Here I am, confident in my abilities as a parent, comfortable in being my children’s speech partner, trusting in my intuitions as a mother, and yet… there are times I’m afraid. Afraid that I’m wrong, afraid that I’m missing something others see and I don’t, afraid that my intuition this time, might be wrong.
This is uncertainty.
It’s the stage Eric is in with his language development. He’s moved passed the baby/young toddler stage where kids pretty much get a pass for not talking (as it still hits the “late” end of normal for talking) and we’ve now solidly moved into the realm of being speech delayed.
But what exactly? The cause? How much? What the heck is even going on?
Who knows. Only time will tell.
All I know, is what I see as a mom. That’s a really heavy mantle to wear, at least right at this stage. This step in Eric’s growth, this uncertainty place where he either needs more help… or… he just needs more time.
I know what I feel as a mother, and that, is more time.
But it still doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of fear. Even me, so confident and so trusting, I feel it too. And it’s hard to sometimes set it aside and let myself believe in what I’m seeing.
In what Eric is showing me.
To be at this stage where pretty much anyone else will see and declare (from their short interaction and even shorter relationship they’ve developed with him) that he needs help or services. It doesn’t matter that they’re only seeing a tiny slice of who Eric is (because that’s all Eric will allow them to see). It doesn’t matter that the child I see and I’m with 24 hours a day is showing me the little pieces that say: we’re okay.
That’s he’s okay.
That he just needs more time, love, and trust.
A huge part is Eric’s personality. He’s an introvert (like the rest of our little family), and if he doesn’t know you, or if he isn’t comfortable with you (meaning, unless you’ve actually attempted to build a relationship with him), he’s hiding behind me or putting his head on the ground. Or, he’s completely ignoring you.
He is also, however, the spitting image of his dad.
When I watch Eric, I see Sean in him. Heck, I even see his grandpa, an engineer and mechanic, someone who understands how pieces move and fit together. Someone who doesn’t need or want a lot of social interaction when he’s focused on doing his thing. Being present and around others is enough.
When Eric moves his train set, upside down with his head on the carpet, watching between his legs, I can see a focus there. Studying. Trying to understand how the pieces work. It’s not the kind of focus where the world falls away. Believe me. If I leave the room, you know, to get myself some good ol’ peace and quiet, you better believe two little legs are running after me.
And during the play itself?
Eric doesn’t want my interaction. He’s got this.
Of course, if a train goes off the rails you better believe he’s rushing right over (sometimes crying, sometimes wanting to smack me — after all we are in the middle of BIG time two-year-old emotions here). He’s handing me the train or the track, when I pause (because I know what he wants me to do, but I want him to be clearer with his nonverbal cues), he’ll look up at me or put my hand right where he wants the train piece to go.
But during the actual play with these physical toys?
He doesn’t want me there. He’s focused. He has an idea of play. He doesn’t want to look up at me with a smile, a “See? Did you see this? Wasn’t that cool?”
That part right there, is a concern of our speech professional. She’s worried that he’ll be orientating to objects more than people. The problem with her assessment is it’s limited by video. She only sees what I manage to record, and if you’ve been reading my blogs for any given amount of time, you know my kids are pretty strong willed.
When Eric has those moments, of “WOW! Did you see that?” You better believe it’s spontaneous. It happens so fast and is gone again all I have time for is to smile, laugh with him, register in my mind what I’m seeing, and then he’s moved on again.
But the point is those moments are there. All the time.
Because remember, this isn’t just about one kind of play at one given time. If Eric is constantly sharing with me while watching a movie, or playing his word game on Endless Reader? He’s constantly looking at me. Sharing. Laughing. I laugh with him and this will gone for a good 10 minutes (which is a huge chunk of time in toddler-time).
Or if we’re doing actual physical play?
Or dear Lord, there’s no issue there. At all. There are times when all I want is to actually sit down and relax, and he’s there, pulling my hand… running down the hallway, looking right at me. When we get to my bedroom he’s running into my arms. Then back again. This is a play we’ve developed, where I have my arms outstretched and he runs into them.
There’s constant sharing. There’s constant visual referencing.
This is Eric choosing to engage in the play. He’s asking me to play (and pulling me to play).
These are little things that our speech professional wasn’t able to see from the video, when she made her comment of Eric and being concerned of him orientating to objects more than people. I asked her to be specific. She told me she wanted him to engage with me more, initiating the play, this visual referencing, and after hearing all this, I was able to clarify that he did do these things.
