Mother's Day Writing Assignment

Dan Coulter Headshot.jpg
By Dan Coulter

Every mom has a story to tell. Will yours get told?

Every mom's story has value. Even if that value is looking back and retelling it to yourself to see what you learn from it.

One way to capture the value of a story is to write it down. I saw the power of this in a documentary film by Diane Garey and Lawrence Hott called, “Tell Me Something I Can’t Forget.” The film is about eight economically disadvantaged women participating in a writer’s workshop in Massachusetts. The workshop was led by Pat Schneider, who overcame childhood poverty to become a successful author and writing teacher.

While the workshop absolutely helped these women become better at expressing themselves, the act of writing also helped them understand and deal with their challenges.

After I saw the film, I looked it up online and read that some of the women in the workshop were young mothers and some were young grandmothers. Most had not finished high school. According to a website promoting the film, three went on to earn GED certificates, three graduated from college and one is enrolled in an MFA program in creative writing.

I hope this makes you wonder what writing could do for you.

The writing shared in the film was open and honest. It was sometimes emotional, but always revealing.

Capturing your story might be as simple as starting a diary of your child’s difficult behaviors and how you dealt with them. You might keep track of doctor visits and how treatments and medications helped – or didn’t. You can chronicle good days and celebrate successes.

It’s so easy to be caught up in dealing with what’s in front of us, looking back at journal entries can help us get the big picture. As my wife, Julie, suggested, it could let you appreciate how much progress your child has made, and how you enabled that progress.

Your writing could be for your eyes only, or for your family, or you might decide to share it in a blog, a support group newsletter, or a book. Some of the best advice books I’ve seen about Asperger Syndrome and autism were written by moms.

Whether fact or fiction, prose or poetry, writing can give you surprising insights. In an informal writer’s workshop recently, the leader gave us an exercise, “Write about an object in your pocket or purse as if it’s a person who’s giving you some difficulty. You have ten minutes. GO!” Here’s what I came up with:

“My son, the pocket knife. The Swiss Army kind. Sharp? Sure. But often closed to me. Resisting unfolding the tools I’d suggest or using them the way they were intended. But sharp. And sometimes making cuts I don’t expect, that work.”

Shakespeare it ain’t, but writing it did make me think.

Try the exercise. Try a journal. You may just capture lightning in a bottle. You could learn something to help you and your family, or you could publish and I could wind up reading what you write.

Which would be very cool.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter is the producer of the DVDs "Understanding Brothers and Sisters with Asperger Syndrome” and “Understanding Brothers and Sisters on the Autism Spectrum.” You can find more articles on his website:

Copyright 2011 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

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