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Relevant Results

Sorry, there are no results matching your search., a goldilocks jolts report in june.

This JOLTS report ticked all the Fed’s boxes.

most recent jolts report

August 1, 2023

The total number of job openings declined to 9.6 million in June, a marginal drop of 34,000 from May and well above the level suggested by the online job posting sites. Job openings in manufacturing, retail trade and transportation continued to cool due to easing supply chain pressures and a shift in consumer spending towards services. The accommodation and food services sector cooled as well but remained well above pre-pandemic levels. Spending at full-service restaurants has cooled more rapidly than spending at fast-food restaurants.

We have also seen a slowdown in churn in the overall labor market. The number of workers out sick and unable to work dropped down to pre-pandemic levels in May and June. That means fewer staff shortages for frontline jobs.

However, several industries experienced increases in job openings in June. Gains in both healthcare and other services echoed the strong demand for personal services in an aging demographic. State and local governments also reported increased job openings as they attempted to compensate in this post-pandemic labor shortfall.

The public sector has been slower to recover compared to the private sector, often unable to match private sector wage increases. However, a slowdown in overall wage growth, paired with wage increases in the public sector, is helping to narrow this gap.

The drive to increase staff in public sector hiring was reflected in June's payroll report. In June, total hires dropped to 5.9 million, the lowest since March 2021 and consistent with 2019 levels. The hiring slowdown was pervasive across all major sectors. With total unemployment decreasing in June, the ratio of job openings to job seekers remained at 1.6. That ratio is still significantly above the 1.2 job openings per job seeker seen in February 2020 and the 1:1 ratio preferred by the Federal Reserve to defeat inflation. If unemployment rises later this year, the ratios will shift.

Layoffs decreased in June, a trend seen broadly across sectors. The noticeable outlier was the professional and business services sector, which saw a significant increase of 36% from May. Some businesses in this sector, including technology companies, are restructuring their workforces in response to tighter credit conditions.

The total quit rate decreased to 2.6% in June, with 3.8 million quits. It returned to the level seen in April following a spike in May. Retail trade, finance and insurance, healthcare and other services all experienced lower quit levels. That decrease is a positive sign for the Federal Reserve, as lower quit rates could ease the wage pressures employers are facing, potentially leading to slower price increases for consumers.

Further evidence of slowing wage increases was presented in a separate report by payroll processing company ADP, which indicated that the wage increase associated with job-hopping had narrowed in June. If that downward trend continues, job switchers are likely to see wage gains of less than double digits later this year, further reducing wage-related inflationary pressure.

Small businesses, employing fewer than 250 people, accounted for 69% of job openings, 75% of hires, 77% of quits and 72% of layoffs in June. The statistics are consistent with those from May, suggesting that small businesses continue to show resilience in the face of tighter credit conditions. Small business job openings peaked 70.9% in January. A further tightening of credit conditions in the banking sector in the second quarter is expected to hit small and midsized firms, which rely more on traditional banks for their funding.

With job creation and wage increases slowing, the labor market is cooling off in this hot summer.

Bottom Line

The June JOLTS report fulfilled all of the Federal Reserve's expectations. Job openings, hires and quits all declined to the lowest levels in two years. With job creation and wage increases slowing, the labor market is cooling off in this hot summer. Recent data on job postings and payrolls indicate that wage growth is significantly slower than a year ago. The softening labor market could persuade the Federal Reserve that current interest rates are restrictive enough to meet policy targets.

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U.S. Job Openings Were Steady in September

Santul Nerkar

By Santul Nerkar

  • Share full article

Job openings changed little in September, the Labor Department announced on Wednesday.

There were 9.6 million job openings in September, slightly up from August’s revised total of 9.5 million, according to seasonally adjusted figures from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The figure was greater than economists’ expectations of 9.3 million openings. The rate of workers quitting their jobs was flat, at 2.3 percent, for the third straight month.

A construction worker in a yellow safety jacket and a hard hat stands in a Skyjack lift on an exposed level of a new building.

Why It Matters: The Fed looks for signs of a soft landing.

The Federal Reserve closely monitors job openings to understand whether the economy is running too hot. Since March 2022, the Fed has tried to fight inflation by raising interest rates to their highest level since 2001.

The Fed has remained committed to hitting an annual inflation target of 2 percent without causing a significant spike in unemployment — a combined outcome known as a “soft landing.”

Fed officials are expected to maintain a target range of 5.25 to 5.5 percent for interest rates when they meet on Wednesday. The overall trend of slowing job openings is a sign that rate increases have cooled the economy, according to experts.

“All of this means the Fed probably doesn’t feel the need to raise rates further, but they’re not going to ease anytime soon,” said Sonu Varghese, global macro strategist at Carson Group, said of the report on job openings.

Job openings, which reached a record of more than 12 million in March 2022, have trended down, as has the job-quitting rate, while separations have been flat. As openings rose slightly in September, the number of openings per unemployed worker was flat, at 1.5, the same as August.

Less churn in the labor market indicates that rate increases are having an effect, said Julia Pollak, the chief economist at the job search website ZipRecruiter. ZipRecruiter’s latest survey of new employees found that the share of hires who received a pay increase, got a signing bonus or were recruited to their new jobs each fell.

Background: ‘More wood to chop’ for the Fed.

Job openings remain much higher than they were before the pandemic, and the number of unemployed workers per job opening is much lower. Both are signs of a tight labor market.

Inflation also remains above the Fed’s 2 percent target. The Fed’s preferred inflation measure has fallen nearly four percentage points since the summer of 2022, to 3.4 percent.

“The Fed’s primary focus remains inflation,” said Sarah House, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “They’re reading the economy through the lens of ‘What does this mean for the path of inflation ahead?’”

According to Stephen Juneau, an economist at Bank of America, the Fed still has “more wood to chop.” His team expects that the Fed will raise rates one more time, in December, to reach a soft landing.

Economic growth in the third quarter accelerated , and another measure of wage growth grew faster than expected over the summer. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, a key measure of long-term borrowing costs that undergirds nearly everything in the economy, has reached its highest level since 2007 as the outlook for growth has improved.

What’s next: The October jobs report on Friday.

