at the same time


{image is a photo of the whole gang decked out for our 10:57 new years celebration.}


I don’t know why Brooke insisted that we count down from seven, but it clearly mattered to her. She was adamant that we not start at ten. So it is that we are starting at seven.


It’s 10:57, but no matter, this will be our New Year’s.

Flexibility is one of the many profound gifts that my children have given me. We Trick or Treat in July; we can count down whenever we get sleepy.


I watch Brooke bounce as we count. A cupcake sits on the table between us, its candles still smoking after being blown out just seconds before as we sang Happy New Year To You at Brooke’s request.

I love the way that my girl celebrates – has taught us all to celebrate.


I scan the room. Luau’s sister, their dad and his wife, their son, Katie. Everyone is on their feet, counting down. They will all do it again in an hour, but no matter, they are happy to join Brooke where she is.


It was just two days ago that Grammy Emmy asked, “Is there anything we can do to help Brooke feel more comfortable while we’re here?”

This is what family looks like.






Brooke squeals.

I can’t stop smiling.


We clink our glasses and blow our noisemakers. The room is filled with laughter.

I think we’ve done it.

I think the night, and the year, are over.

We shout.



It is midnight, an hour after our celebration in the den. Brooke is curled into me in the dark in my room. I’m trying desperately to calm her, to help her calm herself. Nothing is working.


I see the numbers on the glowing television screen above the mantle.

They feel absurd. It all feels absurd. I’m not sure what to do.


“I’m scared!” she yells, again and again. “I’m scared!”

“I’m here, baby,” I say as I hold her to my body.

“You’re safe; I promise.”


I ask if she wants to sit up and see the ball drop. She shrieks as if she’s been burned.

I hold her tighter.

It’s okay, sweet girl, it’s okay.


Words are risky, but I ask if she knows why she feels scared. Despite her ever-expanding access to emotional language, she still has precious few ways to identify feelings – happy, sad, angry, excited, frustrated, scared. How often we default to scared.


Words, even when available, are not always reliable.


“I am scared about that I’ll miss 2014,” she says.




“I know I’ll like 2015, but I’m scared about 2014 being all gone.”

I am, yet again, simultaneously in awe of, and aching for, my youngest child.


Transitions are hard, but by God, she is beginning to language the challenges they bring. I never cease to be amazed by her determination to understand – and to be understood. I will do everything I can to meet her halfway.


I pull her closer as a heaving sob overtakes her. I feel impotent, small, in the face of her anguish.

The ball drops.

I fumble for my phone and text Katie the same thing that I whisper into Brooke’s hair as I kiss the top of her head.

Happy New Year.

I love you so very much. 


17 thoughts on “at the same time

  1. Wow, leaky eyes – that’s just so BIG, and unexpected, and so REAL. How many of us who don’t have her challenges with language, have felt the same way and couldn’t articulate it. Just, wow!

  2. Wow…I love how she had her celebration earlier, without the anxiety of the “real” new year…on her own terms. Had she mentioned being anxious about new years before, or just right at that moment?

      • It will come. Look at the leaps she’s made. Hopefully she’ll continue to add coping skills to her toolbox, which will allow her to communicate upcoming things that make her anxious. And she’s finding her own way to celebrate and be joyful, even in the face of fear. It’s amazing, and something that more people need to learn how to do.

    • Peg, you need to subscribe to the blog through WordPress. In the blog roll, either on the right of the posts or below, depending on whether you’re on a desktop or mobile app, you should see a box that says subscribe. Thank you 😉

  3. I get it. Yesterday my daughter got very upset about the Wii fit not having our ages correct. Our “active ages” were older then our true age and she just could not accept that the machine was wrong. She melted down, refused to play and kept trying to process this over and over for the rest of the evening. Its amazing how their minds work, something I would have never thought was an issue becomes the trigger and in that moment all we can do is hug them, love them and help them ride the wave of their emotion to help them through it. Thank you for your words and stories, knowing we are not alone is so very important.

  4. This is huge. I’m so proud of your girl for being able to voice that feeling even though her emotions were high. She has such a big heart like her mama.

    Maybe remind her that she’s not really leaving 2014 behind? That’s the past is always a part of us. Like the times that she remembers something from long ago like it was yesterday. That’s the past still with her. ☺️ I hope that helps. Love her sweet heart.

  5. Jess, I love your blog for so many reasons. There is such grace and wholeheartedness in your writing, so much openness in meeting your daughter half way. Every so often one of your posts strikes me in such a way that I have to share. I love the fact that you walk in both worlds in this one. The one of your daughter’s creation, and the one that belongs to the rest of us- to the dominant culture- and all in a few lines, show us what we might be missing. What we might know intuitively, but not dare to give voice. And we say it is the neurodivergent ones that have difficulties with language! Perhaps the difference is this: while ‘our’ language comes from the head- from an intense pattern neural connectivity- ‘theirs’ comes from the heart- from the collective unconscious of everything that lies around them (and us) at all times.
    Thanks for this one, Jess.

  6. Oh, wow. She found the language to express what I couldn’t. I completely get that fear – it’s weighs on me each year. She’s a kindred spirit!

  7. Wow! Lots of emotions. My 18 year old has this same scary moment with years passing by. She’s scared of graduating from high school. So always wants to roll back the year that just ended. There is that peace which they feel in what they know. It might go on for a while but she will feel better as the months roll by.

  8. Jess, we experienced a similar reaction with my son last year! He couldn’t understand that all that was changing was the date. He was convinced his whole life was going to change because after all it was a “new year”. He worried about going back to school and kept asking about his teacher and if he was going to have a new one, and his friends, would they still be there or were they going to another class? It was heart wrenching to not be able to put into words that he understood that it wasn’t going to change anything for him (right away). The fear and anxiety of the unknown is a very real daily struggle. Things we just take for granted and “go with the flow” on, and never question, all of a sudden begin to be analyzed and looked at in a different way with a different perspective. I mean c’mon, it’s a “new year” so doesn’t that mean that everything in it is going to be “new”? Thanks for sharing…I continue to learn so much through your posts!

  9. I was just cleaning out my email and came across this post. As I think about all your family has been through in the past week or so, I can’t help but imagine you saying there are no accidents. Perhaps little miss knew there was a reason she would miss 2014 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s