Tag Archives: speech delay

Surviving Uncertainty: My Journey with Late-Talkers

 

It feels like, for the first time in about four years, I’m breathing again. Or, more accurately, like I’ve taken this big, deep breath and finally, after such a long time, am letting it out again.

I never expected our parenting path to turn out the way it has. I never expected to be homeschoolers, or more accurately, to be self-directed learners. I never expected to follow a respectful parenting approach.

I certainly never expected to have not just one, but two late-talkers.

In fact, when Sean and I decided to have a family, we’d always expected our journey, our kids, to follow the typical path. I mean, with all the statistics, why would we ever assume differently? I also assumed that I would hear my kids’ first words when they were twelve months old, like everyone else.

Life, however, had a different idea in store for us.

Or more specifically, our kids did.

I fully believe Kate, and then Eric, were given to us for a reason. Sean, and especially me, are the absolute best parents to help our children, to guide them, and even more importantly, to trust in them.

And wow has this been a journey.

Of learning to step away from the mainstream Way Of Doings Things. Of accepting our path and learning to trust not just in my kids, but in myself. That I am the best speech partner for our kids. That I am their best voice, their best advocate. No one else. No other medical professional or teacher, but… me.

Me.

As I have always said, your path, your journey as parents won’t look the same as mine. What has worked for me won’t work for you (or maybe with just a few tweaks it’ll work just fine). Your family, your kids, are different than mine. Your kids face different challenges than mine, whether it’s behavior, or whether your children have different challenges and different special needs, and all the variations and colors in between.

Life is never a one-size-fits all. There is no one right box that we all fit in, all nice and neat and with a big ol’ smile on our face.

For me, for my kids, our journey has been about two things: trust and patience. Trusting that my kids really and truly know their own minds, that they know their process for growing and learning. And then patience… that I will give them the time they need to develop and grow. That I will be patient and trust in their process. My two children, who are very much introverts, but who are still different with their own unique quirks.

How Kate won’t come sit at a table full of adults, especially when their attention shifts back to her (and she’ll go and runaway again; how dare you focus and draw attention to her!). While there’s Eric, who happily sits on my lap and eats up all the bacon and sliced cantaloupe. He couldn’t careless that you were looking at him. He just ignores you, happy to simply eat his food.

Two kids, two introverts, and yet in many ways, completely different.

They have taught me so much.

Taught me to focus and learn all the language that comes without speaking. My nonverbal communication with them, all their cues, their context and behaviors, it’s off the charts with how in tune I am with them. That’s what they needed me to be; that’s the role I needed to fill. To be their translator in a world that was speaking a foreign language, even though it was the only language Sean and I and the rest of the family spoke.

And yet even as confident as I am, of having gone down this road, of believing and waiting for Kate to talk, four years of patience, it still wasn’t easy.

I still wasn’t without my fears and doubts.

Heck, just last week I was in complete anxiety about bringing Eric to the doctor after a cold lasted a little too long (I wanted to make sure his ears were clear). But why all this anxiety? Why was I almost in tears at the thought?

Because I didn’t know if the pediatrician would grill me on Eric’s progress. I didn’t know if he would listen about our experience, about Eric’s progress, about the leaps and bounds Eric has made these past few months.

Or, if he’d just see Eric in comparison to all the other kids and push services on us that I knew, without a doubt, would do more harm than good. For us, anyway. (Why do I know this? Because I know my kids. I know what our experiences with Kate were like and no one way in hell would I put Eric anywhere near that. Certainly not with the cost being so high. Again, just my experience for my family, and very specifically, what was best for Eric and who he is.)

Regardless, I would have stood my ground if the doctor pushed. I would be Eric’s voice. And thankfully, it never came to that. It wasn’t needed. The nurse just checked his ears, listened to him breath, and all was fine.

My anxiety, my fears had been for nothing.

At least I recognized why I felt so much anxiety. It’s an area that I need to keep working on, to keep reflecting on and healing because I am walking a different path from the mainstream, and I’d really, really like to not use so much damn energy whenever I need to stand my ground like this, to be different and walk this different path. But, that’s my self-work and part of my journey. Something I’d probably have just swept under a rug and shrugged away if I hadn’t become a parent, if I hadn’t had these two amazing, unique children who are continuously challenging me to be better… stronger.

And they have.

They’ve challenged me and they’ve opened my eyes to this other world. It’s been an amazing journey, one which is far, far from being over…

And yet… as I said in the beginning of this post, I’m breathing easier. I’ve taken this huge breath and then, let it out again.

Why?

You’re probably dying to know, especially if you’ve followed our journey.

You see, Eric just met with our speech pathologist, Mary Camarata, who is one of the few people I trust with her knowledge of children with language differences. She’s truly an expert on them, and really understanding the why behind the child. Not that she’s always spot on the money (I had to stand up for Eric several months ago when the videos I sent didn’t accurately portray him). But truly, she can see their temperament and the child underneath. And temperament, believe it or not, can play a huge role in all this. Mary’s insight, at least for my family and who my kids are, gave us this light bulb moment of understanding. This, “oh” feeling you get when something just clicks together and makes sense.

And finally, Mary got to meet Eric, as he is now, an almost three-year-old.

Funny enough, Eric has been around speech professionals since he was about six months old. He was around when we had a private speech therapist and he’s been in the videos I’ve sent to Mary, about Kate, since he was about nine months. He was on track, developing just fine, until he just decided to not talk. He was focusing on other areas, like fine motor control (dear lord did he love his marble maze and could maneuver an entire handful with his chubby hands at just eighteen months, dropping one at a time into the small tube).

We initially started Eric’s journey not at all concerned and then slowly realizing that yes, it looked like Eric would be a late-talker as well.

When Mary was here to meet Kate for the first time, a year ago, it was still too early to know where Eric would fall. He was still in the range of normal, though as time passed it became clear that he’d be like his sister, too. Which is actually pretty rare (the chances of two siblings both being late-talkers is like 1 in 10, according to Mary). Even rarer still is having those two late-talkers follow a very similar development… which it appears, they are both doing. (Mary couldn’t quite confirm this yet since Eric’s a tad too young, but just based on their temperaments and the similarities, she feels confident telling us this.)

So, Kate in every way, has been training for Eric.

And oh my, was he a challenge about five months ago (I’m sure you remember those blogs I wrote—wow, was it challenging, especially the instant frustration, BIG emotions, and very limited ability to communicate).

And now? Now what do we know about him?

Well, we know that, besides Eric’s not talking, he’s a completely normal little boy.

And that right there, is why I just let out this huge, huge breath.

It’s why when, Mary packed up her stuff and drove away, I felt this huge, huge weight lifted off me.

It felt like I could breathe again.

This is the little boy that I have always seen, the little boy I’ve always known, and who I have been fighting for, tooth-and-nail, continually telling everyone to give him the time he needed to develop.

I knew in my heart, in my gut, who he was.

I knew his temperament and understood it, and I’ve pushed like crazy for others to see it as well. This is something, until recently—we’re talking just a few months ago—there were only a select few people who Eric would trust in this way… who he would look up and smile at, engage with and play. Not that he never did this before, or that he wouldn’t do it at all, but it was like, for a period of time, it felt unsafe to him. He needed to feel completely safe and that he completely trusted a person. I can only guess at this, guess at what was going through his little mind and why, but I understood that he had a different temperament in this way.

Heck, both my kids do and it’s not always been easy for others to see this or understand it.

But I stood my ground.

I kept my notes, my journal, and I shared those moments that proved who Eric really was (even if he wasn’t about to let the random stranger those moments himself). And as I said before, there was a time when Mary was concerned about Eric. To this day, it was my fault. It was the videos I’d sent to her (thinking to send ones similar that I did with Kate). The problem was, Eric and Kate were at completely different places, completely different concerns, if you will. With Eric, she wanted to see him engaging with me, sharing in the play, looking at me after something cool just happened (this is called visual referencing). Instead, I showed her videos with him engaged in a toy, like his marble maze, which he hadn’t played with in a while. He was super excited, super focused… and pretty much ignored me the whole time. It’s understandable why Mary was concerned that he might be orientating to objects more than people.

So, I had to stand up and ask her exactly what she was looking for, that she wanted to see…

Then, I went back through my journal and my memories and I shared how her assessment wasn’t correct. She felt better to hear all this, but I could tell she was still concerned (and again, I could understand that). She was also worried that here I was, doing all this by myself. No speech therapists to help out, homeschooling to-boot. But again, I stood my ground. I defended our way and our choices. I knew that early intervention would be an absolute failure for Eric, even damaging for him, and hiring a speech therapist wouldn’t work, either (at that age, the only one Eric really wanted to engage and play with, was me).

And you know what happened? The next round of videos I sent to her?

There wasn’t a single mention about orientating to objects more than people. Because it wasn’t true. It wasn’t there. (Believe me, when Eric was young I wished he could play more independently to give me a gosh, darn break.) And what also started happening with Eric… well, he was growing up.

He was feeling safe again.

He was looking up and engaging with others, bit-by-bit. First with my mom who played and roughhoused with him, then our mother’s helper who he started running about the room and showing off to.

I caught all those moments on video.

What Eric needed, more than anything else, was trust.

And time.

I made sure he got them both. It was not an easy road. In fact, it was scary at times and filled with so much worry because here I was, having to stand up to someone I trusted but who I knew wasn’t right in her assessment. But I held on… I kept believing… I kept on helping Eric in the way that he needed…

Trust, and time.

That’s what he needed.

And when Mary finally got here, when she met Eric in person after a whole year, someone he didn’t know… and Eric immediately started showing off. He was pushing me to the ground so he could fly like Superman, looking at her like crazy with this, did you see that?! expression.

All of those little bits of connection, so small, seemingly so insignificant and yet so very important for language. So important to show that yes, he does care about others, he is engaging, he is showing interest… even with someone he doesn’t know.

Mary got to see this and so much more.

She even got some measurements from him (which surprised both Sean and me—again, this a kid he walks to his own beat and we didn’t think he’d be interested in participating). Mary checked to see where his nonverbal communication was and I another surprise because it was higher than Kate’s when she was around the same age.

We didn’t do any official testing for Eric, but that’s not something Sean and I wanted or needed. Certainly not at his age. One of the absolute joys of homeschooling is we’re able to go at our kids’ pace. There’s no rush or push to get them “school ready.”

So even without that “official” diagnosis out of the way, I’m still breathing easy.

Why, you ask?

Because the whole time, Mary got to see my little boy. The boy he is and the one I’ve always known him to be. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. That’s all I expected her to see from this visit.

See him.

Understand him.

She told us, that other than his not talking, he was a completely normal little boy.

Which I’d known in my heart, this whole time. Not that I was in denial; believe me, I know my kids. And you know yours. Seriously, gut instincts of parents is pretty darn strong and I know for a fact mine is through the roof. It needed to be. My kids needed me to be this way, to connect with them, to meet their wants and needs, to help and guide them emotionally.

I know, for many of you other parents, you’re still in that weird between place of not knowing. That your kids aren’t so clear cut. Their manners and behaviors aren’t fully understand because maybe they’re still too young, they haven’t developed enough to give you a definitive answer of who they are. You have been patient and you’re trying so hard to not give in to all those worries and fear, and yet you still don’t have answers. Or maybe you do and those answers are hard to hear, harder to even see any joy down your particular path.

I want to send you nothing but love and support, regardless of where you are on the journey. Because it is a journey. It’s not over when our kids finally do start talking (as much as we might think so in the beginning). And maybe this will be a life-long journey for some.

But… that’s okay, too. It’s okay if your child doesn’t fit into our worldview of “normal.” They are who they are, which is beauty, joyful beings.

Joyful and happy. That’s what truly matters.

And again, it’s okay. Okay to not fit in a box.

Kate doesn’t. Eric doesn’t.

That doesn’t mean their boxes are misshaped. In fact, Eric’s box is a different color than Kate’s, different shape, too.

It’s his box.

And honestly, I think he’s just sitting right on top of it. Sitting and proud strong and really not caring what anyone else thinks about it either.

I’m going to celebrate that with him. With both of my kids.

They’ve taught me a lot about my own box, and you know what? Mine’s different too, and I love every inch of it, every dent and ding I’ve gotten along the way of living. Every scrap of duct-tape… even the ones that are beginning to peel.

It’s my box and these, these are my kids.

Happy and joyful and thriving in the world we’ve shaped… together. Our life, our journey, looks nothing like anyone else’s and I really don’t want it too, either. We’re forging our own paths, one that works for us, and one, each of us, is thriving on.

Maybe not always, I’m certainly not without the ups and downs of the journey, but every step along the way is a chance for me to learn. Learn about my kids, about myself.

As a family, we are happy and joyful, even if the journey is far from being over. And, it’s okay. For now, I’ll just breath easier knowing what I know, knowing who my son is and being able to support him in the exact way he needs.

Knowing exactly, where we need to go as a family, and that’s towards happiness. Joy.

So know that, if you’re still there, living in that space of uncertainty, when you don’t have answers and all you feel is that dark worry living inside you, eating away at your joy and your happiness, try to take a deep breath. Try to see the child you have in front of you, the child that’s yours and no one else, and remember the love. We will never get these times back, when they’re little and being silly, running around in circles before crashing to the ground because that’s what toddlers do. Weird things. Fun things. Like getting them dressed and immediately after, they walk right into a pool with their clean clothes (and the only extra dry set you’ve brought).

I know it’s scary. I know those fears, I know what that uncertainty can do to you, my dear, parent.

Focus on the love and their joy. Live in that moment with them. Live in their joy. Because that’s what matters more than anything else: their joy.

And, your happiness with theirs, together.

Parenting Children with Differences: My Journey

 

When you have a child who doesn’t fit in the so-called typical box, who walks to their own beat (or jumps or skips), or who just sees the world in these constant, vibrant and shining colors… your life as a parent becomes forever altered. Changed. It needs to be. Because these children, for whatever their unique reasons and differences, can’t be treated as a normal, neurotypical child.

That means us, as parents, have to change.

We need to switch around our expectations. Expectations we have internally, from the small ones like asking them to “go get a diaper for the baby,” or simply watching them interact and play with their same-age peers (including these increasingly social, complex interactions). Then there are the expectations society and culture has placed on them, like waiting quietly and patiently in line at Target, or the expected obedience of a two-year-old to stop turning on (and off) the Jacuzzi’s bubbles. And… when the two-year-old doesn’t listen, the stranger then takes it upon themself and threatens to put them in school. Never mind the fact that this is exactly what all two-year-olds do, or that this particular boy simply can’t understand the complex words — called language — coming out of your grumpy, old mouth.

As parents, we are expected to make our children listen, to get them to comply and attend. And I don’t know about you, but both of my differently-wired children really don’t give a shit about what other adults think or feel. Or their rules. (Though they tend to listen to my guidelines about what’s safe — because I’ve gone out of my way to give them as much grace and free reign so when I do ask them something, they generally comply.)

You see, my kids don’t fit into the “normal” box that society puts children in. I mean, I won’t even go into my beliefs that our current culture isn’t exactly welcoming to the curious, inquisitive nature of kids but I will say, the simple act of telling my kids something, and expecting (with the snap of my fingers), that they’ll listen… yeah. Not so much. Not for this family.

Which means I had to shift my expectations of what my kids can do… and then must tell society and strangers, to take a flying leap when it comes to defending them, or simply, just being their voice.

Like there was this one parent at the beach who told me: “I’m sorry I yelled at your daughter, but she’s not listening when I tell her to not put her dirty feet on the blanket.”

Me (speaking straight-forward, but definitely snippy because… this lady just yelled at my kid): “She doesn’t understand you. She has a language delay.”

Other parent: “Oh. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

Me (thinking, but unfortunately not quite strong enough to say): Maybe you should really go for kindness first and ask why a child isn’t listening.

As parents, we need to have the grace, the trust, and confidence in our children, and in ourselves, to let them be different.

To let them be who they are.

That also means this constant battle of standing up for them, and at times deciding silence is the better course of action (like grumpy old man at the Jacuzzi). And this, my friends, takes a tremendous amount of courage and bravery. To stand apart from all our parent-peers, to accept our children for who they are, little quirks and sometimes big quirks, and love them.

Accept them.

Stand by them.

I’m not saying this is easy, dear lord it’s not. And for some of you, who really do have children with differences, who are harder to handle, whose emotions are incredibly intense, or who fall on the spectrum or another type of genetic disorder where the simple act of sitting up, the path you walk will be much, much different than mine. You are amazing parents, each and every one of you, and my goodness are your children blessed to have you.

But even with this wide, wide range of differences, I think there are a few things I can share from what I’ve learned so far, on my journey as a parent.

The truth of the matter is, we love our children. Our hopes and dreams were different than the ones given to us, the ones that came with our children. I mean, when I was a parent I never dreamed that I’d be writing all these blog posts about having not one but two late-talkers! I never dreamed that I’d be a homeschooler or someone who followed a respectful parenting approach. I thought my kids when they hit preschool age would be going off to school, and yet, here Kate just turned five and she would be going to kindergarten.

Going. To. Kindergarten.

Wow, is the thought a bit mind-numbing for me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with anyone sends their kids to kindergarten, in fact, I’m very much in the minority on this one. But let me say this, Kate literally just turned five, so she, developmentally, is a whole lot younger than her other would-be classmates. But, here’s the kicker: her language is at the level of a three-and-a-half-year-old.

Think about that. Put yourself in her shoes. Going to kindergarten, already as one of the youngest kids there, and your language is still only at a three-year-old. And maybe you also have this type of personality where you need to be precise and accurate or you get extreme anxiety… and now here’s this teacher asking you to do something, like sit down or get out your scissors for some verbally, instructed directions on some art project. Can you imagine what that would be like?? And then not having the one person, your constant, your voice, there to help you interpret what your needs are or even what the heck you’re trying to say??

I’m not worried about the social and play aspect of kindergarten. Boy, let me tell you, this kid has got that part down. But the rest? It terrifies me to even think of Kate being in that situation. She’s not, though, because of me, because of Sean. Because she has a family who understands her and her particular needs.

Remember, what works for your child won’t work for her, and what works for Kate is not going to work for Eric or for your child with their own unique needs.

It’s all about the children, them and their specific needs.

But you know, it’s about us too.

The parents.

It’s about us as we face those hard, frightening, and dark moments. Our reality is that we don’t have neurotypical kids, kids who talked on time, who have great social eye contact and socially engage right on schedule. As parents, our reality is very, very different from the rest who have the “normal” kids. And I don’t know about you, but my early experience, especially with the medical professionals and early intervention, was, unfortunately, very focused on the fear, very focused on… “oh it’s so bad, your child’s not doing this or this or this.” It’s like, in their minds, you can have one kind of kid, the good and the “normal,” or the other, where they see your child as DOOMED.

I wish I was exaggerating.

And yet, it was because of those moments that gave me the strength to stand where I do now. To face those fears, the worry, that total blackness that can easily consume you if you let it… and choose instead to believe in your child.

To believe in them, for who they are.

And then, to stand there and tell the doubters, friends or family or certainly professionals, that they’re wrong. You see what you see, as a parent, and you know in your heart that you’re right.

And you stand by that because you simply know.

I write this now completely from a place of peace and of confidence in myself. My journey, as a parent, has been no less miraculous than Kate’s. From where I started, walking out of Early Intervention in complete tears, knowing that they were dead-wrong about my child, that they didn’t see the child I knew in my heart, the child I saw at home every day, that’s not who they saw. They saw instead a child who was willful, who was introverted, who wouldn’t listen… and who couldn’t understand them.

Not at all any fault of her own, Kate simply didn’t understand the words they were speaking. Not to mention the lady doing the testing was someone giving off all kinds of ‘I hate kid’ vibes and you better believe my emotionally sensitive child picked up on that.

I was terrified.

I didn’t know what to do, what options there were for me. All I knew was I needed to support, but not how or why or even what it was exactly that Kate needed.

All I had was her, and what I knew in my heart.

If you met Kate today, you never would imagine that the words “autism” were almost threatened around her. Never. Today, it would never cross your mind. And if you closed your eyes and simply heard her talk, right now, without even seeing her, you would think she was just a young child. Which is pretty typical of a language-delayed child… but one who’s completely happy, completely vibrant with life and joy.

And that success, that joy and happiness, that’s because of me, because of her dad, because we chose to walk a different path… her path. It was our believing in her that got us to the point. Our willingness to step outside the box, with her, and give her the help that she specifically needed.

And was I confident starting out? Was I sure and comfortable when we quit speech therapy and went to a consulting approach, where I was the one being coached?

Hell no.

I was super tentative, unsure, questioning everything I was doing. Sometimes I talked too much (not good when you have a receptively delayed child), or I’d talk with a question at the end… think of the up-turning of your voice to make it sound like a question or a query. Again, not good when you’re working with language delayed kids. The more questions you ask, the more they feel like they’re on the spot and they shut down.

I had a lot of learning to do. I had a lot of growing to do.

And yet… this is where I stand. At this point where our speech professional asked for permission to use my recent videos as a fantastic example to other parents with nonverbal kids.

Me.

Me, who started out so unsure and tentative, who was terrified of screwing up my kids. And yet, during our last consult call, our speech professional continually told me how wonderful I was working with them, especially with Eric, that we’ve created this fun, back-and-forth play and how incredibly patient I am with him.

Let me give you an example…

Eric’s playing on a blanket and I’m playing a tickle game with him. Eric loves the tickle game. I tickle, he laughs, and then I stop. And wait. I wait for thirty seconds. He’s looking around, at the ceiling, and then he comes back to me. He looks right at me and makes his “mhmm” sounds (which means “more”) or even takes my hands and pulls them to his stomach. And I immediately respond with more tickles.

Did you catch that?

I waited, patiently, for 30 seconds for him to respond. I trusted that he would come back to me, and he did. Because he loves this type of play.

What I just described is the essential foundation before any kind of language can happen. The enjoyment shared between us, that Eric is engaging and asking me to keep playing, the looking at me, the sounds he used for “more.”

If you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d completely skip over the significance of that moment.

And you know, when I started, I didn’t know. But I learned. I learned and kept learning, and more than anything, I continued to be tuned in to what my kids needed, to who they are. I almost laughed when our speech professional complimented me on the video because a whole bunch of times I forgot it was even on.

I got lost in the play and the joy of my kids.

I was playing with them. That’s all.

Everything I’d learned has become so natural, so incorporated into our family and our life, I don’t even think about it. I can tell you too, the family members who spend the most time with my kids? They do it too, and they don’t even realize it.

They don’t realize they’re recasting or modeling.

They just do it.

Naturally.

I mean, as Kate moves more into complex language, I’m thinking best how to model language and recast to best help her, but all the rest? It’s natural at this point, it’s like breathing.

Again, I didn’t start this way. In fact, I didn’t know there were other options and explanations for children who are different, who didn’t just fit into the autism box that was being pushed on us. I had no idea there were actual language disorders when we started this journey, and for that matter, our first pediatrician didn’t know either (and when I mentioned it to her she completely discounted me — so I found ourselves another one).

And I say all this, that I’m in this amazing place of peace, and I don’t have answers yet for Eric. He’s still too young to know anything for sure… but I don’t need to know. Why? Because he’s showing me everything that matters… everything I described in his reaction to me, his engagement in play, in wanting to play… that’s what I need.

For right now, on this stage in his journey, that’s everything I need.

Eric is moving at his own pace, in his own way, and I can see that. I can see his progress and it’s been amazing — for him. I don’t need a specialist to look at him because I know, in my heart, they will only see the child they want to see. They won’t see him. They won’t know and understand the significance of Eric engaging with my mom in play, or his favorite, ten-year-old mother’s helper. They won’t know about this amazing moment where he completely engaged in a continuous play with this other mom while camping… playing peek-a-boo, hiding and seeking, asking her to pick him up (by holding up his hands) and then going limp because he wanted her to spin him. All that, without a single word. And this mom understood his cues completely. And he was looking right at her, smiling and laughing, completely engaging.

Those moments, just like that, are the little pieces we need to get to language. Little stepping stones, if you will, but not something you can see in a 30 minute consult. Or even an hour or two hours.

There are great professionals out there, people who understand where I’m coming from, the problem is you’ve got to wade through a lot of bad ones to find the good ones, and frankly, I just can’t have that in my life. I can’t internalize their thoughts and emotions (that is, unfortunately, the way I’m programmed).

What Eric needs, is me, to believe in him. To be focused and engaged and open. Because this kid can sense all that negativity. He knows darn well when I’ve got all that swirling around inside me and oh boy does he shut down fast… and then he has an even harder time dealing with his emotions.

And my speech professional totally understands. She agrees with me, agrees with my decision that’s best for Eric.

But even with her I had to stand up for Eric last time we talked. I had to explain what she didn’t see in the videos… that no, he doesn’t orientate to objects more than people, that it was my fault because of the videos I’d chosen to send her. And you know what, during our latest conversation? She didn’t bring it up one time. Didn’t even mention it. Not once. Instead, she told me how much happier he seemed, this content little boy. He wasn’t agitated like he was in the past.

I told her Eric had been growing, that he’d hit his middle-twos and had this just amazing amount of frustration because he couldn’t communicate (along with his darn stubbornness to not actually be clear with what he wanted in the first place). This was very different than what we experienced with Kate. For her, it was like a puzzle to figure out how to communicate what she wanted. With Eric, as his awareness of the world expanded, he would just go from zero to sixty in the frustration factor. And it’s getting better. Little tiny steps for sure, but the more I focus on our little successes, the more content I feel with where we are… right at this moment.

I am a very, very long way from this journey being over.

With Kate, we’re looking at continuing to help and support her as she moves into more complex parts of grammar, at reading and education (for us, in a child-led way). With Eric we’re just continuing to move forward with where he’s at, encouraging play that needs our involvement in order to be fun. To help him trust in the sounds and the words that will eventually come.

But the truth is, I know who he is and I trust in that, I trust that he’ll keep guiding me, pointing me in the direction that he needs me to go… regardless of where we’ll end up.

And that’s what I like to remember most of all:

There’s a reason these children were given to me.

They came to me, and no one else, because I was the person most equipped and able to help them, to understand and empathize with them. Me. What a gift I was given, and the more I’ve shifted my thinking to this, the more I’ve grown and learned as a parent, and also as a human being.

Kate opened up my world to being different, to raising a child who sits on top of her own box, who walks a different path and is still completely beautiful, completely her own person. And because of her, she opened the door to be the parent that Eric needs me to be.

But the real truth is that I didn’t get to this place overnight. It took a lot of work, a lot growing, and a heck of a lot of trust on my part. But I am here; I am in this place of peace and confidence.

And you know something? I’m really, really looking forward to seeing the path Eric takes me on next. It will be different, but it will be all his.

I can’t wait to see what our journey, together, will look like.

The Social Piece of Language: My Journey with Late-Talkers

As a parent of a late-talker, we wait on pins and needles for our children to start talking. For their words to blossom and expand, to open their mouths, to let the sounds come out, to simply trust in those words, in this very complex thing called language.

I hear this all the time from new parents on this journey, or for parents who are still waiting for their child to talk, especially as children turn three or four or five, and those parents might still be waiting… that feeling of, sometimes, desperation that comes with this simple, yet scary question:

“When will my child start talking?”

So much of our focus goes into that time, that moment. So much of our energy and worry and hope, as parents and professionals, is all focused on that one moment, if you will.

For us, for Kate, that moment wasn’t until she turned four. Her first functional word (“no”) wasn’t until she was 37 months and after that she had only a handful of words by the time she turned four (“baby” and “daddy” were two of the big ones). But she got there, she hit that “talking” milestone, the moment where she decided to open her mouth and try to talk, even as uncomfortable as it was that her words weren’t perfect. Not long after she hit her first language burst and we were off to the word-races.

You’d think that would be the end of the story. You’d think that, “Hey! She’s talking now, it’s all good, right?”

Well… no. You’d be wrong.

You see, the journey doesn’t end when the words start coming. In fact, it’s really just the start of the journey and this part here, what happens after the language burst, it’s not something I’ve heard a whole lot about. I’d really like to share this next stage in the journey for other parents out there, and for parents too who might be so focused on ‘when the words come’ that they might be disappointed when they see that the journey’s not over yet.

And hey, maybe what I’ve experienced won’t be the same for you and your child (that’s certainly not a bet I’m willing to take). Maybe your child will just start picking words up and language and will fall back into the crowd with her same-age peers and be caught up in no time.

Or, maybe not.

If not, you’re not alone. There are other families out there navigating this different world when your child doesn’t fit into any one box… or if your child decides to say, “the hell with boxes…”

And they just sit on top of that damn box.

Your child might be autistic, and there’s such a range in that spectrum alone that your journey will look different from ours. Or maybe your child was just slightly delayed with the language, or maybe they’re even like Kate who has both a receptive and expressive language disorder. Regardless, you’ll have your family on your side, your professionals backing you up as you go (professionals you trust and that fits your family and your child’s needs, of course).

This is just me, sharing what Kate’s process has looked like as she moved from “just talking” into that other really complex part of language…

The social piece of language.

Kate is turning five next week and her language is about where a normal three and a half year-old is at. Which is just super awesome. She’s making leaps and bounds with language, starting to work on her grammar, adding it in naturally as her sentences have moved into three and four words at a time. She is communicating with so many people, different moms and dads, kids her age, younger, and older. She’s my little social butterfly and just today, after I told her we were meeting new friends at a park, she goes right up to this new mom, who she’s never met before, and holds out to show her Twilight Sparkle from My Little Ponies (I imagine Kate said something like, “Rarity,” which is her word for all of the ponies). Then she’s off and playing with this new girl, saying, “Hi” and waving and running after her.

It’s a beautiful thing, one I never get tired of seeing. It has lost sparkle yet, and I don’t think it will any time soon. I feel such pride and awe when I watch her interact and play. Holy shit have we come far. Holy shit have we all worked hard (and played!) to get to this point.

She has worked hard.

But at the same time, amidst all this progress, there’s a shift occurring with language, with this age range of children.

We are a homeschooling family, which at this point, with how old my kids are, means we just play. We play a lot. We go to the park, we’re out in danger, we’re swimming.

We’re constantly inviting friends over and having one-on-one play dates with other families. Those other kids are simply fantastic with Kate. They know her language is delayed, that she’s still learning to talk, and they have a tremendous amount of patience for her (this, though, would not have been possible if not for the awesome parents involved, who have talked with their own kids to help them understand).

Kate is also a bit towards the younger end of our particular age group, which ranges from late four to seven years of age. Most often, if there are little ones around (like Eric’s age of two or younger), they’re a sibling of an older child.

Okay, you’re thinking, big deal.

Well, actually, believe it or not, it is a big deal.

There’s a developmental shift that starts happening, especially in that five and six years of age. Not that I’m an expert, this is straight-up just from antecedes and what I’ve personally seen, but there is a social change that happens.

The social play, the language, gets more complex (certainly for girls; I’ll throw that little caveat in there: what I’m talking about here is mostly for girls). They want to play house or salon. They want more rules. They want their fellow play-mates to do certain things and they expect those playmates to also suggest ideas of their own. There’s not as much patience for someone to respond to a phrase or request. It’s like, they expect this almost rapid, instantaneous response.

This is something that my child, with a receptive and expressive delay, can’t keep up with.

And also, there may not be a whole lot of kindness and grace in these five and six year olds, as they wait for the other child, who is thinking through what they heard, trying to form a response, or, if they even understood. Again, it feels like a developmental stage, especially compared to a child who is 9 or 10, like the mother’s helper I have coming over to who play with my kids, and she has an incredible amount of patience.

The stage that Kate is in right now, for language, is mimicking and repeating. She repeats everything. Seriously. And it’s fantastic! I mean, that’s a huge part of learning language: practicing the words and phrases you hear. Kate does this with me, Grandma, other adults, and other kids.

But sometimes that’s not always understood, and sometimes, it can seem hurtful.

We had a friend over at our pool and this girl told me, “Kate’s copying me.”

Well, yes, yes she was. That’s what she does. I explained that Kate was learning language and that’s why she was repeating after her. I told her that Kate repeats after me all the time. But it wasn’t enough to ease this girl’s worries and I didn’t realize until later why: where she was at, developmentally, was a completely different stage than Kate.

When other six and seven year olds repeat you, when they copy what you’re doing, it’s because they’re being mean.

My jaw dropped on that one.

Of course! How could I have forgotten?? (Well… it’s been a really long time since I was seven, that’s why.)

But knowing this now, having this information, it will help me respond in the future. How to reach out to other kids, who might think that Kate’s being mean (because again, she’s five and not the three and half she’s at with language).

Again, this is not to pick on or point out that the other kids are just mean at this age and to run for the hills and avoid play-dates until the kids magically start being kind again (there’s nothing magic about parenting, let me tell you). Yet knowing and understanding where the other kids are at, developmentally, this has helped me to respond better. The more knowledge I have, the better I’m able to help guide Kate — because even though she’s talking, guys, guess what? She still needs my help. She still needs me to step in, to guide her in what’s being asked, or to hug her while she’s upset because she needs to share her “house” with other kids (in this instance, the house was part of the playground structure).

For the record, Kate’s at the stage of ‘why the hell do I need to share???’ So even though she’s only talking at a three and a half year-old level, she still has the developmental feelings of a five year-old! Good times, let me tell you.

I’ve noticed too, with the older kids, and kids her age, they may not have as much fun when they play with Kate. If we have someone come over, especially to the house where there’s toys, they lose interest in the kind of play Kate wants to do. Her play is still at the simple stages, especially with dolls or playing with her Calico Critters or My Little Ponies. Pretending that a critter gets hurt and needs a “doctor.” Or purposefully falling down and saying, “he died.”

It’s simple play still, and pretty darn boring for the other kid (or, to be honest, me as the parent).

I mean, it’s totally fine if Kate busts out the WiiU and starts playing Splatoon or Yoshi or Mario Kart. In those moments she’s generally the one with the more knowledge and shows the other kids what to do.

But when it comes to language, to the social side of it, the kids her age are moving into much, much more complex areas, into deeper waters, and she’s still just having fun running around in the shallow end.

Which, by the way, is totally fine.

It’s just means that, as a parent, I’ve needed to adjust. I’ve shifted my approach, to friends and playmates, for her. It’s changed because she, and the other kids, have changed.

We still meet and see these older kids, but we’re often swimming or at the park or playing at our favorite creek, areas where the focus is on the physical play and not the in-depth social side.

In fact, I saw this happen just recently with an older girl, who just turned seven. Incredibly sweet, super excited to meet and play with Kate, but after a little while I could tell she wasn’t enjoying the play with Kate as much because of that communication barrier. But when the play turned to the physical, fun kind of play, the mood shifted entirely.

Part of that was giving the girls time, to meet each other halfway (it was either that or be bored), but the other part was my stepping in and engaging in play… and ironically, play that was focused on Eric.

One thing I’m still working on as parent is to let go the ‘parent side’ and just play with my kids. I can’t tell you why, but play can be a hard, hard shift for me to make. Thankfully, my little Eric responds best to this kind of play, silly fun and simply play, and guess what?

The second I start going with Eric, Kate is rushing on over.

I started a game on a little swinging bridge at the play structure, where I pretended to catch Eric’s toes. Well, about two minutes of that, of his silly laughter and my funny words, and there’s Kate.

Another minute later? Yep, the seven-year-old is asking to play too.

We all had a blast. Seriously, I had so much fun, just letting go and playing and being silly (you’d think I’d remember so the next time it wouldn’t be such a big effort to shake that being-a-mom-thing). And when Eric tired of that game, I watched this physical play, for Kate and this other girl, continue. It involved another little brother and then yet another child.

Play is infectious.

And seriously, get an adult actually playing? The kids come running to join in.

And if we do see kids her age, I might invite only one or two families along. If it’s two families, I often make sure there’s a younger child there so when the older ones go off and bond and play, there’s someone who Kate can still interact with. Or I just invite one family with one older child. It sounds simple, but it makes the world of difference for the kids involved. It helps them connect, all on their own, and find a way to interact so everyone has fun.

Another change I’ve seen in Kate is her absolute enjoyment playing with younger kids. I’ve watched as she continually chooses to not play with the kid her age (or a year older) and instead play with children who are three years old. She follows them and mimics them, they mimic her, and there’s so much laughter involved. This simple kind of play, man, she gets so much joy in it. One time I watched as her and this little boy, just two months older than Eric, made their way from rock to rock at the tide pools, how they would laugh hysterically when a wave hit them.

It was special.

So, I’m following Kate’s lead in regards to social play. And really, that’s what this whole journey has been about: following her lead.

I’m moving away from play dates with only her peers, to the younger ones. How one week, at the local creek, she followed this one mom and her 20-month-old boy around. Later this mom told me, “She’s so good with him.”

Again, special.

Our kids don’t need to be “normal.” They don’t need to fit into any one shape or size or colored box. They are, in fact, telling us what they need, what they want, if we’re aware enough to listen.

Often, as parents, we might need to shift. Shift our expectations, shift our way of doing things, especially as our kids outgrow one way and start heading in another direction. That’s what I’ve seen so far with language, at least language involving little girls. I imagine Eric’s experience will be totally different and yet, in some ways, very similar.