The report on Wednesday morning kicked off an important few days in economic news. After Fed officials meet to decide whether to raise rates, October’s jobs report will be released on Friday by the Labor Department.

The data is expected to show that hiring slowed, with the addition of 180,000 jobs, according to Bloomberg’s survey of economists, down from September’s 336,000. The unemployment rate is expected to tick up to 3.9 percent, after holding steady at 3.8 percent in September.

Santul Nerkar is a reporter covering business and sports. More about Santul Nerkar

Economic Indicators JOLTS

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) tells us how many job openings there are each month, how many workers were hired, how many quit their job, how many were laid off, and how many experienced other separations (which includes worker deaths).

Next update: June 4, 2024

By Elise Gould • May 1, 2024

Below, EPI senior economist Elise Gould offers her insights on today’s release of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for March. Read the full thread here .

Job openings fell slightly in March now 3.7 million below their peak 2 years ago. High levels of job openings at the height of the pandemic recovery were driven by faster churn. Job openings are about 75% of their way back to pre-pandemic normal. Strong but not hot labor market. — Elise Gould (@eliselgould) May 1, 2024
Even with the mild drop in hiring in March, the hires rate remains above the quits rate in every sector. Some workers are still quitting in search of better opportunities but the labor market is decidedly not hot. — Elise Gould (@eliselgould) May 1, 2024

Hires, quits, and layoff rates, 2000–2024

The data below can be saved or copied directly into Excel.

The data underlying the figure.

Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions. The hires rate is the number of hires during the entire month as a percent of total employment. The layoff rate is the number of layoffs and discharges during the entire month as a percent of total employment. The quits rate is the number of quits during the entire month as a percent of total employment.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

Copy the code below to embed this chart on your website.

Total hires, layoffs, and quits, 2000-2024

Note: Shaded areas denote recessions.

The job-seekers ratio, 2000–2024

Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions. Unemployment levels represent the average of the unemployment level for the current month.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Population Survey.

Hires are greater than quits in all sectors while lower wage sectors experience higher levels of quits and hires : Hires and quits rates by major sector, March 2024

most recent jolts report

Notes:  Data provided for all sectors with complementary information on both hires and quits rates for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (x- and y-axis data) and private sector hourly wage rates from the Current Establishment Survey for the corresponding month (data for size of bubbles); 45 degree line represent data where hires rates are equal to quits rates in each sector.

Source:  EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Employment Survey public data series.

Job openings levels and unemployment levels, 2000–2024

Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions. Unemployment levels represent the average of the unemployment level for the current month and the subsequent month in the Current Population Survey to better line up with the job openings data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey and Current Population Survey. Unemployment levels represent the average of the unemployment level for the current month and the subsequent month to better line up with the job openings data.

Job openings levels, 2000–2024

Notes: Shaded areas denote recessions.

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

US job openings hit more than two-year low; labor market still tight

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  • Job openings fall 34,000 to 9.582 million in June
  • Layoffs decline 19,000; quits decrease 295,000
  • Manufacturing stabilizes at lower levels in July

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December 2023 JOLTS Report: Hires Trending Lower

Key points:

  • The US labor market ended the year strong, but the relative weakness in the hiring rate is something to keep in mind as we start the new year.
  • Job openings rose in December, with employers saying they had 9 million unfilled positions at the end of the month.
  • The layoff rate remains below its pre-pandemic rate and has only been above its pre-pandemic low for one month of the last three years.

The usual data stars of the JOLTS report are still shining bright — layoffs are still low, openings are robust, and quitting is back to pre-pandemic levels. But it’s the report’s hires data, a series that traditionally gets less attention, that should be getting its close-up moment. The hires rate did tick up after last month’s drop, but it remains below the levels of a few months ago and continues to trend down. If hiring continues to lose steam, the moderation of the labor market will become more painful as workers have a harder time finding work. 

The hires rate, a close cousin of the payroll growth numbers we’ll get on Friday morning, captures all hires, not just net new jobs. For the most part, the reduction in hiring has been due to reduced churn as fewer workers leave old jobs for new ones. But while quitting has returned to pre-pandemic levels, hiring is currently below its pre-pandemic threshold. The overall hire rate is down, especially in the critical healthcare and social assistance sectors, down 0.6 percentage points in December from November. This is a startling drop in industries that to date have represented a large portion of newly added jobs over the past several years. However, these data can be volatile and this decline might reverse in the months ahead.

Lower hiring can lead to a higher unemployment rate as workers out of a job have a harder time finding work. The good news is that the ranks of the newly jobless are unlikely to increase — the layoff rate is still very low and has only been above its pre-pandemic low for one month of the last three years. The most recent wave of tech and media layoffs to start the year won’t show up in this data from December 2023, but the layoff rate in the Information sectors (which include many tech and media companies) is still slightly below its pre-pandemic level.

Openings surprised to the upside in December, and the November number was revised upward — continued strength that should maybe come as little surprise. At the end of December, job openings were up 25.6% from their pre-pandemic level. On the same day, the Indeed Job Postings Index — which measures the level of jobs employers are advertising on Indeed — was up an almost identical 26.2% from its pre-pandemic baseline.

Last year’s labor market got rave reviews, and for good reason. The labor market moderated but stayed resilient. Job seekers still have plenty of job opportunities, employers are finding hiring less difficult, and policymakers have been pleasantly surprised with prospects for a soft landing. But as we enter the new year, it’s worth keeping an eye on what could upset this positive trajectory. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve should accept the reality that the labor market is not a major threat to sustainably low inflation. 

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The untold story behind January’s jobs report

The untold story behind January’s jobs report

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January’s employment report was released today, and it showed the U.S. economy added 467,000 jobs last month. The top-line numbers are shockingly good, but a closer look reveals troubling statistics for women hoping to return to the labor force. We discuss some of our takeaways from the report. Plus, there’s a troubling new dance trend on TikTok, and we play a round of our Friday favorite, Half Full/Half Empty!

