A Second Chance

Close-up of a child's profile

My youngest child holds a special fascination for me. K has always maintained she has my mannerisms and facial expressions – certainly my temperament! From the moment she was able to involve herself in the family communications the evidence to support his case grew and grew – the only one to inherit my shock of curly hair, her athletic build a contrast to her sister’s scrawny frame, her feisty independence, her propensity for delivering a response even in the face of admonishment. K cites all these as attributes of my toddler self, calling her a replica of me at that age. He seems half in love with this unexpected window into my past as though he really believes he’s seeing me as I once was, before that spirit was stifled til it stopped struggling.

In spite of my scepticism – K’s theory being limited to speculation, my parents having never commented one way or the other – I’ve been drawn into this narcissistic daydream of watching my childhood self from an adult vantage point. Is it the Borderline in me that can’t let slip an opportunity for self-discovery? Because of this curiosity, my interest in her attitude and responses is more intense than her siblings were subject to at that age. I search her behaviour for insights into a self un-broken by parental manipulation and unbowed by disappointment.

She is the Me I should have been, might have been, were it not for the peculiar set of circumstances and events that marked my own transition to adulthood. And as any movie aficionado knows, there’s something strangely compelling about an alternate ending.

I watch her from the corner of my eye while reading; steal sidelong glances when we snuggle on the sofa and Stuart Little or Mr Bean holds her attention. I know the slopes and curves of her unconsciously expressive face, the way her brows knit when she’s concentrating and her heavily lashed eyes grow dark and liquidy when she’s happy. I wonder at the workings in the mind behind those eyes.

Of my three children she’s the one who’s taken the longest to talk. Yet she has no problem communicating. I remind myself to beware of reading too much of myself into her. I don’t want to repeat the cycle of identity-theft.



Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. She’s you, for sure. I think that every time I see her pop up on your Fb wall, even though it’s apparent she’s got some of her daddy’s looks in there too (based on his recent smouldering magazine feature!). She looks like trouble, but in a good way. She’s adorable – well done both of you!

  2. There’s no doubt she has your curls! How I wish one of my three offspring had my curls, too! I loved your post and the picutres – especially the one of the two of you in the pond/pool! And I can completely relate to trying to glean a better undersanding of what you were like as a young child – and surprisingly I tend to do that mostly with my youngest, too!

  3. Lovely post, and don’t be too hard on your self – there’s always a part of us to a greater or lesser degree that want to see ourselves mirrored in our children – it’s the narcassistic trap we inevitably fall into as parents. Wow – those curls!

  4. Consider your observation of her (and your other children’s) stable, loving, happy childhood a gift: from them to you and you/K to them. Aisha, you are blessed to have a chance for a ‘rewind’ – not of yourself, although you surely benefit from this – but of how it can, is and should be. Revel in it.

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