As the social complexity and expectations have grown, Kate is finding her place and her joy among the little ones. It’s beautiful and something I treasure dearly. To think she might have long-lasting relationships with a two-year-old, someone that might see Kate as a very special friend as they grow up.

My late-talkers are a gift and a treasure. It’s not an easy path, especially since we’re figuring things out as we go, certainly as we’re moving forward into new this new territory, but as we do I hope to reach out to other parents and say: this journey doesn’t have to be so lonely and scary and dark.

Your journey, your path, is yours and yours alone.

It’s one you and your family, your children, will make and it will be so incredibly unique and different, just as your kids are unique and different. And while many of us have worried and wondered and fretted about when our kids would start talking, it’s also still a journey, one that could be over shortly, or one that will never fully be over.

The choice we have, as parents, is the mindset we bring with us. Worry and fear, or joy and love?

I will do my best, every day, every moment, to chose joy and love. I don’t always succeed, but I’ll try, and try again. All I have to do is look at their smiling, joyful faces to see the blessings I’ve been given. And every day will be a new experience. I’ll keep learning, keep seeing where this language journey takes Kate, and then Eric. We will surround ourselves with friendships that continue to help them blossom and grow. For now, that means making a shift in our play, in the ages and groups we’re playing with, but making those shifts and changes, it’s really what parenting is all about… whether you have a normal child or one who sits on top of that box.

The Hidden Toll of Parenting

Our bodies, as human beings, are crazy resilient. I mean, really. They can put up with a lot …. months (or years) of poor sleep, eating McDonalds Chicken McNuggets by the pound (me, in my youth, anyway), the constant stress pouring in from every which way possible, from family, work, heck, even getting on the freeway and driving to Grandma’s. And yet, at some point, our bodies slam the breaks on and says, “Enough is a enough, dude.”

Let’s go ahead a little one or two to that mix and see what happens. You know, children. Especially young children who you can’t reason with (or beg), who have their own very clear needs and who really, really couldn’t give a shit about yours (like sleeping).

And while we’re at this, let’s up the ante some and add a special needs element just for fun.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

It is the most beautiful, rewarding journey I’ve ever been on — and it’s also the one that’s tested me beyond what I thought was physically and mentally possible.

And, I’m far, far from being out of the woods.

I realize my recent posts have this kind of desperate tinge to them, but what can I say? This is the life I’m living. It will get better, it will get easier, but right now, right at this very moment? It’s hard.

Hard.

And there are days when I feel so completely alone, trapped by the needs (re: demands) of my two-year-old, and I’m doing all I can to simply keep breathing (and somehow still being the parent I want to be). Eric is literally smack-dab in the hardest part of his young years. He has the usual ‘can’t-wait-even-a-second’ when he wants something, which then usually results in a crying, screaming meltdown, with hands (and sometimes feet) flying and doing his best to smack me.

Why? Because he knows I don’t like it.

Now, I’ll be honest: it’s getting better. Sometimes he’s a foot from me with both hands going and he’s aware that while he wants to hit me he’s not supposed to.

Why am I mentioning this?

Because every little positive step forward counts, and when you’re right in the thick of things when all you can see of the forest are the pine needles sticking into your eyes, you’ve got to hold onto the positive things. Just like the potty training bit, which is finally, finally coming together. We’re almost there. Not that we’re “done” (done in my mind is when I almost never have to think about it), but Eric’s initiating on his own, and he’s communicating with us when we’re out of the house and he needs the potty.

That’s huge.

Huge.

Especially from a child who’s been completely reluctant to use any form of communication… unless he darn well feels like it. Ah, the stubbornness of kids. (And the intense, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me stubbornness of late-talkers. )

And while I have some positive moments throughout my day, some little successes whether it’s the potty or Eric engaging in play with Kate or me, it doesn’t take away from how crazy hard life is right now.

For Eric, all his feelings, his intense toddler emotions, it’s compounded by a ton of frustration because he has no functional words yet. He doesn’t even have the word “no.” And Eric’s not taking this mid, two-year-old stage with grace the way Kate did. She saw the communication piece as this great giant puzzle… “Hmm, how can I tell Mom that I want to watch a Tinker Bell movie even though it comes from the strange red Netflix button?”

And yes, she’d figure it out. That was in her personality.

Eric? Not so much.

Like, really, really not so much.

If Eric wants to have four bananas for breakfast and I’m in the middle of saying, “No,” (with good reason, I might add) and there he goes. His switch has flipped and I’ve got to stop what I’m doing (usually in the midst of making an actual breakfast) and help him through those emotions. This means being present and calm (ok, I try really hard to stay calm but flailing hands certainly has an effect on my inner cool), sooth him with understanding (and hopefully words he can understand)… and just ride it out.

I have to support him.

I can’t get mad or leave the room. Or yell. Or let my own inner frustration (re: tantrum) out.

Time outs don’t work for us (even if they’re actually for me and I shut myself in the bathroom). Now, this might work on some kids. Not Eric. He gets even madder and goes right for that thing he knows he’s not supposed to do. Like bang the gate surrounding the very expensive electronics. Or climb into the toilet.

You know, toddler things.

Your family is gonna have different mileage here and oh boy, do these two-year-old years vary. Your family is gonna have different needs. Heck I’ve got two kids and they handled this stage completely differently. Kate ran off and cried in her crying castle. Eric wants to hit me.

Throw in any kind of special needs, from late-talking and sensory, to those of you parents with even greater challenges (who have my utmost respect and awe for), and these years are just tough. Tough. And as I’m slowly (sadly) realizing, there’s not some magic technique or spoonful of sugar that’s gonna make these moments go away (or any easier). It’s part of their development and us poor parents, we got to do our best and help the frustrated kids through the ginormous disappointments in life.

Like not eating as many bananas as you damn well want.

And sleep?

Oh, dear lord, do I miss sleep. Even right now, on a good sleep schedule (for us), I’m looking at only 3-5 hours of solid, consecutive sleep. The rest of my morning is dealing with Eric waking up every 3 hours. If I’m lucky, he goes to bed immediately. If not I’m up for an hour, comforting him, helping his body settled back down.

You’re probably wondering why the heck I’m bringing all these challenges up, why I’m listing out each reason why life is so freakin’ hard life is right now.

I just had a blood test confirm what I already knew: the sleep deprivation and stress has taken its toll.

I mean, I knew this was most likely the case but I didn’t really know. I do now.

My blood work is wonderful. Really. Green all across the board from cholesterol to Vitamin D. Except, I have inflammation. Inflammation that is directly related to sleep and stress.

Well, shit.

Now, I’ve suspected this for awhile now. Parenting my two young kids has taken a toll on my body. But the question remains (and it’s a big one): what the heck can I do about it??

I mean, it’s not like I can just decrease my stress by handing my son off to daycare (if you haven’t been following my blog, just know this would not be a good move for Eric).

Also, since March I cut out almost all sugar. I had to. All the broken sleep, when we went through that terrible patch for six months, I needed to stop the sweets and give my body a chance to heal (it did, and still is). My poor metabolism was shot and I was putting on a few pounds. Not a lot but enough that the negative self-talk in my head was adding more stress, not to mention feeling bloated and icky all the time.

Again, I focused on what I could do: not eating the sugar and focusing on sleep. Not that I can control how often my kids wake up at night, but how much caffeine and alcohol I was drinking, how long before bed, even making the bedroom more sleep friendly. I even added an scented candle, nature music, and an acupressure mat to my bedtime routine.

It’s helped.

But the question is, what do I do now?

I mean, the blood test confirmed I’ve got some inflammation issues and the sleep guide the Dietitian sent me is all great… except I’m already doing it. And it’s not like I want to be waking up 2-3 times a night. It’s not my choice. It’s my kids’ choice. You know, those little individuals who I have zero control over.

And I think that’s what’s so frustrating about this. I have all these wonderful recommendations to help with the inflammation, but it feels like half of them simply don’t apply to me. Because I’m a parent. Because the reasons for the sleep, for the stress, are because I’m a parent.

And a parent of a very frustrated, right-in-the-middle of being a two-year-old… you know, exactly what he’s supposed to be doing at this developmental stage.

I know darn well the best medicine for us is time. Eric needs time to grow and mature, to settle in with his language, with his sleep. I know in my heart that’s what he needs except… what about me in the mean time? How much of myself, my own health, is getting sacrificed in the process?

How can I focus on my own self-care, on healing my own body, when the cause is my children?

The answer is no. The answer is also yes.

I mean, there are some things I can do, small minor tweaks to help myself out as much as possible, but the source of the stress and the sleep deprivation, well, that ain’t goin’ away (probably not even when they’re grown up with families of their own).

And sure I’ve got the stress of Eric’s frustrations, the instant explosions he’s having these days, but I haven’t even touched on the anxiety I feel about an upcoming video consult with our speech therapist. I mean, here I am, Ms. Confident when it comes to this late-talking journey, and I’m still scared. Scared that she won’t see the progress that Eric has made, which has been huge for him. Yes, he’s behind. Yes, he’s not where other boys are at, but oh my gosh, we’re making progress. We’re making these huge stride forwards, even if on the outside they only look like little itty-bitty steps.

The point is they’re there.

All of them.

All the visual referencing, how Eric will engage with people he trusts and likes in some kind of play, or will show off to his aunt and uncle as he falls splat-face-first on the couch.

But I’m still scared that our speech professional will just come back and put more worries or doubts in my mind. I don’t need those doubts. They’re not gonna help me. Not now. Not when I know we are already doing everything that Eric needs, and honestly, everything he’ll accept. (Strange speech therapist, who he doesn’t know, trying to play with him? Prompt him when it comes to play? Oh hell no.)

All that above?

That’s stress.

It’s a hidden kind of stress, something that most people who look at me will never see. I generally don’t talk about Eric and his journey because again, I can’t have your doubts or judgments in me. I simply can’t. I’m already treading water here, doing my best to support my kids in the ways that I know they need.

Which again… all this… it’s taking a toll on my body.

And truthfully, there’s not a whole lot left I can do to make it better. I’ve been focused on thinking creatively, of thinking outside the box, but the challenges of my particular family means I can’t just drop them off with a baby-sitter or a co-op or a daycare. Maybe in a few years, sure, but not now.

I know I’m not there yet, and while there are things I can’t simply make go away (fear of the upcoming video consult), there are other things I can do.

Like my self-care. Like making sure that every day, I leave the house for at least 30 minutes. Thirty minutes of just me, my thoughts, and no kids. I need that. I need a chance to breathe. I mean, really truly breathe… without every exhale wondering what the heck the two-year-old is banging into now. I’ve already talked with Sean about this. I understand it’s hard for him when Eric’s screaming because Mommy is leaving without him, but I need this more.

I need time with no kids.

I’ll grab my laptop, a book, a journal. Maybe I’ll do some writing, maybe I’ll just sit outside, and again, just breathe.

I’m also setting up times when a mother’s helper can come over and play with both kids. This isn’t going to give me any alone time, but it will take some pressure off. Maybe I can cut up veggies for dinner then or write an email the requires my whole brain actually paying attention. Or hide out in the bedroom and work on my publishing business.

I guess what I’m saying, is I’m asking for help. Mostly from family at this point, but I’m asking. And, I’m prioritizing my time. When Grandma comes over for a visit, instead of doing the dishes or working on food, I’m going to leave the house. Again, time for me and me only.

That’s so not an easy thing for me to do, but I’m gonna do it.

Small, little shifts.

I went out to breakfast with a dear friend and I left feeling amazing. Like I was filled with this wonderful energy. I’ll do that more too. Just getting away and connecting with someone who I know will make me feel good.

I’m going to surround myself with the right kind of people. People who add to my energy and happiness rather than take away from it.

Again, small little shifts.

This stress of parenting, especially right now, it’s real. And I’m right in the thick of it.

I know too, I’m not alone. I’m not alone in feeling trapped, frustrated, at times, even depressed. And those of you who have kids who walk to a different beat? You’re not alone in all those feelings either.

And I’m here to say: I get it.

I mean, I can’t get exactly what you’re going through, but I empathize with you. And I applaud you. Truly. With all my heart. It takes a courageous person to embrace being different, whether you have a special needs child, you homeschool, or you’ve chosen a different way of parenting than the norm.

At times parenting is a real lonely journey and we have no choice but to keep moving forward, keep doing our best. It’s hard and it takes a physical toll. It does. And it takes a mental and an emotional one, so let’s all recognize that together. Let’s all recognize that the journey is wonderful, and it’s all really hard and draining, especially as every day we try our best.