Here’s everything we talked about today:

  • “ January jobs report shows ‘troubling’ signs for women’s economic recovery” from CNBC
  • January jobs report 2022: U.S. adds 467,000 jobs, 4 percent unemployment from The Washington Post
  • “ Dystopic TikTok Trend Demands Amazon Workers Dance for Surveillance Cameras” from Vice
  • America’s hot new job is being a rich person’s servant from The Atlantic
  • “ TurboTax teams with Coinbase to give you your 2022 tax refund in crypto ” from Fast Company
  • “Candy Makers Say Expect Shortages This Valentine’s Day ” from The Wall Street Journal
  • Government workers in Belgium no longer have to answer calls, emails after hours from NPR
  • “Meta’s market value plunges by $230 billion in one day ” from The Verge  

If anything makes you smile over the weekend, or if you have questions or comments, email us at [email protected]. Or leave us a voice message. We’re at 508-827-6278 (508-UB-SMART. )

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Make Me Smart, February 4, 2022 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kimberly Adams:  Okay. Alrighty then. I guess we should get going.

Matt Levin: Let’s do it.

Kimberly Adams:  Hello, everyone. I’m Kimberly Adams, welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense.

Matt Levin: And I’m Matt Levin. It’s Economics on Tap our version of Marketplace’s Happy Hour. Thank you for joining us.

Kimberly Adams: And thank you for joining us, Matt. Welcome to the show.

Matt Levin: I know it’s my make me smart debut. I’m, I’m a little anxious.

Kimberly Adams: Ah, you’ll be fine. We’ll make sure that Drew is nice to you for Half Full/Half Empty, which is the game that we play on Fridays. We also get to some news first and of course, this is the day that we drink. So what are you drinking?

Matt Levin: I am drinking gin on the rocks. Which is kind of like the the Matt special since I discovered that all the calories are in tonic little known fact. And so once I reached the age where I couldn’t, you know, metabolize a cracker without gaining like 15 pounds. I just switched to gin on the rocks. But that’s kind of – yeah.

Kimberly Adams: But the tonic helps you prevent you from getting malaria.

Matt Levin: That’s it. Yeah. Which British naval historians will know was the secret to success of the British Navy. But anyway, that’s another podcast.What are you drinking Kimberly, your your drinks are always more elaborate and interesting. I feel like then your co hosts typically. No, no shade anyone.

Kimberly Adams: I think I just like people get to choose what they invest their time in and I invest my time in cocktails. In this case, it’s mulled wine because it’s cold and rainy here in DC. And so I have made some spice, mulled wine and I put it in one of my fancier glasses just so I can feel very fancy.

Matt Levin: Nice. Looks nice. Is it good?

Kimberly Adams: Thank you. Yes, it’s quite tasty. And it’s  warm. That’s nice. So it makes me feel very cozy. Ah, okay, so I guess we should do the news, why don’t you go first.

Matt Levin: Okay, let’s start here. Kimberly, I know you are you a science fiction fan. Do you watch “Black Mirror?”

Kimberly Adams:  I saw like the first season, but I haven’t seen the more recent ones.

Matt Levin: Gotcha. Well, I highly recommend you finish it. It’s kind of like Twilight Zone for the social media age. That paints a creepingly accurate picture of dystopia. And every day I read stories that feel like a “Black Mirror” episode. And my news fix today is one of those stories so there is a new trend on Tik Tok. And that trend involves dancing Amazon drivers. Have you seen this on Tik Tok.

Kimberly Adams: No, I saw that you sent me a link earlier but I didn’t actually click it. I’m sorry. What is it?

Matt Levin: That’s okay, I won’t take offense. So basically people who are ordering stuff from Amazon will leave notes in the delivery instructions or they’ll leave a note on their door and they’ll say “Please dance for my surveillance camera, for my Ring camera.” Which Ring is that’s the you know camera associated with the doorbell which a lot of people have installed to make sure that their Amazon packages don’t get stolen. So I wish listeners could see your face right now. It’s very concerned. So Amazon drivers are obeying these instructions and they do a little dance and the ring camera records it and then the Tik Tok user posts that to Tik Tok and this has seemed to prove fairly popular, although not all Amazon workers are super super happy with these instructions because from their perspective, they’re worried that, “oh if I literally don’t dance in front of this camera, maybe this delivery gets a bad rating.” This comes from a story from Vice that I saw earlier this week. So that is my news fix.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, that’s really icky. Like, I can definitely imagine, you know, if you’re out on deliveries, and you know, it’s just the trudge and grind the day, and then someone’s like, “hey, take this moment to do a fun dance,” I might totally be the person be like, “Yeah, I’ll do a little happy dance. Why not?” But like, the idea of asking somebody to dance for you has so many additional connotations, especially given the demographics of the folks who typically work these jobs. And I didn’t click on the link to watch the video, but I did see the story when you put it in. And it reminded me of this piece from the Atlantic, I think it was several years ago, I brought it up,  this is from 2019. So pre-pandemic, and they called it the new servant class. And it’s one of these pieces that’s really stuck with me, because it talked about, you know, in our increasingly stratified and terrible economic inequality of a society, you have this growing number of people doing servant, what used to be the work of air quotes servants for the wealthy. And some of it was like, personal services for like, you know, your hair, skin, and nails and stuff like that. But the other part of it was gig work. And this was pre-pandemic. And I feel like that’s only gotten more intense, this idea of you have people who are at home a lot, and then the people who provide services to them. And the level of privilege it takes to ask those folks to dance for you is, is is quite something.

Matt Levin: I, I would tend to agree with that. Yeah, I mean, I do think probably in in some of these Tik Tok users’ mind, they think, let’s just spice up the day of the delivery worker, but there’s no like, self check. That’s like, let me really think about what I’m asking them to do here. So, you know, I always like to bring a little bit of dystopia to whatever conversation I’m having.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, it’s not hard given the world we live in today.

Matt Levin: Exactly.

Kimberly Adams: So mine is about the jobs numbers that came out today, which, you know, they’re really strong numbers.

Matt Levin: Shockingly good.

Kimberly Adams: Shockingly good as as many commentators said, however, not everybody is coming back to work. And every single month, the numbers reflect more and more, that this is still a recovery for some and there’s research from the National Women’s Law Center that shows – I’m just reading this from a piece and CNBC, that over a million men joined the labor force in January, compared to just 39,000 women. And there are 1.1 million fewer women in the labor force now compared to February 2020, you know, at the beginning of the pandemic, and you know, now that interest rates are gonna start going up, this idea that keeping interest rates low was going to stimulate the economy, and the longer the economy was stimulated, the more people would be able to rejoin the labor force and all these things. And, you know, they’re getting ready to raise interest rates, when we still do have these disparities, we still have Black unemployment much higher than white unemployment, women not returning to the labor force in the same way. Now, are these problems the Federal Reserve can fix? Hmm, that’s that’s pretty debatable. But I think it’s just very fascinating when you look just below these top line numbers to see what’s actually going on in this economy. So that was mine. What did you notice about the jobs numbers?

Matt Levin: Well, I mean, so two things that I think are related to what you pointed out. One was everybody expected these numbers to be pretty dismal because of Omicron. And I think what’s particularly relevant for the disparity between men and women coming back to work is schools. I mean, the what was happening with Omicron in schools in January, which was in many places, was you know, kind of an unmitigated disaster, right where, you know, kids were unable to go to class and some schools had, you know, serious issues reopening during Omicron. So that jumped out at me. And then the second was just, you know, from the jobs report how surprisingly good it was. I mean, I guess the overall takeaway, I literally did a piece on Wednesday, that was like kind of prepping people for why this jobs report might be, you know, misleadingly bad. And I woke up Friday morning, saw the Wall Street Journal alert on my phone, and was like, yep.

Kimberly Adams: Oops! Happens to the best of us. happens to the best of us.

Matt Levin: Thank you Kimberly.

Kimberly Adams: Wasn’t you making the mistakes. It was the all the people that you interviewed.

Matt Levin: That’s right. That’s right.

Kimberly Adams: Speaking of shifting the blame, let’s go ahead and play the game. You like that transition?

Matt Levin: I did, that was an amazing segue.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, this is Half Full/Half Empty, where we give you our thoughts and feelings on various topics, although I was told after last week’s show that apparently I play the game wrong, according to Twitter, but…

Matt Levin: Oh, no.

Kimberly Adams: Oh, well. Drew Jostad  is our host today, Drew, let’s go.

Drew Jostad:  Alright, so TurboTax is teaming up with Coinbase to offer you your tax refund in crypto, if you should choose, are you half full or half empty?

Kimberly Adams: Half empty.

Matt Levin: Go for it.

Kimberly Adams: I mean, I feel like if you want to invest the time and the energy and the effort and the risk to get your tax refund in the speculative currency, go for it. But I think the vast majority of people that’s not a great

Matt Levin: Yeah, so I guess I am also half empty to stick to the rules of the game I don’t want to get … on Twitter.

Kimberly Adams: There are no rules.

Matt Levin: I think the full context for this is it seems like everybody got into crypto in 2020 and 2021. And now those who got into crypto don’t really know what to do with their tax bill right. There are certain tax implications for being in cryptocurrency especially if it’s, you know, significantly significantly gone up since you originally invested. I think it’s also part of a larger trend where exchanges like Coinbase and FTX and some of these other very well capitalized companies are pairing with more kind of established entities to do business, which I think is super, super interesting. It’s yet another example that you know, crypto is it is increasingly in meshing itself into all types of aspects of our economic lives.

Kimberly Adams: Do you think this is a way for the IRS to also get a sense of who like is like, if they issue your refund and crypto, they know that you’ve got a crypto wallet and account if they audit you later.

Matt Levin: You know, sure the IRS definitely is more interested in crypto assets now than than they used to be too much to the ire of you know, a big chunk of the crypto community. I don’t know if this particular story you know is spawn from that impulse from the IRS but  you’re not wrong. You’re not wrong.

Kimberly Adams: Okay, what’s next?

Drew Jostad: I don’t know if the IRS would know it sounds like maybe that you –TurboTax sends it to coin base and that’s where it gets converted.  I don’t know on that –  I don’t know if the yeah.

Kimberly Adams: All right. Thank you for tamping down my conspiracy theory.

Drew Jostad: All right, next topic is due to a lack of manufacturing capacity and labor Hershey’s says we might be going into Valentine’s Day with a candy shortage. Are you half full or half empty?

Kimberly Adams: I mean, my waistline is probably half full. But half empty.

Matt Levin: I guess it depends on how you feel about candy as a Valentine’s Day gift. Where are you with that?

Kimberly Adams: Um, that’s a very loaded question.

Matt Levin: Oh, no. I didn’t mean it to be.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, how am I on candy is a Valentine’s Day gift. I purchase a significant amount of Valentine’s Day candy. I will eat a significant amount of Valentine’s Day candy and I do not think well, you know, this is wrapped up in so many things. Galentine’s Day you needed a lot of candy for those parties, is what I’m saying. And so I don’t I guess when it says a shortage? Like how much candy do we actually all need?

Matt Levin: Yeah, I’m  half full on this because I think the the supply chains screwed up my Valentine’s Day gift line of argument will be I can’t wait to watch those Tik Tok videos. So that’s not just the candy but you know, whatever else the floor has had supply chain issues. Sorry, I couldn’t get you flowers, gifts XY and Z supply chain issues wreck. So half  full for me on on this one.

Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on the Belgian right to disconnect law?

Kimberly Adams: All the way full?

Matt Levin: Yeah, me too.

Kimberly Adams: All the way full. This is the the rule that basically gives people the right to disconnect from their jobs and not be available on their phones or on technology and just actually check out. And I think that if we’ve learned anything about our mental health in the last couple of years is that we all need to be able to disconnect for real for real sometimes. So I’m all the way full on that one.

Matt Levin: If – I should double check this. I’m pretty sure the Belgian rule only applies to civil servants. But I will double check that shortly.

Drew Jostad: I think that’s correct.

Matt Levin: Okay, thank you Drew. It does feel like – I’d never question Drew. I think it feels like the Europeans have been a little ahead of the US on stuff like this, as well as kind of like on the privacy component. But especially when it comes to mitigating the technological kind of encroachment of your job. Because it’s not just Belgium, I think a couple other countries in Europe have tried other stuff like this. And again, yes, to preserve the sanity of the workforce, it seems like a a good idea. All right, we got

Drew Jostad: After it dropped more than 25% yesterday, are you half full or half empty on the Meta stock price?

Kimberly Adams: Half empty, there’s a whole lot of people who really actively strongly dislike that company. And those numbers that came out of that Meta earnings report were not great. They are lost a ton of money when Apple clamped down on, you know, that sort of, you know, the advertising and tracking and stuff. And

Matt Levin: That’s right.

Kimberly Adams: The VR situation is not going the way that they want it to. And I’m not sure how either one of those gets better anytime soon.

Matt Levin: Yeah, I’m reluctant to take a position on the stock price specifically, but I’ll say I’ll say overall Facebook has – and I’ll just say Facebook, because that’s what comes out of my mouth. Apologies to the rebranding experts. They have some significant headwinds against them. What was really interesting is Facebook’s earnings were disappointing. But that wasn’t true of a lot of their competitors. And kind of tech broadly, even though the sector took a hit on the market. But Google –

Kimberly Adams: Snap did.

Matt Levin: Yep, Snapchat did well, Google did well. And part of the reason Google did well was because the advertising dollars that were going to Facebook and took a hit from Apple’s new privacy constraints, they’re going well, we can’t target our advertising budget as specifically on social. Let’s go back to search. Which is super, super interesting. Also super interesting kind of like the personal enmity, it seems exist between Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. And this this does seem to be like kind of like a point Cook, at least at this particular junction. So yeah, I don’t think I went half full or half empty there. But it’s, it’s my answer.

Kimberly Adams: Yeah. Not sure if that takes, it at a half full or half and half empty. It just is.

Drew Jostad: I’ll allow it.

Kimberly Adams: Thanks!

Matt Levin: Thank you, Drew.

Kimberly Adams: Thank you. Maybe now the internet won’t yell at me. Oh no, I’m sure people will find a reason. That is it for us today Make Me Smart will be back on Monday with Kai and Marielle if anything made you smile or makes you smile over the weekend, or if you have questions or comments, you can email us at [email protected]. Or leave us a voice message we are at 508-827-6278 That’s 508-UB-SMART.

Matt Levin: I do like this music. Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera and Marque Green. Today’s episode was engineered by the great Drew Jostad. The senior producer is Bridget Bodnar.

Kimberly Adams: The team behind our game Half Full/Half Empty is Mel Rosenberg and Emily McCune. The theme for other music for  Half Full/Half Empty was written by Drew Jostad and the director of On Demand is Donna Tam.

Matt Levin: How’s your mulled wine?

Kimberly Adams: Stronger than I thought apparently I was stumbling a little.

Matt Levin: You were fine. You were fine. I had to pace myself with this gin. So.

Kimberly Adams:  Gin is the devil.

Read Episode Transcript Collapse

None of us is as smart as all of us.

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The children who remember their past lives

What happens when your toddler is haunted by memories that aren’t hers?

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In the beginning, it seemed like Nina was just an imaginary friend.

Two-year-old Aija had invented plenty of fictional characters before, but her parents — Ross, a musician, and Marie, a psychologist — noticed right away that Nina was different. (The family spoke to The Washington Post on the condition that only their middle names be used because of the sensitivity of the subject and because Aija is a young child.) From the time Aija learned how to talk, she talked about Nina, and her descriptions were remarkably consistent. Aija told her parents that Nina played piano, and she loved dancing, and she favored the color pink (Aija emphatically did not). When Aija spoke as Nina, in the first person, Aija’s demeanor changed: Her voice was sweeter and higher-pitched, her affect more gentle and polite than what Marie and Ross typically expected from their rambunctious toddler.

Aija sometimes told them that Nina was afraid of bad guys coming to get her, or of not having enough food to eat; Aija once hid a bowl of cereal and told her mother it was for Nina. One day, when Marie was using the food processor in the kitchen, Aija reacted with horror to the sound: “Get the tank out of here!” she shrieked. Marie couldn’t fathom how her daughter knew the word “tank.”

It all seemed more curious than concerning — until one afternoon in the early spring of 2021, when Marie came to believe that there was something more to Nina. That day, Marie recalls, she and Aija were playing together in their living room, enacting little scenes with toy figurines.

Then Aija suddenly turned to her mother and said, “Nina has numbers on her arm, and they make her sad.”

Marie’s mind raced. “What did you say?” she asked her daughter, willing her voice to remain calm.

“Nina has numbers on her arm, and they make her sad,” Aija said again, pointing to the inside of her forearm. Then she added: “Nina misses her family. Nina was taken away from her family.”

It wasn’t just the words that sent a jolt of adrenaline through Marie’s body, or the way her child said them — clear and certain, with the letter R pronounced correctly, which Aija usually couldn’t manage — but there was also something about Aija’s expression in that moment.

Nearly three years later, Marie tries to explain it: “There was just —” she pauses. “There was such deep pain there.” It seemed beyond what a toddler should know: “The look on her face, it was too old ,” Marie says. “Does that make sense?”

It does, and it doesn’t, even to her, even now. What she knows: that her toddler had never heard anything about the Holocaust, and could not possibly recognize the significance of numbers on a forearm. Marie knows how this story might sound, and she is exceedingly careful about sharing it.

most recent jolts report

“There was just —

there was such deep

pain there. The look

on her face, it was too  old .

Does that make sense?”

Marie, Aija’s mom

most recent jolts report

“There was just — there was

such deep pain there.

The look on her face, it was too  old .

most recent jolts report

“There was just — there was such deep pain there.

The look on her face, it was too  old . Does that make sense?”

most recent jolts report

Marie also knows that she is not alone — that since the 1960s, more than 2,200 children from across the world have described apparent recollections from a previous life, all documented in a database maintained by the Division of Perceptual Studies within the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Sometimes a child presents enough identifying information for relatives or researchers to pinpoint a deceased person, but that level of specificity is elusive; about a third of the cases in the database do not include such a match.

The phenomenon, with its aura of the paranormal, has long been fodder for books, academic studies, newspaper stories and dramatized documentaries. All of these explorations tend to orbit the same existential questions: Is reincarnation real? What happens after we die? How can this be explained? But there is, of course, no scientific means to conclusively prove — or disprove — a mechanism that might explain how a person could recall living a past life.

Which leaves parents such as Marie and Ross to navigate an inexplicable, often isolating experience. Something is happening, that much they know, and so they find themselves facing different but equally daunting questions: What happens — what does it mean, what do you do — when, one day, your child tells you they remember being someone else?

Some of the most notable cases began with a child crying in the night.

In Louisiana in 2000, 2-year-old James Leininger would wake screaming, repeating the same phrases to his baffled and disturbed parents: “Airplane crash on fire! Little man can’t get out!” Over the following year, a story unspooled in memories and drawings: He was a World War II pilot whose plane took off from a boat, and he died when he was shot down by Japanese forces. James offered names of people and places, and his account would ultimately become one of the most prominent and thoroughly documented “cases of the reincarnation type,” or CORT, ever recorded.

In Oklahoma in 2009, 5-year-old Ryan Hammons would lie awake at night and plead: “Can I go home? Can I see my mom?” or “What happened to my children?” Sometimes, he would climb tearfully into his mother’s bed. He was lying beside her one night, Cyndi Hammons remembers, when he said that he needed to tell her something. “I think I used to be somebody else,” he whispered.

Soon after Aija told her mother about the numbers on Nina’s forearm, Aija also began to wake at night in a state of agitation. Crying and pacing in her room, she would say she was afraid of eyes staring at her in the dark, or “bad guys” who would take her away, or bluish clouds that were “coming to kill us all.”

By that point, Marie says, she had done more reading about children who seem to recall past lives, and felt convinced that Aija was experiencing the same phenomenon. “I always tried to remain open-minded,” Marie says. Ross was less certain, but he agreed that whatever was happening seemed extraordinary.

In the moments when Aija seemed scared or inconsolable, her parents learned that what helped most was simply to stay close. They would hold her, or sit calmly on the floor, and remind her that she was safe. “I didn’t know what to do except love her through it,” Marie says. Aija, who was otherwise a fearless and happy kid, sometimes seemed to share their bewilderment. One night, as Marie tried to soothe her daughter, Aija asked a question her mother couldn’t answer: “Why do I have these bad pictures in my heart?”

Marie eventually shared these stories with a few trusted friends from her graduate school psychology program. “They were like, ‘This is not normal for a 2-year-old,’” she says.

For many of the parents who find themselves in this surreal circumstance, there comes a point when they realize that it is not a passing phase. It isn’t the kind of topic they can research in parenting books or casually bring up to their peers at the playground.

So they do what any parent might do when they have a question they’re not sure how to answer: They turn to the internet. They pull up Google — child talking about past life? — and discover a search result that looks startlingly legitimate. “Advice to Parents of Children who are Spontaneously Recalling Past Life Memories,” reads the headline on the page of the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s website, and further down, “Contact Us, ” and that is how they come to the attention of Jim Tucker.

As director of the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia for the past 10 years, Tucker has worked directly with nearly 150 families, making comprehensive records of children’s descriptions of past-life memories.

Tucker inherited this work from Ian Stevenson, U-Va.’s former psychiatry department chairman and the founder of the division that would eventually become DOPS. Beginning in the 1960s, Stevenson traveled the world documenting cases of the reincarnation type, publishing academic papers and a number of books about his findings before his death in 2007. Stevenson’s reputation — even among those skeptical of the topic — was that of a serious and scrupulous scientist, someone who openly examined both the strengths and weaknesses of the cases he chronicled.

Tucker learned of Stevenson’s research while completing his residency at U-Va., but he didn’t become more interested until nearly a decade later. After nine years in private practice as a child psychiatrist, Tucker married a clinical psychologist who was curious about reincarnation, telepathy and near-death experiences. “That opened me up a little,” Tucker says, and in 1996 he began assisting Stevenson with a study of people who had had near-death experiences. Since joining the School of Medicine full time in 2000, Tucker has split his focus between DOPS and his work as a clinician and professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences.

Stevenson’s ideas faced no shortage of criticism from the scientific community: Some maintain that consciousness is generated by the brain and therefore cannot survive beyond its death; others have speculated that the children he documented could be reciting “false memories,” having been unintentionally pushed toward a particular narrative by their parents.

Tucker shares Stevenson’s desires for these critics to engage with the evidence in the case reports, and for the work of DOPS to be destigmatized; but Tucker’s own goal is more personal. “In many ways, I am doing this to try to sort it out for myself,” he says. “With each case, I come in with certainly an openness, but also, I think, a fairly critical eye: What is the level of evidence, and could it be explained in other ways?”

Certain consistent patterns have emerged: The most pronounced and convincing cases, Stevenson and Tucker both found, tend to occur in children between the ages of 2 and 6. They might suddenly describe places they have never been, people they have never met, sometimes using words or phrases that seem beyond their vocabulary. Nightmares or sleep disturbances are occasionally reported. Many of these children are highly verbal and start speaking earlier than their peers. Their descriptions of past-life recollections often fade away entirely by the time the child turns 7 or 8.

most recent jolts report

“In many ways, I am

doing this to try to sort it out

for myself. With each case,

I come in with certainly

an openness, but also,

I think, a fairly critical eye:

What is the level of evidence,

and could it be explained

in other ways?”

Jim Tucker, director of the

Division of Perceptual Studies

at the University of Virginia

most recent jolts report

“In many ways, I am doing this

to try to sort it out for myself.

With each case, I come in with

certainly an openness, but also,

Jim Tucker, director of the Division of Perceptual

Studies at the University of Virginia

most recent jolts report

“In many ways, I am doing this to try to sort it out for myself.

With each case, I come in with certainly an openness, but also,

I think, a fairly critical eye: What is the level of evidence,

and could it be explained in other ways?”

Jim Tucker, director of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia

most recent jolts report

These similarities span accounts recorded around the world. Among the cases in the DOPS database, about 15 percent are North American; of those, an overwhelming majority are from Indigenous communities. “There’s no question that the cases are easier to find in cultures where there’s a belief in reincarnation,” Tucker says.

