Katie and I were face to face on the toboggan. She had hatched a plan to go down the hill backwards in order to avoid getting snow in her face. “Remember, Mama,” she shouted over the wind, “You’ve got to steer!”

I laughed, knowing full-well that this plan was likely doomed for some sort of spectacular failure. But I promised to do my best.

We shuffled our way over the hump of the hill and began to gain speed. I squeezed my legs around her as we hit the downhill. Almost immediately I fumbled the rope and lost any hope of controlling our direction. We listed to the left as we veered dramatically off course, screeching to a stop far from our intended destination.

Her face was completely covered in snow. Not an inch of skin had escaped. Her eyelashes were coated with ice and tiny droplets of water dripped from her nose. She looked like the abominable snowman.

With one eyebrow raised in mock accusation, she pointed to her face. “This,” she said, “is on YOUR conscience.”

I laughed so hard I fell off of the sled and landed in the snow.

Her little sister, however, wasn’t laughing. She was, in fact crying. Although she typically loves sledding, it simply wasn’t working for her that day. After two runs down the hill, she’d decided that she was done. Luau convinced her to stay for a while. They had a few great ‘runs’ down a snowbank, but soon her tolerance had been stretched beyond capacity. She could say nothing other than, “I want to go home.”

Since Katie and Luau would have the sleds to lug home, we left them the car. Besides, I thought the walk might be nice. I took Brooke’s hand and we set out toward home.

As quiet and undemanding as the walk was, my girl just couldn’t manage to calm herself down. She needed the comfort of home and nothing else would do. I tried every trick I had, but the tears wouldn’t stop.

I talked quietly as we walked.

I showed her a house that I’ve always liked. I told her that I thought it looked welcoming. I talked about the dogs that were barking at one another through their respective fences and wondered aloud what they might be saying to each other.

I told her that Mama wished I could make things better. I told her that that’s what Mama’s do – when our babies are upset we try to make it better. I told her it’s hard sometimes when Mama doesn’t know how.

I hesitated. The question was there. Hanging in the cold, damp air. It was there.

The icy snow crunched beneath our feet. Her breath was slowing. She was beginning to calm down.

“Hey, Brooke?” I asked.


I kissed the top of her head lightly, hesitating.

“Do you think you might want to be a Mama someday?”

As soon as the words came out, they made me dizzy. Should I not have asked? Should I have asked? COULD my girl be a mother someday? Would she ever WANT to be? Is it an absurd question? Of course it is; she’s not quite eight years old. But when I was eight, I knew. When Katie was three she would talk about being a Mama when she grew up. Three. That’s what little girls do, right? Little girls talk of such things. Was it wrong to ask? I had no idea.

“Yeah,” she said to the snow.

“Hmm, would you like to have a girl, do you think, or a boy?”

That one was easy. “A girl.”

“What would you want to name your girl?”

She didn’t hesitate. “Clara.”

I asked if she thought she’d have a job when she grew up.

“I would be a teacher,” she said.

Oh, baby girl, I thought. You already are.

I told her that I thought she’d be a wonderful teacher. The best, in fact.

“And I would be a doctor.”

“Wow, so you’re going to be a teacher AND a doctor? And a Mama too?”


We had to walk single-file as the path narrowed. I held her hand over her head.

“Maybe you could be a doctor who teaches other people how to be doctors. Would you like to do that, ya think?”

We went back to walking side-by-side as the path widened again. We got stuck briefly at the edge of a snowbank. I lifted her up and over, then pointed her back toward home as she began walking in the wrong direction.


I remembered the conversation from my childhood when I’d told my dad that I’d wanted to be a nurse. He asked why not a doctor. OK, I’d said, I’ll be a doctor. Then why not a hospital administrator. OK, I’d said. Then why not open a chain of hospitals? If you want to help people, Jessie, help a LOT of people. Bigger, my dad taught me. Always think bigger.

I looked at my girl. Her face was streaked with tears, but she was finally calm.

“Sweet girl,” I said, “if you want to be a doctor who teaches, you will be a great doctor who teaches. And a wonderful mom. There’s nothing you can’t do, OK? Nothing.”

It took all the restraint I had to sound calm. I wanted to yell.

Do you hear me, Universe? My girl can do ANYTHING that she wants to do. Do you understand? ANYTHING. I need to believe that. And by God, she DESERVES to believe that. There is NOTHING she can’t do. NOTHING. It may not be easy. Nothing for this child ever is. But damn it, she can do whatever she wants to do. Do you hear me? Don’t you ever tell her that she can’t.

