My girl was teased yesterday.

That beautiful, loving little girl in the picture.

Teased is the wrong word really. She was manipulated by others for their amusement. A little girl who she thinks is a friend preyed upon her.

It could have been worse. Much worse. It wasn’t.

Though it never should have been allowed to happen, it was handled well when it did.

I don’t think Brooke had any understanding that she had been set up.

If she did, she didn’t show it.

But these things take time to process.

I called my dad. Forty-five years as a middle school principal offer a perspective I so often need these days. I knew what he’d say. I still needed to hear it.

As soon as I heard his voice, I was done for.

“Jessie, are you OK?”

I pulled over. I sat in the car and cried as the hard rain hammered the roof and drenched the windshield. It seemed fitting.

“It’s the reminder of her vulnerability that hurts the most, Dad.”

“I know,” he said. “I know.”

By the time I finally pulled into the garage, I was spent.

My sweet baby girl ran down the stairs as I came in the house.

Her hair was wet from the shower. She wore her favorite pajamas – the top now two sizes too small. I don’t have the heart to make her retire it yet.

She came to me, so I dropped to the floor and sat down with her right in front of the door.

We looked at each other for a moment – wordless. She searched my face. I searched hers.

“What are you sorry that you did that?” she asked. Her little brow was furrowed into her patented expression for sad or sorry.

I didn’t answer right away.

I knew exactly what she was asking. It’s become a painful script. But there was so much more that I was sorry for.

“About the ballet slippers,” she said. “What are you sorry that you did that about the ballet slippers?”

“I’m sorry that I yelled that day, baby,” I said for the God knows how many-eth time. “I’m sorry that I didn’t understand.”

“You’re sorry that you yelled at me,” she said as she crawled into my lap. “About my ballet slippers. And then I had the white water.”

Four years. It’s been four years since the day that she couldn’t find her ballet slippers. It’s been four years since I yelled because I didn’t understand. Because I didn’t know. Four YEARS.

Will she look at me in four more years and say, “Mama, were those girls making fun of me? Do you think they’re sorry?”

I think of the dinner with my friend John last year when he told me that he felt like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. I want to scream.

The Inclusion Committee gets back to work next week. Our first order of business for the New Year is planning a panel discussion on how to talk to our children about respecting differences.

Please don’t tell me it’s pointless. Please don’t tell me it’s a drop of water in the ocean. I get it. I do. I’m not naïve.

People will always prey on the weak; it’s human nature. But so too is it in our nature to protect our young. And this Mama has to DO something. I may very well explode if I don’t.

I love this little girl with a ferocity and a tenderness that can only coexist inside a mother’s heart. At moments like this the contradiction leaves me spinning inward, folding in on myself. If I’m not careful I can get lost in the vortex. I have to DO something.

I glanced in the mirror as I washed up before bed. The woman looking back at me looked exhausted. She had mascara streaked down her cheeks and dark circles under her eyes. She looked like she’d been through the wringer. I’ve seen women who have looked like that. I have felt sorry for them.

I tried to give her a reassuring look, but it fell flat.

“It’s OK,” I thought.”Sometimes it’s just too much.”

I crawled into bed, buried myself in the covers and went to sleep before doing anything on the list of things I needed to do before bed.

Yes, sometimes – just sometimes – it’s just too much.

53 thoughts on “sometimes

  1. Oh Jess. I wish I could make it better, oh how I do.

    It IS a drop in the bucket, but it ISN’T pointless. It does make a difference. It’s like that starfish story – for that one, it matters. For that child, or that parent, who hears that message, it matters.

    And then who knows who they’ll share it with.

  2. It is not pointless. I am hopeful about what I see in today’s kids. They have grown up around kids with aides, small group in-class therapy and inclusion. Yes, they still prey on the weak or the easy target sometimes, but I also find them more tolerant of differences than when I was their age.

    This day arrived for us last year. Our son was manipulated into doing something for others’ enjoyment. He understood it was wrong (yay!) but not that the person that had done it wasn’t his friend. That was the hardest part. But it was beautifully handled by the teachers, the aide and the principal, and it has not reoccurred in the year since.

