dear katie


I sat down to write a letter to my sweet Katie this morning. To apologize to her. To let her know that I get it. That sometimes it takes her Mama a little longer than the average bear to see – to really see what’s right before me, but I get it now.

To tell her that I really do see how hard she tries. How much she gives. How far she stretches and bends and twists and turns herself in the name of reaching her sister. How to keep the precarious balance, the expenditure of effort feels anything but balanced.

I sat down to tell her how sorry I am. That last night was one of those nights. That my frustration with the situation was entirely misdirected. That when she finally melted into a heap of tears and said plaintively, “This is just hard. You have no idea how hard I try,” that I heard her. That I really, really heard her.

That that moment is a part of me now – swaddled in a coarse blanket of shame, side by side with all of those other moments when time had to stop before it became so obvious. God, it’s always so obvious.

As I wrote, I decided not to publish that letter here. As much as it may feel like it belongs here; it doesn’t. It’s for Katie. She deserves at least that. Something precious. Something unshared. Something for no one’s consumption but hers.

What I will say here is this – so that someday when she reads this, she will know that I meant every word that I said on that July morning back in 2011. The morning when I crept quietly into her room before the dawn and woke her up to say that I was sorry. That morning when I curled up next to her and told her that I am grateful, and that, in her own way, her sister is too.

I’m here, Katie.

And I get. I swear, I get it.

I’m sorry I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes, baby, but I see you. Please believe that I really, truly see you.

I understand how hard you work and how little gratitude you see.

But it’s there, my love.

It’s always there.

It’s there in the quiet time we spend in your room. It’s there in the barely controlled chaos of the kitchen. It’s there in the stolen hugs and the kissing hands and the perfume that you steal from my neck before I leave for work every morning. It’s there over the phone line when I call to say that I’m on my way home and I tell you that I love you over and over (and over) again.

It’s always there.

I’m going to try to stop and point it out a whole lot more from now on, baby. But I promise you, even when you don’t see it, it’s there.

I love you more than anything in this world, my little love. More than the moon and the stars and everything in between. I love you so much that sometimes it threatens to break me in two.

And every night – every single night – I go to bed praying that that can be enough.

I see you.

And I’m sorry.

22 thoughts on “dear katie

  1. Katie has always known that you get it. Of course, she’ll feel frustration at times but she knows how much she means to you and how incredible you know she is. She gets it! You have two of the most loved children and they both get that.

    Love you,

  2. Of course she gets it. But sometimes we can all use a reminder. And who doesn’t love a love letter? Don’t be so hard on yourself Jess.

  3. It’s so hard to find that balance point, isn’t it? Between giving our children with extra needs what they need and making sure the rest of the family gets what they need, too. I think you do a remarkable job at that, Jess. It may not always feel like it, I’m sure, but I think the balance sheet evens out somehow. Love to Katie, too. She’s an amazing young lady.

  4. The challenges of parenthood with a special needs kid in the family… Sometimes it is just getting through the day. I know for our family we were so immersed in bringing up the three kids that we didn’t always realize how hard it was for the other two until way after the fact. Our perspective is different than his siblings. Jeff has been the center of our family and has dictated in many ways what we could do and how we are as a family….not all bad things!! Believe me, things will get better.
    Jess, you are doing a fabulous job with your girls…don’t beat yourself up. There is no “right” way to love your children….just love them and yourself and Luau!! xoxo

  5. I get this. And I’m sorry too.
    It’s the reason I’m pulling my oldest out of camp this morning and spending time just him and me. No brothers.
    We do the best we can and she knows that. Someday she’ll write you the thank you note for teaching her that we can be superstars and be human.
    Love to her and you.

  6. I did not have a disabled sibling, but I am the youngest of 4-and there is only a 5 year difference between the oldest and myself. So barely seen, and not often heard. I mean how could she. I would have loved a letter. I would have cherished it. Just as much as Katie will cherish her letter, and all these comments. WTG, DOAM!

  7. Tears, tears and more tears. Tears of understanding, tears of exhaustion and tears of relief that I am not the only guilty Mom. Thank you for sharing your struggles so the rest of us can feel less alone. We all get it and someday our NT kids will too. Until then, extra hugs.

  8. I can’t imagine how hard it is for her, and for you. I know those words in your letter, she will carry with her always. They are hers alone, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. Even thought she knows in her heart that you know… She still needs to hear it, like we all do. You’re a wonderful Mom. None of us are prefect. All we can do is our best on any given day. And you do that every day with BOTH of your girl. ***Hugs***

  9. This will mean the world to her, and I am certain she’ll refer back to it when she needs it. And for the record, you do an amazing job with “balance”, and don’t forget it!

  10. yeah, I have a 7 y/o NT who gives up so much of herself, completely voluntarily, and more than once my frustration has been misdirected. My daughter is bright and giving and needing of approval and the moments when I’ve failed her never leave me. And I kind of hope they never do. My penance, maybe? But also a constant reminder of how much I want to be like her when I grow up. Sorry for your burden, sweetie.

  11. I think I shall write her a letter, too. I’ve written her before, but never about this topic. Thanks for sharing, Jess!!!

  12. Dear Katie: You have hundreds of friends that see you and your efforts, and are grateful for you. We’re grateful for your example, your patience, and your selflessness – so much more so than others your age. We think about you lots when we dream of the relationships that our children have – or will have – with their siblings. Keep on keepin’ on, sugar.

  13. Oh, how the tears roll today… even with Richie and Mae being so young, I worry and pray so hard that they will somehow, amidst the chaos of autism and Ryan, know they are dearly loved by Eric and I and their brother. Thank you for this. 🙂

  14. Jess, thanks for your blog. All of it. It has been a huge encouragement to me over the past few months as we traveled through the diagnostic process. We have finally come ‘to the other side’ in an emotional sense and survived.

    Wanted you to know that I borrowed a phrase from you and linked it back. Also linked to your ‘welcome’ post.
    Grateful in Africa,

  15. It’s always good to let your little ones to know that they are loved even beyond the stars, the moon, and the sun. People don’t do that often enough and it should continue throughout your life even when they are “all grown up and on there own”. It is also so very important for the child who is not on the spectrum to get “their” own special time with you as often as the child on the spectrum. Remember when we are no longer there, that child will be there, or not, to support their brother or sister and we must make them feel the worth of that.
    You Jessica, seem to always have that and your love for your babies on your mind.
    Just in case you forgot however, you too are loved more than the stars, the moon, and the sun.

  16. Just an idea…something I do with my daughter. We have a notebook that is just for us. We write notes back and forth to each other. Sometimes silly jokes, sometimes just a note that says “I love you” and sometimes we pour our heart out. There are days when we write often and then times when we go days without even opening it…it ebbs and flows, nothing forced or scheduled. She treasures it and I treasure the bond it creates between us.
    Also, while it’s important to say sorry when we blow it and it’s great for them to see in print what they already know, don’t beat yourself up too much. I always try to remind myself that my daughter’s placement in our family is no accident. She wasn’t an afterthought. God didn’t forget that I had four boys needing much attention. Sometimes I wonder what He’s thinking putting her smack dab in the middle of these boys…then I remember there are lessons here for her too. Lessons she will learn/is learning and many lessons she will teach/is teaching. I believe the same is true in your family…Brooke will be the Brooke she was meant to be because she has you, Luau and Katie in her life. Likewise, Katie will be the Katie she is meant to be because she has you, Luau and Brooke in her life. Both of them will go far despite autism AND in part because of it…they already have.

    • oh, kelly. this is absolutely beautiful and poignantly true. and i love, love, love the notebook idea. gonna go get one today!!! thank you.

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