Because you know, when your little child smiles at you, you know, without a doubt, it’s totally worth it.

Yes, yes it is.

But we, as parents, we matter too.

So take the time to care for yourself. Do whatever it is you need to feel whole and healthy and alive. Maybe we can’t do a whole lot, but even doing a little bit, it matters.

Just like you.

You, dear parent, you matter too.

Surviving Times of Uncertainty

 

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.

The not-knowing.

The wait-and-see.

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?

Maybe.

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.

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.

Why?

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.

To them.

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.

Responsibility: The Heavy Mantle of Parenthood

 

Some people would call me crazy (I’m sure some people think it). And at times, I might fall a bit into that crazy side… or at least, just crazy for the amount of stuff I’m putting onto my already-full plate.

Here I am, choosing to be the primary speech partner for my kids, with very little outside support, and I’ve chosen to homeschool. Not only that, we’ve chosen to homeschool in a way that’s very different from Sean and my own school-focused upbringing. Oh, and top of that, I’m still trying to do this writer-publisher thing.

Pretty darn full plate, and one that’s ripe full of self-doubt and critiques and that age-old question all parents ask themselves:

Oh my God! Am I screwing up my kids??

And if you’ve never asked yourself that question I say buck up and be honest. We all of moments of self-doubt because of how deeply we care for and love our kids. We want to do our best by them. And because of that, there comes the self doubt creeping in…

Have I not played with them enough today? Have we not had enough connection time? Not enough time playing outdoors, visiting friends, learning new skills through living? Should we be scheduling more play-dates? Should I be sitting down and working more on sight-words more instead of spending hours at the park with friends or swimming? Should I, should I, should I….

It never stops.

There’s always something more we could be doing. There’s always a “better” way to have responded in an intense moment (like how Eric freaked out when I wouldn’t let him buy ALL the giant balls at Target).

This parenting thing, it’s a heavy mantle. It’s important. It’s weighty. Every day we make thousands of decisions that affect their wellbeing, and at the same time, not a single decision will make or break their growth or learning. We lose our way at times, we yell, we get frustrated because we’re tired and our own resources are low. We make mistakes, and our children still love us. They still forgive us. And the next day, or the next moment, even, we get to try again.

And again, and again.

Lately I’ve been struggling with my own doubts and slowly working my way through them. This wasn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last (I’m only four and half years into this parenting gig, after all).

You see, since we’re choosing a way of learning that’s child-led, that’s about following their interests and passions, where as me, the parent, becomes more of a facilitator as opposed to a straight-up “teacher.” It’s different than what the rest of our society has seen and I get looks and comments all the time for letting my kids be kids, for playing in puddles (and any bit of water my two-year-old can get his feet into). I see and feel their judgment, the same way I see and feel judgment when Kate talks — she sounds nothing like the 4 1/2 year old she is but someone much younger.

Lots of judgment.

Lots of negative feelings that I’m doing my best to shield my learning, thriving, growing kids from.

My kids may not know what the rest of the world thinks, but I do, and sometimes it’s just hard to keep that same self-doubt from leeching into my own thoughts.

Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.

Like right now, I’m struggling to walk this bridge, of helping Kate with her language growth, but at the same time, not pushing something she’s not reading for.

Like reading (or, at least, sight words).

You see, Kate’s reading, to some unknown degree, on her own. She knows words and has the comprehension of what they are. But how many words she knows, what they are, I haven’t a clue. And because she’s a visual learner and because language itself can be very abstract (just look at how many abstract words are in this sentence alone — they aren’t things you can stick a picture next that makes sense for the visual learner). Reading will help accelerate Kate’s language and speech.

Except… I also am aware of how important play is, especially for a kid who’s only four years old. I’m also aware and mindful that if she’s not ready to do something, I can’t and won’t force her.

Of course as a parent, I want to help Kate.

I want to help her acquire her language skills, to trust in the words. But at the same time, right now I want our focus to be on play and learning through play (something that our society, in my opinion, doesn’t put nearly enough emphasis on — regardless how old you are).

And, because of Kate’s temperament, I can’t push her.

If I do, she’s shuts down (just imagine a cute little girl even you the mental finger). I can’t force her to do something she’s not ready for, and frankly, as a parent, I don’t want to.

So. Here I am, walking this bridge of many, many worlds (at least it feels like). Trying to help my child, being her advocate and her voice because she doesn’t have one of her own yet (or, it’s a still a small, developing one). And I’m pushing up against professionals who want something that I don’t feel comfortable with yet (which is: working on reading).

Or maybe, it’s more the way this professional is pushing me.

This professional wants a more school-structured environment. She wants me to have structured time where Kate does something that I want her to do, so we can gear her for things like learning and lessons (even if we’re not doing them at this point). She wants me to whip out this board and write a word down, carrying it in my purse for crying out loud, so I can write some word when we’re out and about.

I’m sorry. I’m just trying to find my grocery list, trying to make sure my toddler has support and empathy when he can’t buy all the giant balls, and making sure I buy the correct Blu-Ray and not the 3D version (and yes, I need to go return that stupid thing today with my two kids in tow). My life can be a little intense at times. Heck, I’ve got a two-year-old and I swear everything is either super sweet or super intense. There is no middle ground.

And as far as the time when we sit and do something Kate’s not interested in… that goes against what our beliefs are in regards to children and learning. I mean, you, dear reader, you can believe what you like. I’ve got zero issues with that. You and I might have some crossover, or we might have none. Every person, every family is different and I think that’s wonderful.

For us, for me, I’m not comfortable with forcing Kate to do anything like this (especially considering her temperament). And when it comes time to learning, we’ve chosen this more whole-life learning approach where things like reading are simply part of our life, from reading books together (which Kate is slowly allowing me to do), to her playing video games (which has been a wealth of reading already for her), and even Kids YouTube, which she loves.

So, I know the reading and learning is happening and I love it, and I trust in it.

But at the same, I want to support her language growth, but in a way that’s natural and playful and really just fits with who we are as a family.

The only “forced” time I have is when I ask Kate to play a board game. And she loves it. She’s intrinsically motivated because she sees her daddy and me play board games all the time. And she loves the connection time. Besides, board games have been great because while I’m not “forcing” her to play, I am “enforcing” the rules (with some latitude of course). Meaning: this is how the game plays, and no, you can’t just flip over the dice because you didn’t like the outcome. It’s been great for her learning. We’re doing counting and colors in a way that’s natural and playful, and something we both enjoy.

I’m struggling with the reading part, and I have an appointment coming up with our professional (who I know will be pushing the reading and learning part on me again). So, I asked for help from the community around me, both from our homeschool group and other parents of late-talkers (who also homeschool).

And I got help.

I really, really did.

I’m absolutely blessed by this incredible wealth of knowledge from my local homeschool community, parents who have children grown and reading, who also followed this same learning-style approach that we are following.

I think the hardest part of walking this different path, of being my kids’ primary speech partner and also homeschooling (and following the child’s lead when it comes to learning), is the professionals. Sometimes, because of my own upbringing, I get a lot of anxiety. I feel pressure because they don’t necessarily believe in our choices as parents. And it’s hard shedding my thirty-five years of being trained that professionals know best. They know what’s right and what’s wrong and what could I know? I’m only a mother.

That’s right. I’m only a mother.

The mom of Kate and Eric. No one else is. No one else is around them, 24 hours a day like I am. No one can understand Kate’s words and what she’s saying better than me.

I am the expert on my kids.

It’s hard to keep strong in that belief sometimes. Sometimes this mantle of parenthood feels really, really heavy. And scary. Because I want what’s best. I may be wrong at times, I may make mistakes, but I’m listening to myself. I’m listening to my kids.

I’m trying my best to follow what feels right for us.

And as one mom reminded me, do I regret those moments where I’ve put my foot down and stood up for my child?

The answer is simple: no.

I’ve never regretted it… but I have regretted those times when I didn’t go with my mommy gut, when I didn’t go with what felt right.

So, do I have an answer yet for Kate and reading, to help her with the sight words in a fun and playful way?

Not really.

At least, not yet.

When I asked for help and support from the community around me I got lots of suggestions. So many that my introvert brain needs a good while to process through each of them, to really delve deep and see what possibilities these suggestions could bring. Would they work, or wouldn’t they? And for our family?

And that’s partly the answer right there. I don’t know yet because we haven’t tried.

Kate hasn’t tried.

And I think that’s ultimately what this journey will look like. First off, trusting we have words and learning in our every day life, which I do believe in. And then, finding ways that help promote this learning, ways that simply fit right into our natural way of living that’s fun, that we both want to participate in.

That’s the key and really, it’s going to be trial and error.

But the great thing is I do have so many options and there are many who are willing to help me out as we figure out this funky bridge I need to walk, trusting in the learning, and helping it along. But even better than that, I’m not feeling as scared.

And really, that’s what this is all about: fear.

Afraid of being wrong, afraid of doing something that deters my child’s growth and learning. That’s where the self-doubt and critique and judgment comes in. And this time, at this moment, it doesn’t have so strong a hold over me. Sure it’ll be back. I might even feel it after I get off the call with the professional who believes there’s only one way of learning, while I believe in another. But not right now. Right now I’m feeling more settled, in a place of peace and trust.

Because I’m not alone.

Because I’m not afraid to learn, to take suggestions from others (including our professional). And then, to try and try again.

Because, everything I’m doing, is out of love. And you really, really can’t go wrong when you’re coming from a place of complete joy and love. And honestly, that’s what Kate has taught me, every day I hear her speak and her beautifully unique voice.

Trust in yourself.

Trust in your children.

Trust in love.

A Slowly Expanding World: My Journey with Late-Talkers

 

To me, Kate has always been exactly who she should be.

Her quietness, her uncertainty around adults that she didn’t know well, her choosing to communicate in every way possible, just not with words. She’d always been a quiet child, and coming from two pretty darn introverted parents, it all felt normal.

It felt right.

For her.

And as Kate reached two and a half, Sean and I honestly agreed she wasn’t talking like other two-year-olds. Again, we weren’t worried, but we did want to help her in whatever way we could for whatever was missing with the language piece.

It turns out it was nothing, and, a lot.

A lot because she does have a language disorder, which, for most of the world out there who doesn’t know, this is very, very different from a speech disorder. And in Kate’s case, her language disorder is caused more by her temperament than anything else. She’d chosen not to talk because she knew darn well when she did, it wouldn’t be perfect. And if her words couldn’t be perfect? If she was going to feel an incredible amount of stress because of that?

Well, then she wasn’t gonna say a word.

Of course, as you know, you can’t just jump on a bike and ride a marathon over bumpy terrain, especially not on your first go.

You need to practice.

Turns out Eric’s got a similar deal going on with not trusting his words. So I guess my kids are pretty normal… for my family, anyway. For my kids, this is just what life needs to be. It’s a very natural process for them.

And that’s okay.

I’m the one that’s got to understand and figure out how best to help them. They are two completely normal children; they just have an issue with language. It’s gonna take them a little longer to learn it, with a ton of love, a ton of patience, and way more trust thrown in.

So that’s what we did. And when you mix those three ingredients together: love, patience, trust… something magical happens.

Kate started to open up. Her words, her understanding, blossomed.

It began slow. There was really no mythical spontaneous burst of full-on sentences (and if that happened to you, you are very blessed and I’m jealous… except, not really cause I wouldn’t change a thing in my kids). I noticed that Kate understood when she’s holding the banana peel in her hand and when I said, “throw it away….”

She does it.

Or, she starts playing with the little dolls that look exactly like a mommy, daddy, and baby, and says:

“Baby.”

“Daddy.”

(Not mommy though, at least not for me. I had to wait until Kate was four before I heard that beautiful word.)

Beautiful. Precious. Amazing.

That’s what it is. There’s nothing like it in the world to see this happen. To see all the hard work that everyone has given, all that time, effort, and trust, and their little world starts to expand beyond you.

Expands beyond you.

For my children, they don’t understand language the way most kids do. I watched a video log from this health coach I follow, and he’s got his little girl in it. She’s looking up, all fourteen months of extreme cuteness, and he says, “Where’s the airplane?”

She points and after a minute says, “There, there.”

In a way, I felt like crying because I’d never experienced this. I’ve never seen, or really, heard, what it sounds like to have a baby learn to talk. Of course, I showed this video to Sean and he just snorted and said, “That was barely a ‘there.”

I’m human, though. I got a twinge of jealousy, but then it passed because our journey, and the connection I’ve had with my kids, is amazing.

