The Difference Between Difficult and Hard


Yesterday was an everyday kind of day, and yet a roller coaster of emotions.  Which still makes it qualify as an everyday kind of day.

I posted a video onto Instagram of Owen chatting to me about his day at school.  He talked for the entirety of the eight-minute drive home, and raised the pitch of his speech at the end when he was asking a question, or looking for a response.   He was animated and excited and engaging…

And I couldn’t understand more than two or three words of it.

I called Scott – only expecting to ask him if he thought there might be a better way of deciphering what our little boy was trying to tell me – but we never got that far into the conversation.  As soon as he answered the phone, my voice began to crack, and any hopes for a productive conversation were dashed.  I immediately began to cry.  And I told him that Owen didn’t even realize that I had no idea what he was saying, and how much that saddened me for him.

It is hard – I was going to say “difficult” because that’s the more appropriate literary term here, but it seems too soft of a word for this, too mild.  This part, these moments when my son so desperately wants to tell me about his day, his school, his friends – and cannot.  Well, it’s just hard.  Difficult has the gentle tug at you to try to push yourself further, that the top of the mountain and all the self-satisfaction you will be rewarded with will soon be in sight if you just persevere.  Hard is that same mountain, only you’re unsure of your footing, and the rocks are jagged and scrape your skin as you climb.  Hard is having the peak of the mountain obstructed by mist and fog, so you’re not truly able to gauge how much further you have to go.

This is hard.  And sad.  And frustrating.

And at the same time, full of promise.  And Hope.

And it’s illuminating.

And I can actually see the silver lining in all of this once my tears have dried.

Because Owen is trying to talk to me.  He wants to share his day with me, and tell me about his friends and his teachers and his school.  And he is animated and excited and engaging…

And that says something.  It is a step forward.  It is a breakthrough.

It is good.  So, so good.

It is good to hear his sweet tiny voice that sounds so much like his big sister’s.  To hear him make himself laugh as he regales some tale of a funny thing that happened during the course of his morning.  To hear the identical laugh that emerges from Parker and smile – because there is nothing better than that giggle, those sounds of delight that come from deep within his round little belly.

And then it hit me.

Owen didn’t even realize, or notice, or care that I had no idea what he was saying.  He went on and on, chatting with me in his garbled, unintelligible way with a smile on his face the whole time.  He had an audience. And an enthusiastic one, at that. And he reveled in it.  He was just happy to “talk” to me, and elicit a response – even if it was the circular, recycled pat responses of “Uh huh? Really? What else happened? Tell me more!”

Because he doesn’t know any better.  He doesn’t realize that he shouldn’t have to repeat the same exact sentence five or ten times as I desperately attempt to glean one or two clear words from it in order to piece together the puzzle of his communication.  He will patiently, happily repeat those words to me though – each and every time I ask.

And it breaks my heart that I rarely figure out the content of these musings he is trying to share with me.

And it fills my heart to see his determination and his spirit undeterred despite that fact.

And I am deeply saddened that he does not yet comprehend that it shouldn’t be that hard.

And I am relieved that he does not yet comprehend that it shouldn’t be that difficult.

Somedays the mountains Owen hikes are difficult, and sometimes the mountains he climbs are hard.

But he is ascending.

Because he is blissfully unaware that there is a peak to be reached.

And when you have no idea of where you are headed, sometimes all you need is patience and the perseverance to keep going until you get there.

And a good belly laugh.


  1. awd24 says


    These words are everything. What you are dealing with, and beautifully, IS hard. It is the very definition of hard. And you are doing it with grace and grit and love. It is nothing short of a privilege to witness your story, and your boy, and YOU evolve. And it is nothing short of a privilege to be by your side, miles away, as we plunge into our early morning stories and ideas, imagined and very much real. Keep writing, weeping, climbing.

    You are ascending, too.

    See you in a few hours.


    • says

      I mean, what am I supposed to respond to this, Aidan? After today, and keys, and deep conversations about – well, everything. That I am privileged to be in this friendship with you – both literary and personal – is an understatement. Thank you for writing this, for being here, for being there… As I told you earlier – Jenny Feldon and I have officially deemed you ***magic*** (must be whispered for full effect)… xoxo, J.

  2. says

    After having two of the most challenging days as a parent that I think I’ve had in the last 6 years these two lines ” And I am deeply saddened that he does not yet comprehend that it shouldn’t be that hard.
    And I am relieved that he does not yet comprehend that it shouldn’t be that difficult” could not have better summed up my feelings. I love reading your blogs as they are compassionate, inspiring and a beautifully written window into the joys/and heart aches of parenting that can be even more emotional when you have a child who has more challenges then they should.

