I had a diving coach in college who once told me that you could never cry for longer than you could shower. Why? Because you could simply stay in there until you got it together.

He lied.


I’m in the shower with my girl. She is crying.

Our evening has been a mess. Despite a few bright moments, she has continually defaulted back to this place. Time and again, her face has melted into a mask of Greek tragedy. She is desperately overwhelmed.

She can’t tell me how I can help her. She doesn’t have the words for how she feels or what she needs. Any and every attempt that I make to communicate with her – to connect with her in any way – fans the flames. I keep trying, then retreating. Trying, then retreating.

For the life of me, I don’t know how to make this better.

And there it is.

“For the life of me, I don’t know how to make this better.”

The very crux of why this is so God-damned hard.

Because. I. Can’t. Fix. It.

As a mother I am designed down to a cellular level to protect my girls. I feel it in my pores. Somewhere in my DNA is the primal code for taking care of my babies – for keeping them from harm. For slaying their demons and keeping that which would hurt them at bay – then for giving them the tools as they grow to manage for themselves. That’s not just my job as a mother; it is who I am. It is who I was born to be.

This betrays the perfection of the system. It lays my weakness bare, leaving no room for the illusion of the infallibility of motherhood. So much for Mama kisses that make it all better. No one in this house buys that story any more.

My girl is yelling through her sobs. No matter how hard she tries now, she simply cannot keep it together.

I rattle my saber. I try to look tough. But my girl and I both know that all I can do is swing wildly against an opponent that I can’t see, can’t touch, can’t even accurately describe.

And worse, he doesn’t come alone.Β He travels with his brothers – Anxiety, Panic and Fear. They are like some nightmarish minstrel show.

I want to scream as my baby screams. I want to slather on war paint, lay these suckers out, then walk away saying, ‘Yeah, that’s right, you messed with the wrong Mama Bear.”

But really, at the end of the day – at the end of this day, I can’t. There is Nothing. I. Can. Do.

She screams again. “I want to go to sleep.”

There’s nothing left but to shut the world down.

We hurry out of the shower and into her room. I lay with her in bed. I ask her what I always do.

“What would Mama do for you?”

Her voice is tiny. She is exhausted. “Anything.”

“And what wouldn’t Mama do for you?”


I kiss my girl as many times as she’ll let me, then leave her to sleep.

I linger in her doorway and take one more look at my sweet girl.

I pull the door closed, praying that simply knowing that her Mama would if she could can be enough.

30 thoughts on “anything

  1. It’s good you’re there just to be. All you can do is be. That’s it. I have times just like that where I cry. Anything anyone does just fans the flames like you said. Someday if/when she has the words, YOU are the one she’ll be able to communicate it to because you stick by her when there are no words.

  2. I’m so sorry, Sweetheart! You did what you could. You always do what you can. You’re a wonderful Mama Bear. You’re a wonderful Mama. I’m so sorry. I wish you a better today.

    I love you.

  3. If it makes you feel any better I spent the same evening with my typical girl because she got the “mean” 4th grade teacher and not one of her buddies in class-she sobbed until she passed out. As if I wasn’t stressed enough for my special needs;pdd-nos;sensory; you name it son
    beginning school today that is 45 minutes away and his bus driver is about 70yrs old! Awesome-right? It definitely through me for a loop to have my daughter so bummed out: so now I can have a pit in my stomach all day for both of them. A friend once had the best line when she was going through a difficult time and someone said “well, things could be worse” and she replied, “yes and they could be a lot better too” (an expletive was thrown in that makes the reply sound even better)…one day at a time right..

  4. She gave you all she could, knowing she could, because you have always taken whatever she offers you…loudly or quietly, joyfully or sadly, accidentally or deliberately, wet or dry. She knows she can trust you to stay…to be…to love…to do anything~if only there was anything~you could 😦 You are MORE than enough, and THAT is more than just “anything”…it’s EVERYTHING to your baby.
    Feel my hug.

  5. She allowes you to see the worst, why, because she knows deep in her soul that she can. She trusts you to the ends of earth. Know THAT! If not with you, then who? Today is a new day and I pray that she is feeling better and rises to the challenges that lay before her. And for you, rest up Mama Bear, long winter ahead with sunshine don’t forget that. Pleny of love and hugs from this Mama Bear to you. xoxoxo

  6. (((Hugs)))
    My kids are into week 3 of school this year. On day three, my 3ed grader said “Playing with friends is hard”. Week two ~ two missed days, two doctors visited, and they tell me that she is suffering from stress, and has given herself a UTI from controlling the only thing that she felt she could control.
    I tell you this only so you can believe me when I say that I feel your pain.

  7. Sending love, strength and faith to you. And I am keeping your precious little girl in my prayers.

    I like the idea of “shutting down the world”. You know I have no experience with the challenges you face but I wonder if it would be helpful to shut the world down the minute she walks through the door this afternoon. No usual questions, strategies, routines, etc. Just peace on her terms. Every little thing in the afternoon and evening being what makes her comfortable until she adjusts to the new school year. Just a thought . . .

  8. I feel rotten reading about how hard it’s been for her.

    I can only imagine what it’s like for you.

    I have no pithy one-liners, no solutions.

    I’m sorry.

    And I hope things get better. Fast.

  9. “I just can’t fix it” is what I struggle with the most. You’re doing everything possible for her, but most importantly, it is obvious that you are also giving her the tools for her to help herself. I’m wishing better days ahead for both of you soon!

  10. But you DID do something- you helped her bridge to sleep. She told you what she needed (YAY!)and just your being there and loving her helped her cross that bridge. The work that our kids have to do is so hard… but you did make it better. You made the WORK of it better- although you can’t take away the hurt or the pain or the autism, you can help her fight it.

    And ultimately, that’s our real job for all of our children- not to make a better world around them, but to give them the tools to help them make themselves a better world. You lay down with her and helped her find her way into healing sleep. That’s power.

    But it does suck that they have to fight the fight…

  11. Me again-my son looks like he got punched in the face he was crying so much on his first day–is it too early for a glass of wine?–we need to remember takes awhile to get in routine-hang in there!

  12. I am waiting for my sons’ bus and am reading all these amazing posts. I never read blogs before, but a friend works with this blogger. I can’t tell you how much it helps to know I am not the only mom crying at my kitchen table.
    Is it time for glass of wine yet–?? Haha

  13. I’m not of an organized religion person, but I do believe that God chose you for a reason, Jess. Special children go to special people. Some day when I’m back in Boston, I’m going to schedule a playdate for my Shea and your Brooke. I think they’d be great partners in crime!

  14. comments from diary’s facebook page

    PK ~Thank you for your candor, Jess. Sending supportive thoughts your way.

    JMM ~ You are THERE and DO by being there. I understand. Totally.

    DDH ~ you are MORE than enough!

    LM ~ β€Ž(Hugs) Jess just being there physically for her is everything!!! The rest will come.

    JB I feel this way EVERY friggin day….we are enough, we are. It just so often does NOT feel that way. But we are. Hugs.

    DHF β€Ž(((Hugs)))

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