    Hang in there.

  3. My son was preyed on by 6 year old girls when he was young. Sweet, unassuming. It was awful. I told a friend of mine once “there is nothing more evil than an 6 year old girl” to which she responded “except a 14 year old girl”//// We do not fully understand these phases as transitions, any more than we understand a young boy’s need to “hit something hard” — even if he does it only once. We are all practicing on each other, trying new things…..and creating scar tissue around each other’s hearts…..hopefully we grow and learn from our mistakes and become good people…but there are adults who are just as bad, if not worse. Surround yourself with good people and watch your life change.

  4. (((Jess))) It is NOT pointless. I, too, am a “doer”. I am compelled to at least try to fix that which needs fixing. You can’t get to the top of Everest until you take those first steps, but step by step- you can reach the peak.
    This is exactly what had happened to my son the day before I found your blog. I understand your anguish, your fear, and your pain. The overwhelming helplessness of not being there all the time to shield and protect them is mind numbing. How fortunate you are that at least the teachers are insightful enough to have handled it well.
    There are bad days in this adventure. There are good days. Very, very good days. I know you know that. Nurture yourself through the bad times. It’s not only ok to take care of yourself during the bad days, it’s imperative. The to- do list will get done eventually. It always does.
    Wishing you strength through this, and the knowledge that you are most definitely NOT alone.

  5. I started to read this post and began to feel sick. I didn’t want to know. I’m glad it wasn’t worse, but feel, like you, that it shouldn’t have happened at all.

    I love that you are such a fighter-Mom -you are such an inspiration.

    Much love.

  6. I have an Asperger’s daughter. The teasing, manipulating….only got worse as time went by. Kids (some, not all of course) seem to be even more cruel as they get older and the social dynamic gets even more complex, particularly amongst girls. Public school was a joke. Private has served her much better in this area.

  7. I’m sorry Brooke was teased.

    ok Jess the little drop in the bucket that you are has affected how many? Your Welcome to the Club letter has made it around the globe.

    You are making a difference.

    For me somedays, you make all the difference.

    For your girls and Luau, everyday you make all the difference.

    I know you are sad and exhausted right now but we are all here for you, the members of the club.

    Love you!

  8. I teared up by the end of the first sentence…..Please know that we are all here for you, and your precious, innocent Brooke.

  9. I’m with everyone else. Your efforts aren’t pointless. They do make a difference. Not just for your baby Brooke but for so many others.

    But some days it is just too much, when the sheer magnitude of what seems like an endless, uphill climb is just overwhelming…and crawling in to bed is all you can manage. It’s entirely understandable, and it’s OK. Hang in there.

  10. Laurie Anderson – “It’s Not the Bullet That Kills You, It’s the Hole” (1976).

    It takes a lot of time, love and TLC to heal that hole in yourself. Eventually you will be strong again to shield, nurture, teach, and protect. Yes, it is draining, exhausting. But it is important, and you will.

  11. aunt jess is angry…

    my big sister, i’m glad you fight. it’s never pointless and this is coming from someone who watches daily the diffence individuals can make.

  12. like pixie, it was hard to read through this one, only because we all know this one only too well. and yes, that goddamned bullet hole – it’s a bitch trying to mend and resew yourself over and over, over and over isn’t it? we are asked far too often to clean up the crime scene.

    thank you for sharing your vulnerability. i know you, i know that you sacrifice your precious time to write posts with unfailing regularity, treat teachers and aides to dinner, speak at meetings, form committees, reach out to new parents. the list goes on and on.

    that woman, with the mascara-streaked face. well. forming a justice league gets hard. even wonder woman feels overwhelmed from time to time. it doesn’t let up – again, it ebbs and flows, and we all know some days are better than others.

    i’m reminding you that all your hard work is not for naught. there is a rainbow. swear.

    on the other flipping hand, i’m acknowledging and saying that sometimes, yes, nothing in the world could hurt more.

    love you tons.

  13. Jess, I am not sure what to say. What I can give you is that there are many of us out there who have been here, time and time again, in this place. This god-awful place. I understand. Your efforts on the inclusion committee are not for naught. You are building a path for her, building a path for future kids like your daughter and mine. There are blessings in building for the future and for the now.