She was very excited to hear this, but her worry still stuck in me and my heart.
I’m a mother. I can’t help but worry.
So, I started writing everything down. Keeping a journal. And the more I did, the more I focused more on this aspect, of having him be clear (with pauses between what he wanted me to do and my actual doing them), with my immediately engaging and responding if he visually shared something with me (like he does with the iPad), all my worry drained away.
Not only is he doing what our speech professional wanted, he’s doing it all the time.
Eric has a specific area that he’s not as engaging, and that’s only with physical toys. And again, it’s not like he’s playing with toys for giant chunks of time (believe me, we really wish he would cause two-year-olds… breaks… parents need breaks). But what I’ve determined, what I’m believing in, is at these moments I’m seeing his personality. I’m seeing his dad in him. I’m seeing his grandpa.
And it’s not that Eric won’t allow me to engage in play. If I do something silly when he’s playing with marbles, like dropping one down my head and laughing, then doing the same to him. He’s looking at me. He’s laughing. But then goes back to whatever plan or idea he had in his head. He shared the moment with me, and now he’s back to whatever he was doing.
I mentioned this stage was a heavy mantle because it is. Because all we have is what we know and see as parents. These moments with Eric are still to spontaneous to capture on video. He’s to uncertain and timid with people he doesn’t know. And he’s very attached to me. The idea of having a therapist come and work with him? You better believe Eric will want nothing to do with that person. I mean, we’d even talked about having a mother’s helper come over and Sean just laughed and said, “You really think he’s going to leave you alone.”
He’s dead right.
Kate loves playing with people. She loves interacting.
Eric is a different person.
And again, he’s just like his dad. (And you better believe his dad isn’t worried at all. And it’s because he sees so much of himself in Eric. He’s, rightfully so, defensive for Eric. He doesn’t want to force Eric into a box that demands we must share with others, we must not focus on areas of interest, we must socialize all the time.)
Or speech professional even admitted that she can’t recommend us getting other outside help (even though our answer is no, for many reasons, but mostly because of Eric and his personality). She can’t recommend it because she doesn’t believe it would help. She’s told me numerous times that I’m already doing everything I can to help him. And I am. I have been for months now. The other reason is she’s very worried that any help we did get would damage Eric and his progress.
Of that, I have no doubt. Zero.
What I know of this child, of everything he’s shown me, is someone who just needs time. Time and love and support.
And trust. Trust in him.
That’s a hard place to stand. It’s scary. It’s frightening. To be there, with my little mommy stick and it feels like I’m beating back the world. You don’t see the child I see because those little bits, those little hints are still knew and timid and developing.
I know because I feel it. I see it, every day.
Because Eric isn’t just the spitting image of his day, but of me too. Eric’s need to connect is very, very real. The way he’s constantly around me, touching me, heck even somehow curling into my arms in the middle of the night to sleep (without me even noticing). And it’s not just me. It’s with Sean, and with Grandma too. How he pulls their fingers, leading them to the couch, all so he can curl up next to them.
This is not the behavior of a “child orientating to objects more than people.” Oh, no, it is far, far from it. If you could see what I see, if you could see his story, the whole full breadth of it, you’d see it too.
But more than that, I’ve seen Eric’s awareness suddenly blossom in the past month. His awareness of me, of this sharing and engaging our speech professional so wanted to see. In just a few weeks, it’s like this light switch flipped in Eric’s brain and he’s suddenly looking at me all the time, and for ten or twenty seconds at a time which is huge. That’s a really long time!
Was it because of my focused work with him?
But what I truly, truly believe, is that he was just finally ready. It’s like, he finally shed his hesitation, whatever it was that made him feel uncomfortable, to not want to look at me and engage as others his age did.
And does this translate to other people?
Well, if you’re Grandma Charlie than yes. She’s constantly on the floor and roughhousing and playing. And Eric is right there, seeking her play and her help. If you’re related to him but are just going to sit there and watch him play? Forget it. You don’t exist to him. But if you make a halfway decent effort, especially if your effort is one involving, you know, play, oh he’s noticing you.
The truth is, I’m seeing everything I need to know, everything I need to believe in, right before me.
All I have do is trust.
