When my firstborn was 11 months, he said his first words: “Papa” and “Okay”. By 15 months, he had many, many words. He was speaking in full gibberish sentences. As a first-time, proud mother, I was convinced that it was a sign of his soon-to-be, ahead-of-his-age conversational skills.
By age 2, he was still speaking undecipherable sentences. He had many more words, but words they remained. No two-word sentences. No two-way communication. The tiny pressure in my chest, that sinking feeling that, “something is not right here”, was making its first grooves in my heart.
Over the months, there was no improvement. We tried to convince ourselves that he was just stubborn. That growing up in a bilingual household of English and Arabic was slowing him down. I was avoiding all conversations with people about the cute things our children said. Because my child wasn’t saying any of those things.
I read and researched. I tried various methods with little or no success. He was stubborn, yes, but there was more to it. I was sure of it. That groove in my heart was deepening.
How long do you wait before you ask for help? Do we not allow for our children to develop at their own pace? How long before you realize that your heart is breaking because you cannot ask your 3 year old how his day at preschool was? How long before you break down crying from the daily frustrations of not knowing what goes on in your son’s head? What is he thinking? Is he happy? Sad? In pain? Uncomfortable? Bored? What? What? What? Use your words. Tell me. Tell me please.
We finally had him evaluated, and began speech therapy early this year, a few months after his 3rd birthday. Progress has been slow, but steady. We are not having conversations yet, because my son is still in the process of understanding the basics of ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’. A child who can rattle off numbers from 1 to 30, who knew his ABCs by the time he was 2, who identified more than a dozen colors before age 3, who could read words off books and cookie packaging – is only just learning the basics of language.
It would be very easy for us to blame ourselves. Did we not talk to him enough when he was in utero? Did we not use enough flash cards when he was a baby? Did we not talk to him, point out objects, sing to him enough when he was a toddler? Did we not try hard enough? I did (and still do) blame myself. The guilt comes easily. As a writer, words are my currency, my outlet, my vehicle. Not being able to use them with my child, hurt. His frustration at his difficulty with them, hurt him. To say that it has been a painful time, is an understatement.
As we move through the motions of speech therapy and preschool, my hope is that soon, we will talk about everything under the sun. I look forward to the million ‘whys’ and ‘hows’. I look forward to, “Mama, I want to tell you something.” I look forward to his words.
Linking up with Shell for Pour Your Heart Out.
Do your children have challenges? How do you handle them?