The true prevalence of this phenomenon is difficult to know, Tucker says — particularly given that many families might not recognize it, or might actively suppress it — but DOPS is contacted by about 120 families per year, most of whom are American. If a child’s recollections are detailed enough to potentially identify a particular individual, DOPS opens an investigation, and the case is entered into the database.

But even if a child can offer that level of specificity, sometimes parents don’t want to know more. “That can be the frustrating part, where you get what starts like a really interesting case, but then the parents don’t stick with you,” Tucker says.

Other times, parents can be too intrigued — which can muddle potential evidence. If parents ask leading questions, or if children learn that certain statements are met with dramatic or enthusiastic responses, it can be difficult to discern whether a child is just trying to please their parents.

Tucker is convinced that the vast majority of families he’s met are not lying or embellishing their accounts to draw attention. In fact, he says, the opposite is often true: Many parents are quite unsettled by their child’s claims and do not want to publicly share them.

That impression is echoed by Tom Shroder, a former Washington Post editor and author of “ Old Souls: Compelling Evidence From Children Who Remember Past Lives ,” who accompanied Stevenson as he studied cases in Lebanon and India. None of the families they interviewed, Shroder says, seemed to have any personal or material motive to misrepresent what they’d witnessed. “They were normal people relating their experiences,” he says. And what they were describing of their children, he says, “is so clearly not normal imaginative behavior.”

Tovah Klein, a leading child development psychologist and author who directs the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development in New York, confirms that assertion.

She explained that at age 2 or 3, children engage in fantasy play, but they are not likely to fabricate a statement involving their primary relationships. In other words: Saying “You’re not my mom” or “I want my other parents” or “Where are my children?” — common among these cases — is not something you would typically expect a very young child to say, let alone repeat insistently. “It doesn’t sound like confusion,” Klein says. “It sounds like a real statement. And young children just don’t make this kind of thing up.”

What to make of that, then? Being receptive to this kind of message from a child requires a degree of openness that might feel challenging, Klein says, particularly in the absence of a clear scientific explanation.

“Sitting with the unknown, for humans, is perhaps the hardest thing we have to do,” she says. “But we owe it to a child, we owe it to the family, to listen, and to try to understand and support them, wherever they are, whatever is happening.”

On a sunny Saturday morning in late August, Tucker parks his car on a suburban neighborhood street in Alexandria, Va., outside the home of one of Marie’s friends. “Let’s see what we have here,” he says as we walk to the front door of the house, where we are greeted by Marie, her friend Shawn, and Aija, a petite, elfin child in a Spider-Man T-shirt, her wispy blond hair tied in a loose topknot.

We settle inside, where Aija plays with magnetized blocks and munches graham crackers, while Marie and Tucker go over paperwork for the research study. Tucker is poised and soft-spoken, his tone calm and steady when he leans forward to speak to Aija. “I understand you’ve been talking about Nina,” he says.

“Yeah!” Aija chirps in a sweet, singsong voice.

“What can you tell me about Nina?” Tucker asks.

“Oh!” Aija says. “She is being me.”

Tucker mishears this: “She’s being mean?” he asks.

Aija shakes her head. “She’s being me.”

Tucker nods. “Well, one thing your mom mentioned was that Nina had some numbers on her arm. Can you tell me about that?” At this question, Aija lowers her eyes and falls silent, pressing her small body against the couch cushions. “Don’t want to talk?” Tucker says gently. He is well accustomed to the challenges of conversing with a small child and never pushes beyond what feels comfortable. “Well, I will talk with your mom a little bit about Nina, and then you speak up any time you want to, all right?” he says, and Aija nods.

“Do you remember the first things she would say about Nina?” Tucker asks Marie.

“She would say that Nina is very fancy,” Marie says. “And she also sometimes would be very theatrical. That or shy. Her personality has been really consistent since we started hearing about Nina.”

“Were there things that made you think this was different from an imaginary friend?” Tucker asks.

“Just the consistency,” Marie says. “And like, who Nina was and her background.”

Over the next hour, Marie describes standout moments from Aija’s story: How she once sat down at a piano and sounded out the melody to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and when her parents reacted with surprise, she said, “Nina taught me how to do that.” How Aija sometimes cried when she spoke of how Nina missed her family. How Aija once dramatically declared to her parents, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the end of the world!” and curtsied.

“It’s a little disturbing to hear that from a 2-year-old, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” Marie says with a slight laugh.

Tucker nods. “You kind of wonder where she even picked up the expression.”

Throughout their conversation, Tucker is thorough and attentive, carefully recording each detail Marie shares. At moments when Marie or Shawn become animated about something Aija has said — at one point, they wonder whether Aija’s reaction to the cover of a book written by a Holocaust survivor might be a sign of some connection to the author — Tucker remains impassive and pragmatic.

“It’s not always clear how we should put the pieces together,” he tells them. He understands the impulse to identify a specific person Aija might be recalling, but “most of the time, certainly in the American cases, we’re not able to identify one particular person,” he says. “Presumably there were a lot of Ninas in concentration camps.”

Toward the end of the interview, their discussion turns toward what the experience has felt like for Aija and her family. Marie talks about how they’ve neither prompted nor discouraged Aija from talking about Nina, responding instead with a neutral openness. Tucker nods approvingly.

“The good news is that this stuff almost always fades, and will often disappear, and hopefully over the next year or two you’ll be hearing less and less about Nina,” Tucker says. The more Aija becomes fully involved in this life, he says, the more Nina will recede: “Often school helps them do that.”

Later, when I call Tucker to ask him what he thought of Aija’s story, he says that he found the family’s account compelling, but there was not enough specific detail to continue an investigation. “It basically becomes one more unverified American case,” he says.

But even if Tucker couldn’t guide Aija’s family toward a clear resolution, it seems he provided something perhaps even more meaningful. “I felt so much validation,” Marie tells me. “I have been having this feeling, like, ‘This is so profound; is anyone else seeing this?’ And I felt like we were finally seen.”

It made her think that, at some point, she might seek out another parent who has gone through this before, someone who could tell her how it all plays out. “I would love that support,” she says. “Just to talk to these parents, like — what have they done? How do they feel?”