This word, this trust, it doesn’t mean being in denial, it doesn’t mean neglecting concerns or worry. What it means is following and believing in my heart. Of letting go of that worry, all those fears, and just living with the child I have.
Right now. Living in this moment.
I know, without a doubt, if I’m not careful, fear and worry will come roaring back in. I know because it happened before with Kate and it’s a place I do not want to go again.
Why? Because if I let it, this worry will become a monstrous black beast, eating me alive. And it’s a terrifying place to be. Going down this worry-rabbit-hole is not good for me. It’s also not good for my kids.
When I worry, when I lose myself in this fear, in something that I personally, absolutely have no control over, well, it means I can’t be present with my kids. I can’t be connected with them, can’t see the world through their eyes, to living with such joy.
The fear won’t let me.
You see, this isn’t my first rodeo with a late-talker. If I had allowed the fear to control me, if I’d believed in what all those people had said about Kate, the Early Intervention assessment-lady, the neurologist, our pediatrician at the time… if I’d believed in them who knows where that would have taken us and Kate. But it wouldn’t be to a good place.
Kate didn’t start talking until she was four.
That’s a lot of time to simply let go and trust in her. Trust that the words would be there when she was ready, supporting her in all the ways that she needed.
And now here I am with the uncertainty again… and I’m choosing to let go of it.
I felt the fear because we should allow ourselves to have these feelings. They are not wrong or bad. They are feelings and they are valid, after all.
Feel them, accept them, and then, try to let them go.
I talked with a whole bunch of my friends after I got off the phone with our speech professional. I needed support. I needed people who loved me, who trusted in me, who let me get all those emotions off my chest without judgment. And the more I talked, the more I came back to the realization that this is simply who my son is. It’s his temperament and personality.
So, I did my journaling, I did my focused work with him, I focused on the living and the joy.
I’m back to a place of acceptance. It was still scary for a little while, but that fear, and that uncertainty, it fell away day by the day.
Because of Eric.
Of my awareness of him and all the little steps, all the little clues, and the pieces that added up to this emerging little boy who I’m watching, right now…
Crawling on top of Kate, hugging her, engaging with her in play. And they’re both laughing.
At the end of the day, my children are happy.
They’re laughing, they’re smiling, they’re filled with such joy.
I’m going to choose joy over fear. I’m going to live in this world with them, help them, support them, guide them, but always, always listening.
After all, they know themselves the best and when I listen to my mother’s heart, I know it too.
All I have to do is let go, and trust.
And look, I understand this ‘trust’ is not always an easy path to follow. You could have late-talkers or children with other special needs, or maybe you’re homeschooling, or maybe your child is just a bit differently wired than the rest. Regardless of the reason, this idea of letting go and trusting in your children, well, it’s not an easy one to follow. It goes pretty much against everything we’ve been taught in our society, and it’s only “easy” if you have the right kind of support around you. Support from your spouse (or significant other). From family (oh, man is this one huge!). Support from your community or tribe. Support from your child’s medical team.
For us, for me, I’ve needed to surround myself with people who believed in our kids, in the same way Sean and I do. We’ve been upfront and honest with our family, we’ve shared what we’ve learned — both from our speech professional and what Kate and Eric themselves were telling us. I imagine if we had less support, if we had those people who only cast doubt and worry into our lives, we would have separated from them. At least for a little while. Certainly during the times of uncertainty (like where Eric is right now).
Trust is a fragile thing, at least that’s how it feels to me in this world we live in.
Living in trust is not an easy path to walk. It can’t be because this path looks so very different from the one that our schooling and society has taught us to accept. You have to be strong to even think about stepping off that road and hopping onto the yellow-brick one.
Or maybe yours looks pink with bright green stripes.
Or maybe it’s a little overgrown with these tiny little vines slipping up and over rocks, but regardless, it still is a road.
It’s your road.
And I do believe, regardless of your situation, that you know the answer… about your child, about the right path for your child (and for you). And it will look different than mine, or Kate’s, or Eric’s, and that’s okay. In fact, it should look different because your child, and your family and your life, are different from ours.
Yes, you can have support from family, friends, and professionals, but the real answer comes from that intuitive, special connection between you and your child.
I ask you to listen to it, and somehow, if you can, believe in it. Believe in what you know, as a parent. Believe in what your children, your very bright, unique, different children, are telling you.
I know. I know. It’s easy to say and crazy hard to do.
Believe me. I know.
But it’s totally, totally worth it.