Try looking at it from their point of view:

They don’t understand what everyone around them is saying. It’s not because they physically can’t (for mine, anyway). They hear the words, they get bits and pieces, but the world is talking so fast, the kids their age aren’t talking clearly (cause again, those guys are just learning too), and no one has the patience to let them figure out what the heck they’re saying or what they want them to do.

Overwhelming, isn’t it?

Scary too, huh?

Everyone around you talking in a foreign language and you’re only grasping at a few words here and there.

It’s no surprise that my kids have relied on me a lot longer than most. When they were babies and just learning to walk, they looked to me, their mother, to help them navigate the world. To feed them and clothe them, sure, but also to comfort and deal with those very BIG toddler emotions. Imagine, wanting this very specific toy or bowl for strawberries and not even being able to say, “no,” when it’s offered to you?

You have no words.

No way of communicating beyond your physical body. Especially when dealing those super-charged emotions.

Imagine too, when you hit three years old and you want to play with the other kids. You’re drawn to them. You want to run. You want to climb the tree just like everyone else and these kids say, “Oh no! She’s climbing too. You can’t come up here. Go away!”

Talk about confusing.

And really, really sad.

I’ve had to be beside Kate, to help her navigate this, to help her understand with my one and two words, and to sooth her frustration and sometimes hurt feelings. And me, not being able to explain why they don’t want to play with her. Or why, even though she saw a boy throw sand at someone, that we don’t do this. That it hurts people.

And yet… we did.

And as Kate’s world slowly expanded, as I gave her the time and she grew beyond me. As she matured, her trust in me and language grew. Her receptive language, meaning her understanding of the words, picked up and she had an easier time playing with friends and understanding them. She still needs me, but… she’s also relying and learning from others.

Others that she trusts.

What does this look like?

When a friend, who I hadn’t seen in over six months, came over with her two kids, and they wanted my friend to read a book. And it was Kate, the girl who would slam the book shut whenever I tried (for four freakin’ years) to read aloud to her, who repeated almost everything. The words and the sounds.

My jaw about hit the floor.

Or while at another friend’s house for a birthday party, Kate comes down the stairs, gently touches a mom on the hand and says, “help me.” Then Kate was able to communicate, with gestures and pointing and maybe some words, what she needed.

Or, while at our Nature Play Friday with a homeschool mom, Kate was repeating her words. And this mom’s way of talking wasn’t my way. She didn’t know about the whole recasting thing where you repeat or say one or two words more. She was just talking. And Kate was just repeating.

And enjoying every moment of it.

I even heard the absolute success of another late-talker, a child who really is Kate’s identical twin in temperament, and how her aunt decided to stick post-it notes around the house with words on them. You wouldn’t believe that this beautiful, stubborn little girl is now loving it, going around and saying these words. And spelling them out, with her little word magnets and stickers, surprising the heck out of her mom whenever she walks in the room and sees a word like “planet” or all the way “xylophone” (and not kidding, spell checker corrected that one for me).

It’s like, as our late-talkers gain confidence and trust in themselves and their language, they start stepping beyond us parents. They look to other adults who they trust and who they’re comfortable with… and they start learning. And because these adults aren’t us, they’re don’t do things the way we would.

Just like the aunt with the post-it notes.

Just like my friend reading the book, something I had long given up on because really… I love books and it was pretty darn hurtful when I was continually shut down when I tried. And Kate had made her point pretty clear that she didn’t like me reading to her. But I guess… it makes sense… see? Even I’m having a revolution right now. Books are about words, and words, for Kate, meant stress. She couldn’t enjoy them until recently, when she was better able to understand them.

Wow.

Who knew, right??

That’s what I mean. Expanding boundaries beyond ourselves as parents. Other people bring in new ideas and experiences, things that we never would have thought of. But of course, these are also parents who know our kids. They’re not some random half-relative on your mother’s side who you see twice a year for Christmas and then Easter (and then you try to get out of at least one of those). Just like a mom friend who suggested, after months of Eric waking up every 2-3 hours, to just put the kids in the same room since we were going to do it anyway. And really, it wasn’t like our sleep could get much worse. Might as well get it over with.

And you know what?

Eric is sleeping, six hour stretches (sometimes) with only waking up for a snuggle with me once or twice (sometimes — it’s still way better than before). Part of me is afraid to believe it. The other part of me is nodding because I know it feels right.

And it came from beyond me.

As I’m starting over on this late-talking journey with Eric, it’s been wonderful to share my growing perspective. I see how he doesn’t often respond to other moms, will sometimes turn when they call his name. He will with me… unless he’s ignoring me… unless he’s mentally engrossed into understanding how the wheels of that train function. His world is still very small, very focused in this smaller bubble around him while Kate’s has continued to grow and grow to the point where I’m confident she’s okay on her own. She doesn’t need me to watch as closely as I used too. She’s able to navigate her world and those in it much easier. She still needs me and I’m right there when she does.

For late-talkers, for many of them anyway (and remember, you and only you know your child best), I feel this is a very normal process. Now, I could totally be wrong for you and your kids, and I’m sure you have differences and challenges that I don’t, but overall, something about this just feels right in their development.

Give them the time, give them the patience and love, and see what happens.

Eric’s very attached to me right now, and I understand why. He’s unsure about this great, big world filled with people who speak a language he’s only learning and who talk to fast. He doesn’t need to move beyond me until he’s ready. I know he will be, one day. I saw it happen with Kate, saw how her world view slowly started to grow. First, with interest in playing with other kids, just running and laughing with them, to the day when she asked another mom for help, to recently asking where her friend was when they weren’t at the pool to go swimming.

With Eric, I see his interest in Kate growing. How he’ll play with her more or run and give her a big toddler hug from behind (until they both fall over and he decides he doesn’t like that anymore). How he’s super comfortable with dads but unsure about moms. Or how, just past Sunday the way he’d glance back at the two older kids pushing him in a swing with this utter and complete joy on his face as he laughed and laughed. He wanted to share that joy with them. It’s little moments like this that ease my heart.

This is our process, Eric’s and Kate’s, and we will get there.

They are both constantly teaching me new things. Just like other parents, as they enter into our lives and the world view of my kids, teach me new things as well.

New ways to respond to my kids.

New ways to expand past all of our boundaries and comfort zones.

New ways which we all can learn and can grow. And always, I follow at the pace and cues of my kids, and of myself. I’m learning to trust in myself and my feelings, when something feels right and when it doesn’t. In the same way how it feels right to let Kate’s continuing to grow beyond me, to push her boundaries further, while I allow Eric to stay as close as he needs.

Your way, your life and your kids, will be different from mine. Just like each of us will face our own unique challenges and successes, and that’s what makes our world so amazing.

For myself, I’ve chosen to listen to my kids and myself because listening just feels right.

The Language Burst: My Journey with Late-Talkers

 

When I first heard about this, these “language bursts,” it was from our speech pathologist (the person who coaches me with Kate and her language). The way she described these bursts was not, at all, scientific. In fact, as I’m learning on our own journey, this language thing sometimes isn’t scientific at all. (Probably because language lands completely in the domain of our kids, and if you haven’t looked around lately, each of our kids are completely and totally, different. Oh. And they each of their own way of doing things.)

So, I figured a language burst would be, you know, how it sounds.

Language. Burst.

Got that.

I was told that, “I’d know it when I saw it.”

And when Kate was gaining more trust in her words? My speech pathologist would shake her head and say, “Oh, no. She hasn’t hit her burst yet.”

Hmm. Well, okay then. Me, I was personally thrilled to hear Kate saying “up” and “more” and all the names of her My Little Ponies.

Turns out my speech pathologist was totally, totally right.

I had no clue, zero clue, what a language burst was.

Not until it happened.

Now, if you’re new on this journey with your own late-talkers (or any child who isn’t talking at the age marked as “appropriate” by your pediatrician), you’re not going to have any clue either, much like me, about what it is or even what it looks like.

Now again, every kid is different and your child’s experience probably won’t look like Kate’s (or maybe it will, or maybe there will be parts but not the whole). What I wanted to do here was simply share. Share our experience, share what this can look like, and hopefully, provide a twinge of hope for those parents out there who are patiently, and longing, for this same moment with your own kids.

When I first spoke with our speech pathologist, Mary Camarata, Kate had just turned three and said only a few functional words (meaning words she said all the time). I mean, we’re talking about “no” and “baby” and that’s about it. And like every parent, I was anxious to know when Kate would start talking, but at the same time, I was also different.

I had finally found my center, my grounding if you will, and I was okay waiting for Kate. I didn’t need to know when. I didn’t need to know when she’d “normalize.”

And when Mary told me that Kate probably wouldn’t talk until she was four, or four and a half, I was fine with it. I trusted in Kate, I trusted in myself.

But, to keep up my spirits, to show our growth, for me and Kate together, I kept a journal. Sure, I wrote the words she would say (and then would “tuck away”), but I also recorded experiences… how she would respond, physically, if I asked something of her. Or if she allowed another mom to put on her jacket while I was busy with Eric. Her trust and comfort in others was just a big a step as a new word was.

I kept my journal and the words, as Kate reached three and a half, slowly ticked upwards.

For Kate and her temperament, her trust, her mastery in all things, is huge. If she is not confident that she can nail something with 100% accuracy (think learning to talk here), she gets extreme anxiety and will not do it. The idea of not doing something perfect, or a word sounding perfect, caused such anxiety that she didn’t even want to try.

The first time I heard the word “water” was on a nature Friday. We were coming back from a hike, near the ocean, and she said, “water.”

I’m not sure if she referred to the water bottle in the backpack or the ocean, but there it was: water. (Actually it sounded like wa-dee.)

Just imagine Kate slowly dipping her toes into this giant ocean of words.

As she gained confidence, she’d put her toes in a little deeper, and then would draw it back. She’d say, “pu” for the word, “push” (to get pushed more on the swings). She repeated “step” when I told Eric to “step” into the pool.

The first time she said, “mom?”

It was a whisper.

And then she’d sheepishly look at me and close her mouth up tight.

Kate would say, “daddy” when she wanted daddy to play with her. She started vocalizing at the park with her close friends who she trusted. She would say, “yippee” and “hi.” She would say “bop” for “stop.”

When Kate held out a ball to me, she said, “ba.”

I would say, “that’s right. Ball.”

“Ba,” she said again.

This was how it started. Little tiny steps forward. Her little toe slowly going deeper, and then pulling back away. And I was nothing but patient and kind and comforting. I knew what she needed from me. She needed to try the words, and she needed to trust that saying them incorrectly was okay.

Fast forward to her birthday. Kate turned four.

It was the first time I clearly heard the most beautiful word ever: Mom.

While we were playing on my bed with Grandma over, Kate said to me: “Hi…… Hi…. Mom.”

She wanted to play with me and not my mom.

And she told me that.

Then it only got faster from there. At her birthday party, when the other kids were playing and running together, Kate learned another phrase: “Ready, set, go!”

At the park, when I told Kate it was time to leave and said to her, “we’re going now.”

She repeated, “going” (and in front of her friends).

I had an update call with Mary. She loved that Kate was making more words attempts more often, that they were sometimes hard to understand though I clearly could. She told me I would see Kate vocalizing more and more, that her phonology (the speech sounds themselves) were still immature and her feelings of insecurity were still huge (it was why she was using the word “no” so much).

Mary told me to wait a little longer, that we would know between four and a half, five years, for Kate to decide to say words.

Me? Heck, I was ecstatic with the words I was hearing. Kate could take until five; I didn’t care because I loved the progress we were seeing. I loved the confidence and trust I was seeing in Kate. It didn’t matter how long it would take us to get there, we would get there. I could sense that Kate had specific words in her mind, words that she was trying to say and willing to say.

Turns out, she only needed a few more months before the words really started coming.

I added more and more to my journal. Listing the words out every day. We met with Mary in person, for the first time, at the end of September and while I was thrilled with where we were, we still hadn’t hit Kate language burst.

Not until October did it start, and it felt like an explosion.

Every day, more words. Every day, she was repeating words I’d said (something she’d never done before). Every day she growing more confident and comfortable. At the pool she would say to her friends, “help me,” and they would help her put on the goggles. I was no where near this exchange; she said these words to her friends, and them alone.

She hadn’t needed my support, or my just being near, to trust the words.

Every week it felt like she said more and more words to my mom friends, and adults in general (the people she’s shyer and more cautious around).

