Picture this: 28-year-old me.
Young wife and frazzled mom of Baby Tyler and two-year-old Tuck, neither of whom were talking yet.
I wrote these words in 2008.
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I have discovered recently, or rather I think I have known all along but have only recently verbalized, that raising a child with expressive speech delay is a very lonely journey. Robb and I are on the same page, and we have lots of people who love our child, support us, encourage us, and rejoice in every new word.
But when it comes down to it, sometimes this journey feels very lonely.
The thing is, for any other parenting dilemma, I have countless resources and lists of people to talk with to glean perspective and wisdom. Any mom can talk about her experiences with tantrums, nutrition, bedtime routines, sippy cups, and the like. But when it comes to language needs, I feel like I’m on my own.
Everybody else’s kids talk.
Even as I type that, I know that’s not really true, but it sure feels that way. The truth is that there are enough children with this challenge that the state of Colorado provides free services to help us all get our children where they need to go while their brains are still little sponges. I know that – in my head. But in my heart, there are days when I want to pick up the phone and call a friend whose child is also a year behind, and just talk about how the morning has gone.
Today, Nicole (our speech therapist, for any new readers) offered me some information on a support group for parents with developmental delays. I know the previous paragraphs sound as though this is the answer to my problems of isolation, but I’m not sure I want to do it. While I don’t want to feel alone on this journey, I also don’t want Tucker’s language to define us. I don’t want to fill our weeks with speech therapy, then our support group, and then the next thing I might feel like we need to make the most of this. Not sure I’m ready to go there either. It’s quite an internal dichotomy.
Sometimes, I just want to be Tucker and Mommy. Not Tucker with a speech delay, not Mommy the Sign Language Interpreter. It is who we are, but we are bigger than that. More importantly, Tucker’s bigger than that.
Sometimes I think I’m missing out. I have always loved two- and three-year-olds. I love talking with them. I love precocious preschoolers with so much to say. They are so transparent, and they love to talk about whatever crosses their minds. I love to ask probing questions, and I love their brutally honest answers. I love to know what occupies their imaginations; I love to know what they think about.
I can’t do this with Tucker. We talk about lots of things, on a level and a language all our own. But sometimes, on hard days, I feel like I’m missing out. I would love to know what he’s thinking, what he’s imagining, what he dreamt about last night. I would love it.
I know our day will come, but I just hope we haven’t missed his transparent window. When kids turn five or six, they become a bit more inhibited, even if it’s ever so slightly. Sometimes you have to ask the right questions to get the right answers. I hope I don’t miss the days of gloriously honest and seemingly ridiculous chats and conversations with my little guy.
I truly can rejoice in Tucker’s growth and victories, especially when I compare him only to Tucker. He’s doing great. I’m so stinkin’ proud of him, and I never, ever get tired of his darling little voice. Today he discovered the word noodles, and although you might not recognize it if you heard it, I do.
It all brings me back to the same point again and again: God has put us on this path together, Tucker and his family. We are learning things we didn’t know we didn’t know, and Robb and I have found ourselves exchanging quiet glances across the table or tender hugs at the end of the day, all in celebration of our sweet Tucker. We are a team, even on the lonely days.
And in the end, I don’t think I’ll miss the chats with my little man. The truth is, I am investing in his heart everyday, truing so hard to help him know without ta doubt that his every word is important to me. So later on, even if it’s longer than I had hoped to wait, I hope he’ll still want to talk to me.
Maybe we’ll talk about Mickey Mouse and Bob the Tomato. Or maybe we’ll talk about his favorite books and songs. Maybe he’ll tell me what he’s afraid of, or what he is striving for more than anything. Maybe we’ll talk about the girl he’s crazy about. Maybe we’ll talk about the paper he has to write for his college English class. You know what? I just want to listen to him talk and talk and talk.
And I’ll be listening.
My son will be 3 at the end of June and I feel so alone. He understands everything (plus some) that is said to him, but he doesn't speak too much. He has blossomed A LOT in the past 3-4 months, but he's still very far behind where he should be. He doesn't qualify for the early intervention program here, due to his other skills, he's not "delayed" enough - 25%. We've taken him to a speech therapist, but she was awful and he had no progress. She suggested he was autistic, simply because he is painfully reserved. I don't want to miss the window to help him, but I also don't know where to turn. Again, I feel so alone. Tucker (and you, Tricia) gives me hope.
Does he go to a preschool at all? The reason I ask is because for our son that alone made a huge, huge, huge difference. Putting him into a social situation with others kids (where we weren't there to help him) helped him learn to use his words almost right away. I don't know you or your child so take that for what it is -- anecdotal - but as I read your comments, I wondered about that and thought it might help if you weren't already doing it. Have you tried contacting the local public school system? They might have a program that he could participate in when he turns 3.
He doesn't go to preschool anymore. He was going, but it wasn't doing anything for him, so we pulled him back out. I'm part of a mom's group, so he does have interaction with other children and he doesn't come and rely on me. He observes what the other children are doing and joins in, listening to the others. I stay home with him and we work daily on phonics.
The school system does have a program he can join when he turns 3, but he will have to wait until August when school begins again. I'm trying to get a jump start before 5 months from now.
Thank you for your advice. I may try preschool again soon.
As a Mom who went through exactly what you have gone through, I completely understand!! It was and sometimes still is very lonely. While our son is, for all intents and purposes, caught up... we can still see where he lags a bit and other kids don't. And we share those amazements when he nails something or surprises us with his ability to express something we didn't think he knew how to say. Even though it was hard, I feel really lucky. We really appreciate his every word because we know it was hard-won. Other parents seem to take some of that for granted (much like we take the things he's good at for granted) and I'm happy to celebrate every new word, every new expression.