other teachers, espe­cially some of the vet­eran teachers in my depart­ment, and quickly became the black sheep.

There were subtle pas­sive aggres­sions, like not telling me about meet­ings or dead­lines, and major aggres­sions, like not allowing me to attend events funded by grants I wrote.

Changes in the way spe­cial edu­ca­tion worked resulted in me sharing my class­room with the most bois­terous, con­fi­dent, strong (read: intim­i­dating) voice in the work­place: Beverly B. She was a force and an anachro­nism, always light years ahead of the times and delight­fully behind the times. She was “old school.”

At first, this arrange­ment was cat­a­strophic. We couldn’t have been more dif­ferent. I was the least orga­nized person in the building, relying on my charisma (with the kids) and my oth­er­worldly memory to sur­vive. She was reg­i­mented and ordered to the second, and her plans were con­crete. Oil and water doesn’t quite cut it to illus­trate our dif­fer­ences.

We even­tu­ally had to undergo medi­a­tion because we butted heads like a pair of ral­lying titans. Finally, some­thing clicked for Beverly. She must have real­ized in my floun­dering how pro­foundly dis­abled I was, and that no matter how hard I worked, I was not dif­ferent from her stu­dents.

In fact, I was the future of her stu­dents– not lazy, not dis­mis­sive, not uncaring, but not capable in the same ways as most people. I was never going to be able to func­tion like her and my suc­cess depended on someone else’s benev­o­lence.

After that, she became the best ally I ever had. She brought me lunch some­times, reminded me about upcoming dead­lines, let me in on all the rel­e­vant office pol­i­tics to which I’d been obliv­ious, explained every­thing in con­crete terms which had always evaded me, and helped to keep me orga­nized.

But her guid­ance and accom­mo­da­tions were world-shifting for me. She helped me to keep my head above water, walked me through ways to self-accommodate to empower instead of enable me, and plugged me into the social nuances I had pre­vi­ously missed.

She used her priv­i­lege and her power to help me meet my poten­tial– with sub­stan­tially less suf­fering for me. I wish all per­sons in the world had a Beverly on their team.

From a few of my friends on Mama Bears:

I never had a mama bear. I never had anyone tell me that it would all be okay. Or that I was safe. Or pretty. Or any­thing other than awk­ward, or dif­fi­cult, or too (insert as appropriate- loud, emo­tional, quiet, bossy). There was a lady in my street though, called Deanna. She would be dead now. She rented out her spare rooms, by some arrange­ment with social ser­vices, to adults who needed sup­port. She saw my need, and she tried. But my par­ents refused to let me visit her because of the per­ceived ‘threat’ of those who lived with her. But she knew that her ani­mals helped me. That they brought me peace and com­fort and accep­tance. And she made her ani­mals avail­able to me always. I spent my child­hood on her doorstep, walking her dogs, and the dogs in our neigh­bour­hood. This small effort, this act of seeing me and giving me a way to con­nect and feel loved (at least by the pets), was life-saving.

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I had a school friend who was a game-changer. It was com­forting to know someone strong and less ret­i­cent had my back. She would be my buffer from social inter­ac­tion. She would allow me to par­tic­i­pate when I didn’t know how to ini­tiate con­ver­sa­tions. She didn’t think there was any­thing wrong with me. She even stood up for me once when a girl made a snarky com­ment about my greasy hair. I was about to laugh it off and just mumble “what­ever” (I mean I knew my hair was greasy, and I didn’t care). But I was sur­prised when she jumped in to defend me, shouting “That is RUDE! Don’t say that to anyone!!” No one had ever done that for me before. It’s still an anomaly to me to this day, but she really did try to pro­tect me and made my school days bear­able when I was being bul­lied.

So whether you have bio­log­ical chil­dren or not, if you are a “Mama Bear” to someone who needs to be nur­tured, appre­ci­ated, seen, and pro­tected, Happy Mother’s Day to you.

Sometimes, the family who chooses someone is the only family that person has, or the only family who ever truly loved that person. Being a Mama Bear is a self­less ven­ture and some­thing that is done for no other reason than to be a force for loving kind­ness and grace.

You deserve to hear today that you are loved, appre­ci­ated, respected, adored, and valu­able beyond words. Happy Mother’s Day.

Share this article with the Mama Bears in your life, whether they have been that role for you or for someone else. They need to know what kind of dif­fer­ence they’ve made for others.

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3 Comments

  1. There’s a young man that I wish would get eval­u­ated for ASD who I con­sider as an adopted “street son”. I’m proud of the strides he’s made, but scared that if some­thing hap­pens [i]outside of his control[/i] to pre­vent him from suc­ceeding that he won’t try again

    1. Author

      I under­stand your fear. I myself have “adopted” many indi­vid­uals who have been in such a pre­car­ious place. No matter what hap­pens, you make all the dif­fer­ence by existing and might be the only person he’s willing to try again at all. <3

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