We headed into the house and peeled off the morning’s frustrations layer by heavy, wet layer.

She settled onto the couch, watching the same episode of Elmo’s World for the third time that morning. As I fussed in the kitchen, she yelled to me, “Mom, come quick! I need you!”

I ran in like a shot, wondering what had happened.

When I got close enough, she reached up, hooked an arm behind my neck and pulled me down onto the couch. She crawled up and over my legs and curled into a ball on my lap. I folded my body over hers and rested my cheek on her back.

I once wrote that I love my girl with a ferocity and a tenderness that can only co-exist within a mother’s heart. And so it was as I whispered, “I love you so much, baby” into her ear and finally let my own tears flow.

34 thoughts on “anything

  1. Thank u for that. I was just think about what my child will beable 2 do as she grows up. She is only 2 and I just worry about her future all the time. I guess I will never not worry but ur right she can do or be anything she wants. may not be easy but nothing ever will be. I always tell my oldest child that nothing in life is ever easy and if everything was easy wouldnt be worth having. So u just made me see that that goes for both my girls. My monkey will be ok. I have been following ur blog for a little while now and I want u to know that it brings me so much comfrot. You have a real gift from god and your useing that gift to help so many people. once again thank you.

  2. Fabulous. And so true. I once heard someone say that nothing worth having is easy, and that sentence carries weight in our house, with our child. Perhaps it does with dreams, as well.

  3. and now my own tears are flowing…. We have to have the faith that our children can and will do anything they want to do and be whatever it is they want to be!! and they WILL know how much they are loved!!

  4. When you were little I asked you if you did the best that you could on something you were working on and your answer was, “Daddy, I am doing better than I can.” You are a full grown mommy now and you are still “doing better than you can” and so will your babies, both of them. With the love and guidance that you literally pour into each of them, how could they do less.
    We all (parents) worry about the future of our children especially the ones facing difficult challenges, and you are doing everything and all things that will ensure their sucess. Just keep loving them and guiding them and let them fly by degrees to reach the eagles just as you have and continue to do.
    I could never have designed the wonder you have become if I had had the right to build the blueprint and your little one(s) will also surprise you beyond all your dreams as you have for me.

  5. I love your blog. However I think you could put these entries together with some editing and come up with a book. It could reach so many more of the world…thoses living in and outside of the spectrum.

  6. When I was a first-year college student I came down with a terrible cold in the first month. I hadn’t thought to bring any medicine from home, the town pharmacy was too far away, and the infirmary…perish the thought!! My RA advised me to go see an upperclass student who could help me. I knocked on her door in desperation late one night, and watched as she leaned under her bed and pulled out a suitcase packed to the rim with various medical potions and lotions. Noticing the unusual packaging, I said, “Did these come from a hospital?” She replied, “Yes. My mom brings them home for me.” “Oh,” I replied, “I didn’t know your mom was a nurse.” She gave me a half-smile and said, “God, I love first-years! My mom is a NEUROSURGEON!”

    Here’s to all the first-years who need to be taught that they must dream about becoming neurosurgeons!

  7. Once again I sit here in tears after reading one of your posts! I swear, it’s all about timing, and you have impeccable timing with your posts. Would you get out of my head? Or at least get your secret camera’s to stop following me!


  8. I quote that line, “I’m doing better than I can” so very often. ..And yes, you’re certainly doing just that. Your little ones will do it all, Sweetheart! I see it happening each and every day! You all are amazing inspirations. I also love you so much!


  9. Wonderful words that ring so true! You’re parents are wonderful not only in their support for you through out your life, but for their continued support for you and your family now!

  10. This was a flawless write. The perfect balance of simile and narrative. Not to diminish your usual writings, as all are treasured, this one is exquisitely crafted.

  11. beautifully said! The way I look at it, if we can’t believe they can/will do anything… then will they? So yes, anything they really want to do they can!

  12. i remember when stella said, “mama, i want to be a nurse like you. that way i can have an office right next to yours, and i will never have to be away from you.” don’t think she feels that way lately, but i appreciate the thought… i hope she falls (softly) into just the right place. and she feels so good at what she does. i hope our kids feel at home in what they do.

  13. Your daughters- BOTH of them- ARE doctors who provide supports to others to be the very best person they can be- and teachers who teach people to grow into the very best people they are. And they clearly take after their mom- who clearly takes after her own dad (and mom)- whose comment made me teary also.

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