Her words have grown to the point where my journal only records new and notable moments. There are simply so many words that it’s impossible for me to write them all down. We have moments with each other, speech play that is happening every moment she’s awake. Every interaction is filled with words, filled with her trying to convey to me her wants and needs. And if I try to understand and say the word she hadn’t meant? She says no and tries again.

She tries again, even though the words weren’t perfect or understandable the first time. She tries again.

Imagine this giant crashing wave.

Or, to go back to my earlier swimming analogy, Kate has full-on, cannon-balled into that water.

It started small and tentative, then picked up speed, and yet still our speech pathologist had said: not yet.

Well, I get it now.

I really, really do.

Kate took the words she had and put them together into phrases, and now, into sentences. I about fell out my chair when she first said, “May I have iPad now?

I mean, there’s grammar in there too. There’s an understanding that she is the “I” person. And there’s also the fact that she’s using manners, which I never purposefully set out to teach her.

And with that sentence she used? Insert another word, like “phone” or “hot dog” or “chocolate.”

She’s using some “w” words (think “where” and “what”). “W” words are in general harder because they have this almost abstract concept to them. Yet, she’s learning them.

The other day she said, “Baby, where he go? Baby!”

Or, “What do here, Mommy?”

And now, at this moment in time, March, 2017, Kate is still in the middle of this explosion. She has an explosion of sentences, is adding more and more familiar words to what she already has.

For example, she might have started with the word “help.”

This changed to, “help me.”

Then, “Help me, Mommy.”

To…

“I need help.”

As well as…

“Can you help me, Mommy?”

Look at all those different ways she is asking for help. All the different sentences she’s put together that mean the exact same thing: she needs help.

She even went to the pool and when she realized none of her friends were waiting outside, said to me, “Where Kyla go?”

A friend’s name.

In a sentence.

Can you imagine the absolute joy I felt? The pride I felt for her that we have come to this moment in time?

Or when she held her toothbrush to me and said, “May I have some more?” (She was referring to toothpaste.)

Or, when she was looking for me in the house (and couldn’t find me) said: “Where did you go, Mommy?”

Her journey with language started so small. It started with her being afraid to trust in her words, and slowly, trusted in me (after our false start with Early Intervention and then speech therapy). And it’s not just about her spoken words either. It’s also about her understanding words, that’s as (if not more) important. Her receptive language has leapt forward.

When we were at the pool walking home, she had a towel on. She said, “fly.”

I asked her, “Do you want to fly?”

She nodded her head, so I told her, hold out your towel and pretend you’re flying!

And she did.

Not only did she run with her arms spread out, towel flapping behind her, but she had understood me. I spoke in a way that was more complex, that this word “pretend” wasn’t one that she could visually picture in her mind to know what I’d meant. And yet, she had still understood.

This is what Kate’s language burst has looked like.

It’s a wave that we could see coming, slowly at first, then faster and faster. When it hit I barely registered because we were already in the middle of it. All I knew, is that we were there.

She was there.

And every week, parents who have known for years, many who see her every week are constantly telling me how they can’t believe it. I can see their shocked expressions when Kate communicates, with words, what her needs are. And she’s communicating it to them. Not to me.

What shocks people even more is when they comment on how far she’s come in a year, and I shake my head and say, “No. This is how far she’s come in just five months.”

And that, folks, is what a language burst looks like.

Okay, maybe not all, but definitely Kate’s. Language bursts usually come in waves, and when you’re riding one, they can last for months. Mary had said Kate’s would last from about eight months to a year, but she was betting that for Kate, she would ride it for a year.

I completely agree with her. It doesn’t feel like these words are stopping anytime soon.

I hope they don’t.

In fact, yesterday after a park day where she played with kids ranging from 14 months old to 12 years, I put her in the car and she asked me, “Can I have the keys now, Mommy?”

I blinked. “Yes, you can have the keys.”

She took them. “Thank you, Mommy, bye!”

A friend, who was standing beside me and who has watched Kate grow in language for two years now, was absolutely shocked (especially about the use of “thank you” — which to be honest, still shocks me every time I hear it).

This has been quite the ride and every day I smile in such joy at how far Kate’s come, at how we all came to this place, to this moment in time, because we chose trust.

We chose to trust in her to tell us what she needed.

We chose to trust that we, as parents, knew better than anyone else how to help her. And this, really, has been as much a victory for us as it has been for her. But the true joy I feel is actually much simpler:

I finally get to hear the beautiful sound of my little girl’s voice.

Diary of a Nonverbal 2-Year-Old: Dealing with Frustrations

 

We all know every kid is different. It’s one of those phrases we throw around, but one we, as parents, also believe in. (It’s a phrase that also helps to appease the disagreeing family members or friends who aren’t totally up on the way you’ve decided to parent or teach or whatever.)

I think this idea though, that kids are each born with different thoughts and temperaments, really, really hits home when you’ve had your second child. And that second child steps out of babyhood and into the (sometimes… or often) terror of toddlerhood.

For as cute as they are, running with legs that haven’t quite gotten this new mode of movement, they are also very, very exhausting. But more than that, their ideas and thoughts have moved away from the simplicities of babyhood (like food and sleep and… even more food) into a more complex world.

I don’t want that banana. I want this one.

(Or strawberry. Or the large piece of chocolate, because seriously, I see what you’re doing giving me that tinsy tiny piece, I’m no idiot.)

They have desires of which train they want and when said, really-cool-train doesn’t stay on the tracks and their fine motor controls still being what they are, they need help to put it back (all wheels on, by the way). Constantly need help.

And when they don’t get what they want?

Oh man. Full on feet stomping, turning in circles. Some screaming. Some hitting. All of it is fair game for the toddler.

Our little ones have suddenly developed these advanced, complex needs and we are left with the daunting task of translating exactly what’s going on in their heads… and if it’s even something we can give them. If it’s not… well, you with kids know exactly what I mean. The word “no” can invite a full-on hurricane in my household.

Now. Imagine all that.

Got it?

Great. Now imagine if you have zero words to get your needs met.

Zero.

No language, whatsoever.

All you have is your little body, all four limbs, and the screaming, loud-vocals which you were born with. Imagine too, that child growing bigger, their needs getting more complex (I want to watch this movie on Netflix but Mom is clearly not a mind-reader and I still have no words).

For Kate, she saw the language barrier as one giant puzzle. How did Kate get to watch the Tinker Bell movie she wanted (and there are a fair few) that she knew was only on Netflix? She asked to be picked up (raising her arms) while standing underneath the movie shelf. Grabbed the Peter Pan Blu-ray, pointed at the Tinker Bell on the cover. Asked to be put down (body language again), rushed to the remote control that had a red button for Netflix and pointed to it.

And we knew what she wanted.

Tinker Bell on Netflix.

Her nonverbal cues were off-the-charts amazing. I mean, people still ask me how I would know what she wanted. I could only blink at them and say, quite honestly, “She told me.”

And she did. Every time.

I mean, it wasn’t always a cake-walk (I think my memory here is being protective and removing the super-hard parts and just sort of glossing it all over in a dull haze). But really, I was always very in tune with her. We were connected. Her pointing at certain things, the context we were living in at that moment, I just knew. Mostly because I was willing to listen… not with my ears, because again, no words, but with every other piece of my being.

For Kate, it was a puzzle, one that she loved to solve.

For Eric… ah… his patience is no where near hers. And he still has very complex, very specific things that he wants. And, like any two-year-old, has zero patience waiting.

Fun. Times.

Two kids. Both late-talkers.

Totally different temperaments.

With Eric, I will need to teach him to be clearer, any kind of little movement forward, to help ease that frustration. He needs to learn that when he is more clear, he gets what he wants faster.

That doesn’t make this an easy time because it’s really, really not.

Right now, when Eric is frustrated, when he doesn’t get what he wants or when something doesn’t go his way (his sister took a toy he wanted or, he was trying to carry a half-dozen rubber eggs and one after another tumbles out from his arms), he runs over to me, and hits me.

Yep.

Hits me.

It’s not a hard hit, but believe me, his intent is clear (especially when he runs clear across the room to do it, ignoring both Daddy and Kate to zero-in on me). And when I hold his hands, he tries to get some kicks in.

And it’s super frustrating.

Here I am, trying to follow a compassionate, peaceful way of parenting, and there’s this giant language barrier that’s creating this frustration in my son. Two-year-olds are often frustrated and they have giant emotions. That’s their stage in development, they should act this way. But when there’s no easing of this because he can’t communicate in a way he needs… it’s extra frustrating.

I can recognize that. I can see and understand what’s causing this situation. He’s feeling frustrated and this is how it physically manifests itself. What his needs are depend on the situation (like help putting his train back up).

I also know that how I’m acting is the right approach even if it doesn’t feel like we’re making progress. I hold his hands, to keep me safe. It also helps keep my own temper in check, because really, getting hit is one of the fastest ways to “flip my lid” as they say in nonviolent communication circles, which is when I revert back to the reptilian part of my brain of fight or flight. Not that I’m perfect and I never yell. Oh believe me, with as a little sleep as I’m getting these days, sometimes my goal is just to get to bedtime as peacefully and centered as I can.

Outings? Working on speech? Yeah, no. How about I just try to keep myself from losing my shit?

Ok. Back to the real question: what the heck do I do about Eric’s frustrations?

Honestly… I’m still working on it.

I know what I’m doing is in the right vein because it feels right. It feels inline with who I want to be as a parent. But am I being as effective as I can be?

Probably not.

In fact, I’m going to ask for help on this.

Sometimes it’s easier to know what not to do. Example, if I tell him, “Don’t hit me.” Guess which part he hears? Yeah. You guessed it. “Hit me.”

I also want to be careful about shaming him, making him feel guilty. Like, “You hurt me.” (I’m not going to go into this too deeply. It’s something I’ve learned/learning from different parenting resources. I think I’ll list those at the end for anyone interested).

I also know that when I tell Eric, “This doesn’t work for me,” is the wrong thing to say. There’s just too many words for him to understand. I need to keep my message simple, like: “Ouch. Hurts.”

I know to show this in my face (if I can get him to look at me… sometimes he knows darn well what he’s done and the last thing he wants is to meet me eye-to-eye about it).

But… this still doesn’t solve the real piece in there.

His frustrations.

He has needs that aren’t being met, and it’s compounded because he doesn’t have language to express himself (or to even listen to me). Eric’s expressive language (which is the talking part) and his receptive (which is the listening and understanding part), are different than most kids. That means I need to find a way to work with him in a way that he understands.

Talk about a challenge, right?

To change the behavior (which is him hitting me), I need to address his actual need. To stop him feeling so frustrated, I need to address the real thing that’s going on.

Yep. A challenge.

It’s like putting on a funny-looking hat, squinting my eyes and telling myself that I totally can read someone else’s mind.

Which… I can’t.

Except… I can. Sorta.

The first step is really figuring out his feelings (which are pretty clear: FRUSTRATED). Then, if I need, which I usually do, I look over at this list here (https://www.cnvc.org/Training/needs-inventory). It’s super, super helpful to identify even what I’m needing (and often, not getting).

When Eric’s frustrated about his trains… he might be needing support or warmth or closeness from me or competence (in himself). If I’m in a centered place (and not the raving banshee I’ve been lately due to extreme sleep deprivation), I can calmly sit with him and support him as he plays with the trains in the way that he wants.

Frustrations and emotions are literally just what’s going on right now. It’s where he’s at developmentally and it’s compounded because he has zero words. Poor guy can’t even hell “NO!”

The other day I bought him a ball at Target, and guess what? He had a complete meltdown because he wanted all of them. (Which, clearly, he wasn’t going to get.) So, I did the best I could. Moved him away from the constant reminder of all the balls he didn’t have, knelt with him and tried to hold him and share in those big emotions. I didn’t try to hurry him through them. I didn’t care about all the looks I was getting (believe me, I was getting a fair few). I stayed with him, as long as I could (remember too, sleep-deprived me is also not up to my best standards), and let him feel that disappointment.

He eventually calmed down enough so we could pay and leave. Sometimes, that’s the best I can do. Get through it, and move on. Other times I have more energy to give and I can feel myself be connected, and I can take the time to be with him through these big emotions.

So… I know that I’m on the right path. I know what needs to be done, even if only to some degree and not the whole picture. But I have people I can reach out to for help and guidance. Because every kid is different, what worked for Kate won’t necessarily work for Eric. And what worked for one child, who has words, they have a lot more leeway when it comes to bargaining or problem-solving to find a solution that fits for both parent and child.

I can’t do that yet.

