no words


It is nearly bedtime. We lie together in the dark, scripting and laughing.

“What’s in Winston’s nose?” you ask.

“Snnnnn …. ickers,” I answer.

“Say it right,” you say. “What’s in Winston’s nose?”

“Snnnn …. oopy,” I answer.

You giggle. “Say it the right way!” you say.

“It the right way,” I say.

We laugh together.

Finally, you offer your ear. “Whisper it high,” you say.

I oblige. “Snotties,” I say.

“Do it high!” you say. Even in the dark, I can hear the smile in your voice.

“Snotties!” I say again, this time my voice hitting the highest whisper-pitch I can manage.

“What snotties?” you ask.

“Doggy snotties,” I whisper.

You are satisfied. We laugh.

“How much do I love you?” I ask.

“More than anything in the whole wide world,” you say.

“What would I do for you?” I ask.

“Anything, Mama,” you say as you stick your finger in my ear.

We giggle as I yank your finger out of my ear.

“What wouldn’t I do for you?” I ask.

“Say a mean word,” you say.

“I would too!” I say.

We giggle some more.

We fall into an easy silence. God, I used to fear the silence. But now I know how much it means. It holds no demands nor expectations. It no longer telegraphs an absence of words, but the presence of love and respect. The silence is a gift to us both.

And then it happens. For the third time in as many nights, you burst into tears.

“Oh, baby,” I say. “Come here.”

It’s a silly thing to say as you’re already wrapped into me. There’s really no further to come. But I need you to know that I’m here.

“Do you know what made you cry, sweet girl?” I ask after a time.

“No,” you say through the tears.

I squeeze your back with my flattened palm, hoping the pressure will help.

“Harder,” you say. “As hard as you can.”

I push harder. I’ll never push as hard as I can.

I wonder if there’s something that’s making you cry. Some incident, some moment, some emotion that you’re processing from last week, last month, last year. Something stored for a later date, layers to be peeled back when you’re ready .. is that moment now? Or is it simply everything? By God you work so hard every damn day to navigate this too big, too loud, too unpredictable world. You bend so much in so many ways to accommodate a world full of people who have yet to learn the value of meeting you halfway. I’d cry too. Sometimes I do.

“I feel sad sometimes too,” I say.

“It’s alright to cry,” you tell me.

The Sesame Street song. I send up thanks for their words.

“It sure is, baby,” I say. “It sure is.”

We lie together in the dark as you cry.

“Hey, Brooke,” I say.

My words are slow, deliberate. I want to tell you something, but I know I’ll need to tread carefully.

“When you were really little …”

You scream.


It is a pained yelp.

In the wrong moment, words hurt. They pour out and over you like a toxic soup, searing your skin, filling your mouth and your nose and leaving you struggling for air. Too much too much too much too many words.

I’m so proud of you for being able to tell me not to talk.

I chide myself in the dark. I know better. I do. I just feel so damned impotent and talking – talking is what I do.Words into phrases, phrases into sentences, sentences into stories, stories into sense of it all or no sense at all. Stories into a balm for the Too Much, stories into making it all better. But that’s not how this works. Not for you. I keep the words to myself.

“Thwart?” I ask. One word – safe, benign. You nod, so I push my flat palm into your back again.

“Hardest,” you say. “As hard as you can.”

I push harder. I’ll never push as hard as I can.

I hold you until the tears stop.

I’ve thought about telling you here what it is that I wanted to say last night. I’ve decided not to. The words don’t matter. What matters is that you feel safe. That you know that your mama’s here and will be here until the tears stop – always. And that the silence we share is not an absence, but a presence.

I love you my sweet girl. And there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do – whether it’s to say a mean word, or no words at all.

18 thoughts on “no words

  1. So many well said parts to this. The part about bending so much to accommodate, to working so hard to fit/cope in a world that is becoming ever so more noisier, demanding, and simply overwhelming for everyone I general. So much harder, if your brain processes it all differently.
    Yet the power of Mommy/ a parent/ person who learns to respond and help is immeasurable.
    Thank you for sharing… We too learnt the importance of Mommy snuggle time last night..
    I said to others sometimes it is not about always heaving to fit into the world but the world fitting in to us….. That took me a long time to figure but we are seeing the rewards so much….

  2. You are seriously one of the best people I *know*. Thank u for candid, frank, straightforward truth. It does help my everyday.

  3. Love this. So much love and respect in the scripts and the silence.

    My daughter creates scripts with her closest few. We too have to “say it right”. We love to oblige.

    I recently was sick and lost my voice and my 5 year old autistic son offered to do my scripts. My daughter let him. I had never been be so proud and awed by the two of them.

  4. Wow. I don’t know how you do it. It breaks my heart.
    In some ways I am jealous you have those moments of scripts that connect you two but I guess I should be thankful I don’t have the tears.
    I had lots if the eposodes years ago. -with my first asd son while he was non-verbal. I was able to be quiet like you – sometimes. Other days I couldn’t stop until I found whatever made my baby cry. People would stare or try to get us to leave. My family would say to let him learn to self soothe. Never gonna happen. Not while I can help in any small way.
    My other son – adopted last year can’t even tell me if he is hurt or hungry or wants a hug. It is the most painful experience ever. From him I would love scripts. Any connection or form of communication – there is nothing. No connection. No joy. Maybe someday.

  5. I love reading your posts. Sometimes, they take me two or three passes to read because your eloquent words sometimes stir painful feelings for me because they resonate so much about my relationship with my son – My son, who is only a few years younger than your baby girl and also somewhat resembles her at times. Their moments, their strengths and struggles, they are so similar. I love knowing that I am not alone in our journey; that another mom, many moms, feel the same ups and downs as I do. So, thank you…thank you for sharing your world with us. It’s helped me so much! I wish we lived closer so that our beautiful children could meet. You are such an amazing momvocate!

  6. I’m so proud of her for learning how to ask for the things that she needs, whether it’s the right script, or deep pressure, or no talking. It’s incredibly hard, especially when it’s so difficult to trust your own way of expressing things. When you know you have to phrase it in the right way to get heard. When there have been so many times where you got it wrong. It’s hard to keep trusting and to keep asking. She’s an awesome kiddo. And you’re making it possible for her.

  7. I’ve said before that the area that I most see a similarity between my son and Brooke is where speech development and words are concerned. We had a similar moment yesterday. He started crying so I hugged him and we rocked together, wrapped in a blanket, in the silence for a while. Then I tried to talk and I got that “pained yelp” you spoke of … “No Mom! Quiet Mouth”. And so I was quiet and I hugged and we rocked until his tears stopped.

  8. My not-typical boy acts so typical much of the time that sometimes I’m at a loss when things turn around. Tonight, something similar happened. I sing to him before bed, and sometimes it’s ok to change the words, but other times it has to be “the right way”. Tonight was one of those nights. He got upset, stood up in the bed and stomped his foot. This stomping thing is kinda new – he says he stomps his foot when he’s angry. Which is fine most of the time when he’s on the floor, but not when he’s in a bed with me lying near where his feet were stomping. I reacted with a stern tone, and why he shouldn’t stop in bed with a person so close. And he lost it – pulled away because he thought I didn’t love him, was a bad kid, couldn’t control himself, would hurt people, couldn’t control his life. It took about 1/2 hour to get him calm enough to let me hold him and for him to go to sleep. It was like he was on a loop, and even though the loop didn’t make sense, he couldn’t stop for the longest time. It breaks my heart when I can’t make it better for him, and when he judges HIMSELF so harshly it’s that much worse.

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