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I grew up under the whirring blades of a mamacopter of the first order. No swimming. She once heard about a boy she knew that’d drowned. No skating. A girl she went to school with twisted her knee beyond repair on the rink floor. Sleepovers, trick-or-treat, and bike rides-rife with opportunity to be snatched and/or otherwise harmed. So, those were out, too.

Honestly, she would use anything to keep me and my brother safe. Even her own anger.

But, lest my words taste of bitterness, there are things about her I must rightly relate to you.

I have only been privy to the trickles Mom has allowed me over the years, but, this much I know:  She was seven that April day she witnessed Uncle David wander away without permission; he was four. Bright, beautiful and entirely too young to have taken that secretive stroll down to the store with his buddy. Entirely too small and fragile to have suffered the fate the speeding car collided him into.

He did not die instantly, but eventually succumbed to his injuries.

She never even got to say goodbye, as measles kept her from his funeral.

The family tore wide apart, each in their way, limping along with this void as best as humans can. Some chose alcohol, others work. My mom withdrew for years, only as a teen opening herself again, and this to a rough crowd, at times, before finding a mixed-up sort of comfort in the similarly misfit soul of my father.

Her solace and her fears tumbled together in an early marriage.

Motherhood crowded in, and she faced the frightening thought of nurturing two little somebodies she could one day lose.

So…she wrapped us tight, kept us under her watchful gaze, and, when we balked, desperately resorted into abusing us into submission, if only to prevent a replay of her childhood. I, of course, did not grasp any of this then, nor do I excuse the pain inflicted now, but I do forgive it. And understand its origins.

As a mom of four blessed beauties, I now stand where she stood, this long shadow over my head, and I feel that heart-pounding anxiety of the what if? Particularly with autism, physical delays and way-too-smart toddlerhood added to the mix, it is so, so hard not to don those blades and circle over-protectively round these precious babes.

To shake off the echoes of this scarred family tree takes purpose and prayer and patience with myself.

I can’t say it has been easy over the years to silence it all and hang back enough to give them exploring space, but I am learning. In healing, I am learning.

In my adult years, grace and mercy has extended between Mom and I in only the way it can when God takes the reins and does the impossible-redeeming time.

In this incredible gift of forgiveness and newness of life, God is allowing me to show Mom the joy of fostering my little birds to flight, and, also, how I am figuring out my own wings at long last.

I can’t say yet I have conquered, but I am slowly but surely finding my balance, opening the doors of discovery, and nodding for these amazing kiddos to step through.

In His hands, He is unmaking the mamacopter within yet, and shaping me into something stronger and more peaceful for all the pain of the past.

And we all are infinitely better for it.
Photo credit: aarongilson via / CC BY-NC-ND


So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Marisa Ulrich

Marisa Ulrich is a mom of four, two autistic, two “typicals," living in one of those great old fixer-uppers in rural Kansas. She is in a blessed second marriage with the handyman of her dreams. Her writing has appeared in Autism Parenting and Zoom Autism. Her first book, Broken Cookies Taste Just as Sweet: The Amazing Grace of Motherhood, Marriage, and Miracles on the Spectrum is set to debut July 19th via eLectio publishing. Join her ongoing thoughts on Facebook, and online at

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