Over the past dozen years, Cyndi Hammons has grown adept at fielding the messages that appear in her Facebook inbox, sent by overwhelmed parents who don’t know what to do about children who seem to be remembering a past life.

“Anybody who is struggling with it, I tell them, ‘You’re going to make it through,’” she says. Mostly, she just tries to listen and offer understanding. “I don’t know that I’ve helped anybody, but I know what it feels like. I know what the fear feels like, what the judgment feels like, and it’s heavy,” she says. “And most cases aren’t solved. Ryan’s was solved. So I was very lucky.”

It didn’t feel lucky in the beginning, when Ryan was waking up sobbing at night and describing things his mother couldn’t fathom: that he remembered living in Hollywood in a big white house with a swimming pool. That he once had three sons and a younger sister. That he drove a green car, and his wife drove a black one.

“It felt like living with someone who had Alzheimer’s, mixed with grieving,” Cyndi says. But that someone was her small child, and all she wanted was for him to feel safe and happy.

Cyndi didn’t tell anyone at first, not even her husband, Ryan’s father. Kevin Hammons was the son of a Church of Christ minister, a police officer in their small town in Oklahoma, and Cyndi knew what he would think. For months, it remained a secret between mother and son. She brought home library books about Hollywood in the 1940s so Ryan could leaf through the pages. When he wanted to collect sunglasses instead of Hot Wheels, or window-shop for suit jackets, or listen to Bing Crosby, “that’s what we did,” Cyndi says.

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“It felt like living

with someone who

had Alzheimer’s,

mixed with grieving.”

Cyndi Hammons, Ryan’s mom

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“It felt like living with

someone who had Alzheimer’s,

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“It felt like living with someone

who had Alzheimer’s, mixed with grieving.”

most recent jolts report

But Ryan’s night terrors and recollections did not stop, and eventually Cyndi told Kevin what was happening. He didn’t initially accept the possibility of reincarnation, she says, but as a detective, he told her to write down everything Ryan said. Not long after, Ryan saw a man he recognized in one of his library books, a peripheral figure in a photograph of six men: “That’s me!” he told his mother.

Cyndi wrote to Tucker, and in April 2010, with the help of a production crew from the A&E series “The Unexplained,” they were able to identify the man as Marty Martyn, a movie extra and talent agent who died in 1964.

With Tucker and the television crew, Cyndi and Ryan traveled to California to meet Martyn’s daughter, Marisa Martyn Rosenblatt, who was 8 when her father died. She was skeptical — but she ultimately confirmed many of Ryan’s statements about Marty Martyn, including some she hadn’t realized were correct. She didn’t know that her father had driven a green car, or that he had a younger sister, but it turned out both claims were accurate. Marty Martyn’s death certificate cited his age as 59, but Ryan insisted he had died at 61; Tucker found census records and marriage listings that confirmed this, as did Martyn’s daughter.

When the episode of “The Unexplained” aired in 2011, it catapulted the Hammons family into a different realm, where their names were in newspaper headlines, and everyone in their town knew Ryan’s story.

“Kevin and I had professional jobs. I was a county clerk’s deputy for 14 years,” Cyndi says. “We were known in our community.” But that didn’t stop people from telling her their thoughts: Your child needs to find Jesus. You’re a bad parent. Are you doing this for money?

“People don’t really understand this unless they’ve lived it,” she says. “Everything pivoted around protecting Ryan. I didn’t care what anyone thought about me — it didn’t matter. I knew the truth, and I just knew that Ryan had to be okay.”

Ryan is a college junior now. He doesn’t remember being Marty Martyn anymore, and this isn’t a story he shares when he meets people. He still isn’t sure how to label what he experienced: “I’m open to anything,” he says, “but I cannot say with certainty that reincarnation is real.” He says he is at peace with the unknown, focused now on his future.

But he knows his mother is still searching for answers about what they lived through. Time has made Cyndi the lone keeper of those memories: Ryan’s father died two years ago, and Ryan’s recollections have faded. “It isn’t really my story,” he says. “It’s kind of her story now.”

A few weeks after Marie and Aija meet with Tucker in Virginia, Aija starts attending preschool — and as Tucker had predicted, Nina’s presence begins to subside. Aija is enthralled with her new school and the friends she makes there.

Several months later, on a cold Sunday morning in February, Aija twirls and dances to a playlist of favorite songs in the bright living room of her grandmother’s house in Michigan. Her parents sit nearby, describing a transition that feels, to them, like the beginning of an ending. Only months ago, they say, Aija would speak as Nina, or about Nina, nearly every day; now, several days might pass without any reference to her. So far, Nina has never been mentioned at school, at least not to their knowledge. Aija turned 5 in December, and Tucker had told Marie that past-life recollections often begin to fade around this age.

As a family, they’ve been reflecting on their experience recently. Marie feels certain that Nina is some sort of distinct entity, that Aija carries memories that aren’t her own. Ross’s mother — whom Ross describes as “more conservative” — is convinced that Nina is just an imaginary friend, like the ones Ross used to conjure when he was a small boy. Ross says he understands the human impulse to name something so mystifying, but he doesn’t share that need. “The mystery — I can observe it, but I don’t need to define it,” he says.

Months have passed since Aija described the frightening imagery that once defined her night terrors, and Marie says she would be profoundly relieved if those episodes never returned. “You never want to see your child suffer,” she says. “I hope she never has dreams of that intensity again.”

Yet Nina has also been a source of joy for Aija — a companion of sorts, whose presence has infused moments of her early childhood with a gentle, delicate charm. That, too, is beginning to recede, which feels more poignant to Marie: “There is a kind of nostalgia, already.”

Ross nods in understanding. But he feels more at peace with the ebbing of Nina’s influence, he says; it seems to mirror so much of parenthood, the constant movement from one uncharted landscape to the next. “The disappearance of it feels like part of the natural progression,” he says. As a family, they have learned to stay open to whatever comes.

Marie lifts her phone to select a new song to play, and Aija raises her arms into position for her next dance. She looks at her parents and grins. “Are you ready?” she asks.

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