  14. Oh my Jess, I am so sorry. My heart and soul feel every single word you have written here. The exhaustion….*sigh*…. You are an inspiration. you do so much for so many, probably more than you really know. All that you do is worth it. It matters. I am sending you the biggest hug that I can from San Diego.

  15. You have just posted all about one of my worst fears for my almost 6 yr old son with PDD-NOS. It most certainly ISN’T pointless. Thank you for helping ME learn and DO more for my child everyday.

  16. This is heart-wrenching to read…on its own, and because it hits close to home. It’s so hard. I end up feeling ashamed of myself when my inner “mama bear” wants to give (the other) 6 year old child a beating. I mean, obviously I don’t do it…but it crosses my mind.

    I don’t really know what to say, except that you’re not alone (by far, it seems). And you’re making a difference just by being here, “drop in the bucket” or not.

  17. Jess. You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I have an almost-five-year old daughter on the spectrum and am a native Bostonian living in a foreign land (Cincinnati). Your blog has become like a drug to me and I appreciate you more than you can imagine. Your post today broke my heart. My biggest fear. The thing that keeps me up at night. I’m so sorry and someday it’s going to happen to my daughter and I can’t even imagine the pain. Thank you for sharing. I wish my Shea and your Brooke could be friends someday.

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Your post caught my eye b/c we have some things in common: we both love Jess’ blog, are both transplants to Cincinnati and have daughters close in age (mine is already five). Would love to trade some emails w/ you and compare notes regarding your experience here w/ schools, therapies etc. My email address is

  18. Sometimes it is too much. But tomorrow will come, and you will find more strength and new ways to help Brooke make her way.
    I have faith in you.


  19. Oh, Jess, I just want to cry myself. I hate that Brooke was the butt of some joke, it breaks my heart just as if it had happened to one of mine. Sigh. What you need to know, though, is that even if it FEELS like just a drop in the bucket, everything you do is impacting those around you – especially your readers and blog friends (at least this one!) who feel just a little stronger in fighting their own battles. {{Hugs}}.

  20. I know that you know,I will always be here for you, but did you also know how many others,as seen by the loving comments above, will also be there for you and for Brooke??
    The power in the support for Brooke is how the school staff responded with dispatch and sensitivity, even to the offending child. If they handle it well the other child will learn a positive lesson as well. Teaching all children to be sensitive and accepting of differences is the best and only effective way to soften the way for all our children.
    Love you,

  21. I just wanted to add my voice to the list of people who care so deeply for you and your family. Your writing makes the world smaller for all the others walking this path with you. I am so sorry for such a hard day. Your pain echoes in all our hearts and so I want to send the comfort – that you are not alone. Because that is what you give to me. The inclusion committee is not pointless. Yes, it might seem small, but you are also sharing it with the world through your blog. So it is in fact global. Anything we do that comes from the heart is never pointless. Your hope, your vision, your drive to enlighten and protect, is one of the most valauble gifts the world has. Thank you for being a guiding light in a sometimes too dark world.

    • I just read a quote in my 2010 diary and had to put it here:

      “You are not just a drop in the ocean, you are a mighty ocean in the drop” – Rumi

      – Amy

  22. It is NOT for nothing!! Everyone needs to know that we are all responsible for teaching our children to be decent human beings!! My daughter is 11 now and we have had our fair share of these, but that’s part of the reason she has an adult aide assigned to her. There needs to be an adult around to speak for our kids when they cannot speak for themselves. They cannot be expected to fend for themselves in this world.

    My typical 6 year old has also been teased on occasion, so this behavior is not only aimed at ‘different’ kids, it’s equal opportunity nastiness. These are the days when Home-Schooling sounds like pure heaven and probably why my daughter prefers the company of adults. I’m honestly beginning to believe that children should have less exposure to other children and more exposure to adults so they actually LEARN how to survive in a grown-up world (rather than the jungle our school system has become).