    • says

      I have no idea what has transpired in the past 48 hours, Al, but I will be calling you tomorrow to find out. Whatever it is, you will move past it and keep moving forward. You have found strength in yourself recently that you are too busy trying to attribute to the outside influence of others, to see that it has all come from right within you. And that makes me mad. Because I love you and you have worked too hard to let other people shine when you should be taking the credit. xoxo, J.

  3. says

    I can’t imagine what beautiful mothers like you have to deal with. I do have 4 kids, and 3 of them have special needs, but nothing like this. Some days I ask God, “why” so many times. But I never get an answer. I guess the only answer I do get is when my kids hug me and tell me they love me; that’s MY answer. For you, it sounds like the smiles. Owen’s smiles must be magical to you. My teenage daughter has Aspberger’s, and it has made her life etremely difficult; I cry inside for her almost daily. So you’re not alone, sweety. And my twin 11 year old sons with severe ADHD make them stand out like sore thumbs everywhere they go. Another “why” for me. But you know what? God created these beautiful children all of us amazing mothers have for a reason. They’re so special. They’re so wonderful. They’re NOT like everyone else. And for that, most days, I am so thankful. Some days I’m not, but hey, that comes with the territory. Anyway, I’m babbling on & on. The most simple thing to say is {hugs}, and you’re not alone out there. 🙂

  4. says

    Beautiful post. I’m going to share this with my sister who went through/is going through something similar with my nephew. Just know you’re not alone.

    • says

      Thank you, Evelyn. I don’t think people truly realize how much it means to me to know that these pieces of my life are shared with others – to help other parents feel a little less alone, is what helps me to know the very same about myself. J.

  5. cms17 says

    Thank you. We had a different kind of hard day yesterday. My 21-year-old son, who was recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism, did not get a call for an interview for a job that seemed just perfect for him. He has been trying to get a job for several years and has yet to even get an interview. He knows it shouldn’t be this hard. I regret that I didn’t realize years ago that he isn’t just quiet, shy, intelligent, mature, and gentle, but actually has a developmental delay. I am advocating for him more now, and today hope to talk to the HR person who didn’t call him to see if he can offer any feedback or suggestions. Your post inspired me to keep at it and keep positive.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing what must be such a heartbreaking process for you to experience – and to watch your son experience… I’m not always able to keep positive – on my best days, I vacillate back and forth a hundred times. They key is in coming back to it… I wish you and your son all the best… J.

  6. Jennifer says

    Keep ascending. Because just like your little boy, I see that you are ascending too.

    Thank you so much for sharing these words.

    Lately, I have been looking at young children as my role models. I think back to my younger self: so determined, full of life and spirit. And then I learned a mountain of negative. I learned to be scared. I learned to be shy. I learned to be judgmental. I wasn’t born that way — I picked up those bad habits along the way. And now, I just look at the children that live around me or the children of friends and I am amazed at their spirits. They are pure and so wonderful unencumbered by the conditionings of society. It is inspiriting.

    • says

      Thank you, Jennifer. I couldn’t agree more – society teaches us to be careful, to be self-limiting in so many ways – and naturally we pass these lessons down to our children as a means of protecting them. I wonder what would happen if we were able to break that cycle…? J.

  7. says

    Hi. Found you on Love That Max. I can certainly relate to this post. Sometimes I do not know what my son is saying either. He is five and on the autism spectrum with significant speech delays. Sometimes he comes to me and goes on to explain something that just happened and I have no clue what he is saying. I still engage him and say yes? Okay. Our kids are very resilient and determined.Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. says

    I have a friend who went through the same thing with her little boy. After a few years of speech therapy, this little boy is talking better than most other kids his age! Keep it up, and remember that the hard times DO pass!

  9. says

    I found you via Love that Max and I wanted to tell you that my daughter (who is 6 and has CP) does the same thing. There’s even a name for it – jargon. Sometimes my kid says actual words – even sentences – and sometimes we get these smooth strings of vowel-consonant mashups with tone and inflection, with a word or two buried in there. (She also uses a standalone AAC device, but she doesn’t always want to use it to clarify…) When the jargon comes along, I do what you do – I respond to her as if I understood. And sometimes I wish I had a dictionary for her language…or could simply understand what she was saying. Because it’s obvious she’s saying LOTS of important things. I totally get it and I wanted you to know you’re not alone! 🙂

    • says

      Thank you, aplacetowritethings! I really appreciate that you’ve shared your story here and I only wish you and your daughter the best… These can be difficult and frustrating waters we find ourselves in, and it’s so nice to know we’re not in them alone! Please keep reading and sharing here… J.

      • says

        And thank YOU for sharing your story so beautifully and so honestly! I had to sign in with WordPress (and I’ve tried to post this comment three times – hope this time it works!) but my name is Marla and my blog is this username at blogspot dot com – stop by sometime! 🙂 I look forward to continuing to read your posts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *