Tuesday, February 16, 2010

three years

Three years.

A lifetime.

Three years.

A world away.

Three years.

Might as well be yesterday.

Three years ago I sat by the side of this very pool that I sit by today. Three years ago I was paralyzed, terrified, sinking into an impotent rage.

A year later I'd written about that day.


... We took a vacation last spring when Brooke was four. We were down in Florida and I was watching her drift around the pool in a floaty, aimlessly wandering around the shallow end, like her own little island among various groups of kids playing with each other. She came upon three five and six year old girls who were enthusiastically pretending to be swimming princesses.

Brooke is a child who is incredibly (and, relative to her diagnosis, somewhat a-typically) socially motivated. It is heartbreaking for a parent to watch her attempt to approach other kids, particularly those who don’t know her. She obviously wants to engage other children, but she has no idea how to do it effectively. A year ago, she had even less of an idea than she does now. And so, what she did in order to try to join in the reindeer games was to tell the girls their names.

I’d imagine that it goes without saying that she didn’t actually know their names, but that didn’t deter her. She floated on over to them, insinuated herself right into the middle of their circle, and, with an outstretched little arm, she pointed at each of them in turn. “You’re Maya. You say, Hi, I’m Maya.” “You’re Fooey. You say, Hi, I’m Fooey.” And so on.

I sat paralyzed at the edge of the pool. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Do I smile and pull her away from them without explanation? Do I try to explain? What exactly would I be explaining to a group of five and six year-olds? Do I jump in and somehow try to reshape this misguided attempt at conversation (which is what I would now do, but I wasn’t then prepared to do)? How do I save my child from the hurt that I see coming at her like an oncoming train? What the hell do I do?

As I sat there trying to figure it out, the little leader of the pack piped up and said, “My name’s NOT Maya, you weirdo! Come on you guys.” And with that, she and her little swimming princess posse turned their backs on my baby. I consider myself a good person. I love children. I’m an organ donor. I like rainbows and musicals and cuddly little bunnies. Yet it was all I could do not to drown that little %$@&*


And now, here I sit at this very same pool. Brooke - now just a month away from seven - is over in the hot tub with her dad, floating around in the warm water. I watch her older sister, Katie swimming. She is diving and handstanding and imploring me to watch her every move. Mama, count how long I can hold my breath, Ok? Promise you'll watch, Mama! My big girl. My sweet, typical, big girl.

"Hey," says a voice from behind Katie.

"Hey," she reciprocates.

"How old are you?" asks the girl.

"Almost nine," Katie says casually. "What about you?"

"I'm eight," says the girl.

Seniority has been established.

"So, you want to play?" asks the girl.

"Sure," Katie says with a shrug. "What do you want to play?"

"I don't know," says her new friend.

"Hmm, you want to just do stuff together?" Katie asks.


"Hey, Mama," Katie yells. She waves at me. "We're going to go 'do stuff', K?"

I dare to glance over to the hot tub.

My heart aches with the contrast.

Three years.

A lifetime.

Three years.

A world away.

Three years.

Might as well be yesterday.


Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom, where she writes about life with her two beautiful daughters *Katie* and *Brooke* and her husband, *Luau*. She has recently begun the loooong, slow process of changing their real names throughout her blog to these pseudonyms in an attempt to restore their online anonymity. 


  1. I know, darlin'. I know, times 2.
    Brooke will have friends. i know she will. So what if she doesn't make friends at the pool? I would want to just hang with the fam and wouldn't reach out - I would rather relax!

  2. it's painful that the social world will be more trial and error for brooke. she can't just throw herself into it, but will have to slowly work out who the good kids are, who the bad ones are. and it's unfair, it isn't right. she has such an interesting mind...i love that when she talks, you have absolutely no idea what she's about to say...she's a gift, yet too many kids won't let themselves see that. i just know that one day brooke will read back over these posts and see that she had really wonderful protectors watching over her. she'll know that there were painful moments, but constant love.

  3. The ache is never far away. This I know as well. She will find her friends, the people who share interests. We have to keep believing.

  4. "My heart aches with the contrast." I know that feeling all too well. But we're making progress here, bit by tiny little bit. My E, a fourth-grader, has a real friend at school for the first time. Someone who seems to accept E for all his quirks...and in fact may see them as strengths. For example, what I often see as an inability to keep up a conversation, his friend sees as "being a good listener," according to the boy's mom. And so it will be with Brooke, I am sure. In the meantime, I agree that hanging out in the hot tub with dad is not a bad place to be!

  5. She has come light years from three years ago. Keep looking ahead and not back, as she is miles from there.
    "Katie" is not the typical child as a matter of fact she is the exceptional child and should not be your yardstick.
    "Little one" will make it just keep going as you have been. "Brooke", can as her mother said when she was three or four," do better than she can."
    Love you,

  6. Brooke is light years away from the Brooke of three years ago. She's so much happier in her own skin now. Every time we see her, we marvel at her growth. Katie is-well Katie. She is not your typical child either. They are both so precious--so very very precious.
    Love you all,

  7. I'm not gonna sugar coat it. Yes, we all have those moments, and yes, they cut like a knife.
    But then we have other moments - moments of dancing with abandon at class, of hilarious bon mots, of connection.
    The question I ask myself is where am I at that moment that I'm noticing? Where was I three years ago? A lifetime ago. Have I changed? Am I still essentially the same person?
    Some of it is just Brooke BEING Brooke. Some of it is growth. Some is the development that still needs to come.
    Some of it may be the way the sun is reflecting on the pool, or your cocktail, or (imagine) the mood Brooke is in.
    These moments - ebb and flow, baby. Ebb and flow.

  8. Oh, I know this heartache well, with my own socially motivated child who cannot connect, though he tries and tries. Hugs, my friend.

  9. what drama said.
    ebb and flow.
    there are times i feel we are moving in the same tight circles in the same territory as we did five years ago. but there are also times when i know that i know that i know we are entering a new land.