  23. Jess,
    What else to say other than I am so sorry this happened. I think that we have all experienced this in one way or another in our lives, but lord don’t we feel that pain so more deeply when it happens to our babies.

    As a teacher, I hope that this truly becomes a life learning lesson…Follow up in class lessons for the whole class with the guidance counselor?


  24. jess, when i read your words about coming in the door and reading each other’s faces, i just cried and cried. your love for brooke flies, leaps, screams right off the page every.single.time… i am so sorry this happened. i am so sorry human beings are cruel. i was never the thick-skinned kid (still aren’t), but i had a sassy, fearless mouth on me, too – lol. to know that my daughter won’t have the ability to defend herself in that same way… sometimes it’s a little too much to bear… remind me again – when are we forming the intentional autism community – the neighborhood full of inclusion, understanding, loud laughter, and good wine?
    and sorry to hijack, jess, but suzanne (commenter #27), i’m in cincinnati, too! and i have a daughter :). if you’re interested, feel free to email me –

  25. The one thing, the only thing, that actually makes me happy to be disabled is that my nephews and nieces have learned that differences are not bad, they are just different.

    • I like your comment and applaud your sense of purpose, because it is a worthy purpose and goal. I am not disabled, but I am overweight and I also have a ton of facial hair. I am grateful for these because I realize that it gives the opportunity for the little ones of my friends and family to be exposed to something different and to become familiar with. The kids will touch my face and I let them and it’s my hope that they will become comfortable. Too often it’s ignorance and fear of the unknown that will trigger teasing, taunting and dare I say, some form of bullying against an innocent.

  26. Love. Understanding. Awe. I don’t need to beat the horse to death and reiterate what you already know…it’s not pointless. You are the pebble in the middle and can’t see how far out the ripples are moving, changing lives. xo

  27. I’m here (if a bit late).

    And I absolutely love Amy’s quote from Rumi.

    I’m also reminded of some of the parables of Jesus – like about the tiny mustard seed that grows to be an immense tree, and the little bit of hidden yeast that leavens the entire baking (Matt. 13:31-33)

    Never “just” a drop in the ocean, my friend.

  28. Yep, sometimes it isn’t okay. Sometimes it hurts too much. Sometimes we’re mad. Sometimes we’re absolutely crushed at what our children go through.

    Some days, it’s not okay.


  29. Pingback: words that hug « I should have called him Calvin…

  30. I SO understand all of it. I hope by saying that, you don’t feel so alone, so lost, so angry, so heartbroken. I’m glad the Inclusion Committee is starting next week – it has good timing. Like you told me, if one’s actions helps only ONE child, it’s SO worth it.

    hugs, hugs, and more hugs, R

  31. When you write about Brooke, I recognize Bud. I hear ““What are you sorry that you did that?” in his voice, because his syntax is so much the same. And so this ache that I feel after reading that she has been subjected to cruelty – it’s cuts me in half. It’s too much.

    But then, I think about those drops in the ocean. 46 comments here – 47 once I hit “submit.” 47 drops. And counting.

    We’re going to get there.

  32. I worry about this, too. Just the other day, for the first time, I let him go outside without me. He was with two girls, one being our neighbor upstairs. However, I was right there, behind the curtain, keep track of him and listening. The girl upstairs is a manipulator and while I did try to discourage him out of hanging out with her, I realize that would be too controlling and not letting him have his own experiences.

    To make a long story short, after she and her friend made a mess, I saw my son sweeping it up. I asked him about it and he said that he was told to sweep. Well, that raised my hackles and he was totally unaware of what was going on; but his words made me so proud. He said that he wanted to be a good neighbor and kept repeating it. My heart swelled with pride, yet ached because I felt that he was so vulnerable. I don’t want to squash his good nature…. but I worry about him. What to do? Should I even interfere? He’s got to navigate his own life…. I don’t want him to get hurt.

  33. I feel your pain. I want you to know, sadly, that you are not alone. My goal is not to let it truly change the people that my children were intended by God to become. It’s sad that all mothers aren’t out there making sure that their children don’t become nasty predators that prey on the weak, trying to make themselves look better. It just sucks. Thank you for helping me to at least feel that I am not alone.

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