What I can do is help Eric with his frustrations, allow himself to feel those big, huge emotions, in a way that’s acceptable and safe. And somehow, I need to start helping him to understand that the clearer he can be, with his nonverbal cues, the faster he can get what he wants (and be less frustrated).

This particular post, is going to be a work-in-progress because I don’t yet know the full solution. Maybe their won’t ever be one. At least, not the right and complete one.

Still though, I’m working towards what I want, as a parent. I’ll figure this out, and as I do I’ll share because I know I’m not alone. I know there are many parents of late-talkers who deal with behavior problems that are no where near to even what Eric and I are working through. And maybe, what I learn along the way, can help others understand. And if you’ve got a language-typical child, I also know that their language goes out the window when these big toddler-emotions take control and the screaming and flaying limps begins.

Parenthood is a journey, whether we have language or not. It’s wonderful and joyful, and it can also be very, very frustrating. For everyone. Us, and our kids.

Here’s hoping this is my first step in easing that one, small piece of toddlerhood.

 

As I mentioned, here are some amazing resources that I’ve used on my parenting journey. There are many more, and many still sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I’ve discovered this approach, to being open instead of closed off and (for lack of a better word) authoritarian, has been immensely helpful with my late-talkers. This is not at all to say you’re a bad parent if you choose differently. We are all different, as families and as individuals. I’m sharing to say: here is another way. I’ll be blogging about this even more in the future, even though I am still, very much, learning. I am, by no way, an expert.

But as promised, here’s some resources:

Michelle Charfen teaches some amazing classes. She also has a TedTalk about self-acceptance and her journey into parenthood. I highly recommend watching. http://michellecharfen.com

http://www.echoparenting.org

Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel. This is one of the first books I read, and the journaling he recommends, and it was amazing and an eye-opening self-reflection to why I was parenting the way I was, and why my kids have this amazing ability to trigger my buried emotions.

Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids: 7 Keys to Turn Family Conflict into Cooperation by Sura Hart and Victoria Kindle Hodson.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Laura Markham

My Second Journey with a Late-Talker

 

That’s right. I don’t just have one but two late-talkers.

Talk about a roll of the dice, right?

Now, to be honest, this isn’t an easy thing for me to write about. I’m sure those of you who’ve read my blog for awhile have picked up on the fact that I don’t talk about Eric and his language a whole lot. And there’s a good reason for it, and I’m gonna try and describe it as a fiction writer.

When I come up with some new story idea, or some new character or world, I never talk about it. With anyone. And the reason for that is simple:

My subconscious is playing with this idea, it’s creating a story that’s completely my own. I don’t want anyone else’s input. I don’t want to know what they think would be cool or neat, because that could either come in and taint my slowly bubbling story or… it’ll piss off my inner-storyteller, which will straight up shut the whole thing down.

I protect these developing stories. I protect all of my work-in-progresses. At this point, I don’t want anyone’s input. At least, not until it’s finished.

Now switching back to Eric.

I haven’t talked much about him, with the exception of teething and poop complaints, certainly not about his speech, because Eric has been that developing story. I wanted him to have a blank page for as long as possible, a chance to grow and be who he is, without anyone adding in their two-cents or judgments. And not that those people could affect him, but they could affect me and my thoughts.

Now I’m going to slide right in and say quickly (before people jump in and call me an irresponsible parent): both our pediatrician and our speech pathologist, Mary Camarata, were involved and right there with us in regards to Eric. They’ve also been onboard with our choice to wait and support Eric, in the best way we could. I have been working with Eric, to help build the foundations he needs for language, for a good six months now, doing what little toddlers love most: physical play with momma.

One reason I’m very sensitive to this stage, this movement from babyhood to toddler to little boy, is because I remember, very clearly, the dark, scary black hole I was in when Kate was this age (and honestly, she was even a little older). It was that moment where we recognized she wasn’t “normal” with her language and understanding of it… yet, what they were saying about her was so very, very wrong. We know it, as parents. That they were only seeing a small side of who she was and we were already being shoved and pushed in a direction we weren’t okay with. And let’s not forget how those people would look at us, her parents, and how I could feel their judgment. We were the ones in denial. We were the ones who were wrong about Kate.

Even now just thinking this is enough to make my skin crawl and for tears to come to my eyes. No parent should ever have those said about their child. Ever. Certainly not when the parent believes, with her whole heart, that those people were wrong, that her daughter was a healthy and whole person, but just different.

A different way of learning.

A different way of living.

A different way of being living with the world.

So, I kept quiet about Eric. To the moms and friends we saw regularly I would tell them, “I don’t know if he’s going to be a late-talker or not. We’ll wait and see.”

And each one of them accepted that.

Frankly, I think they understood that I sure knew a heck of a lot more about kids and talking, and they completely trusted in me and decisions about Eric.

They believed in us.

Not to mention, all you have to do is look at Kate now, compared to a year ago, and I’ve got walking, talking proof that what we’re doing is working for us. And we’re committed to seeing this through. We’re committed to being engaged, to following our children’s lead especially when it doesn’t follow the traditional styles of most therapist. (For example, if your child isn’t an imitator naturally, don’t be shocked when that child doesn’t follow along when said therapist tries to get them to say, “more,” or heck, even form that m sound with the mouth upon command. And with my two kids? Sorry. Not gonna happen.)

Up until now, Eric was still fitting into the normal range for speech development. Especially for a boy and a second child. Even with the few words he had (when he deemed he wanted to even say them), he was still hitting that range.

And we were just fine to give him that time, with no pressure. After all, we knew from experience that pressure and worrying and living with fear didn’t work with Kate, there was certainly not reason to start with Eric. Especially for as young as he was.

You see, I know of many parents whose young children, from as young as fourteen months, are already in speech therapy. This is not to say these children shouldn’t be in therapy or that that therapy wouldn’t help them. I’m certainly not qualified to say that, and I’m certainly not qualified to say that about your child. What gets me, personally, is I often hear a child is in therapy because they aren’t talking yet. There’s not some straight-up medical reason or an actual defined need for the therapy. And I’m also not saying the parents aren’t wrong for choosing this, or the medical professionals. They’re concerned. They don’t know what’s going on. Heck, we did private speech therapy with Kate for six months before realizing, in her case, it was just throwing money down the drain. Because every family is different. Every child is different.

But… to be honest… it breaks my heart that speech therapy, for simply not yet talking, is being pushed on kids so young. To me, this feels wrong. (Again, those are my feelings and no judgment is made on anyone who chooses differently. For me, this feels like another piece of our culture, this pushing to be like everyone else, to all fit in the same box, that I’m disappointed in.)

What happened to just letting kids grow at their own pace and develop? What happened to just letting them follow their own path?

Well, Sean and I have a therapy about this, about getting kids ready for school at earlier and earlier ages, to the point that if you’ve got a two-year-old the next question usually is: when are they going to start preschool? But that’s really not the post I’m writing today. What I want to say here is that almost weekly, I’m meeting someone (or a family member or a friend has), who, while just going about their day, meets another who’s grandchild or who’s own child, is a late-talker. A child who, 30 years ago, didn’t start talking until he was four or five. My mother-in-law just told me this story yesterday at the bank, when she met two people who had late-talkers. Two. One who’s daughter was only three, and another older lady who’s son was 20+ years.

These kiddos are a lot more in number than we know, a lot more too (for whatever reason) than the medical community is letting us in on. Maybe because it’s easy to forget that struggle, that waiting and wondering, for those handful of early years. Maybe it’s a relief too, on the behalf of parents, to simply forget this phase and move on when the kids finally do start talking.

But know: you are not alone.

And neither is your kid. Really.

Eric literally just turned two, and if you haven’t gathered yet, both Sean and I have resolved to trust in our kids. To give them time.

We did that. Even when Eric started hitting his age milestones with no words (or a sporadic one or two), we choose to give him time. To not rush or worry or push.

Oh we helped him. We played physical games and focused on his visual referencing with us to continue those games and oh my, the growth for that alone compared to when we first started is amazing. It’s also another reason of why I’m not worried. Because this is one of those important little pieces that needs to be in place before language can ever happen.

It’s there.

Eric needs to care what I think (which is why he’ll look up when he sees or does something fun or cool). He needs to look at me because I’m the reason those blankets go super-fast on the floor while he gets the coolest ride ever.

Language, truly, is invisible, at least the acquiring of it. There are so many little pieces that need to be there, things that you never notice as a parent because it’s just a natural flow between parent and child. You notice when they aren’t there because things feel different and silted, that they simply don’t feel right. I can happily say that all those things are there for Eric.

Supposedly there’s a 1 and 10 chance that Eric would be a late-talker like his sister, but when I mentioned this to Sean he kind of snorted and said, “I think it’s a lot higher than that. We’re still the same parents.”

And our kids came from us.

(And if you know us, having two kids who don’t think talking is super important isn’t a huge surprise.)

But still, we now know for sure that Eric’s phonological sounds are immature for his age. He’s not as precise and articulate with his sounds, and of course, his expressive is also delayed (this is the actually ‘talking’ part of language and since he’s not talking yet, it’s no surprise that he falls into this category). Keep in mind too, that Mary Camarata waited until he was two before even making this call. She was completely comfortable giving him the time and as she said to me on more than one occasion, “You’re already doing everything you can.”

I was.

I still am.

And… Mary’s prognosis is not surprising to me either. I mean, I’ve watched other boys near Eric’s age, I can hear how they talk and respond to their moms (or me, for that matter). They’re understanding of language… it’s different than Eric’s. I can recognize that, and I’m sure some people are jumping out of their seats demanding to why I haven’t gotten him “help.” (See my mention earlier: I was already doing everything I could without pushing or demanding).

Here’s the real funny part: from when Eric was a baby Sean and I weren’t concerned about his talking. Nope. Not a bit. It wasn’t until he was about… 14-15 months that we started to notice some changes, that he went from babbling like crazy, to a quieter child.

Why weren’t we worried?

Well, as a baby, he’d babbled more at four months than Kate had her whole life. Opening his mouth and making sound come out was not his problem. In fact, Eric’s been right there the whole time on Kate’s journey. When we did have private speech therapy, more often than not, Eric was right there during the sessions. The therapist got to see and hear Eric. There was no flags or concerns. Nothing. Even Mary Camarata got to hear and see Eric in the videos with Kate for a year.

But as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten quieter. And it wasn’t like he’d never said a word (his first word was “hi” and then, “this,” and then “what’s this”) but like Kate, those words sort of… went away.

He stopped using them.

We don’t know why Eric stopped making his sounds. We don’t know why he focused less attention on language because we can’t get a crystal ball to peer into his little mind. It’s possible he focused on visual learning at some point and only recently has he started thinking about sounds. But we do know that he’s very similar to Kate, that there’s this piece missing… this trust in language. He’s hesitant to make the sounds.

And truly, he is so very blessed to have us are parents. Because we get him. We’ve been down this road with Kate. We know what to do. We know how to help him. We know, better than anyone, that the most important thing is for him to feel comfortable with language and sounds.

To trust in language.

To trust in us.

Now, my two kids are still very different. They have very different personalities, but I’m pretty darn hopeful and confident. All I have to do is watch a video from Kate a year ago, when she was barely saying anything, to today when she holds out her hand and says, “Give me high five!” (I’ll add to… I did not teach this to her. It was a dear friend who did.)

Heck, she’s even going up to kids at playgrounds and saying, “Hi! Hi! What do here?”

That is a great deal of trust in language, know what I’m saying?

Our goal with Kate was to teach her that language was safe. That she was safe when she did choose to make sounds and open her mouth.

So yeah, I’ve got another road ahead of me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a little disappointed because, well, having a child with a language delay is no cake-walk and it sure would have been nice if one of my kids fell into that “normal” developing category.

But they didn’t.

And that’s okay. I know what to do. I’ve got the help and support behind us. I know I won’t be falling into that scary black-hole of fear and depression this time around. It’s going to be a lot of work, heck, it’s still a lot of work with Kate, but we’re in a really good place.

I’m still sensitive to Eric and his developing little pace, especially since because there’s still a whole lot up in the air with him. Again, he’s just too young to do any kind of testing, even nonverbal testing. He’s also crazy stubborn. So… if someone out there is reading this and you feel the need to start giving me your opinions or judgments or what you think of Eric.

Yeah.

Don’t want to hear it.

All I want to hear, all I want to focus on, is Eric’s thoughts on Eric.

It’s going to be a different journey than Kate because he’s Eric. Heck, even Mary made the comment that those cute Calico Critters, something that were a huge breakthrough for Kate, aren’t going to do it for him.

I’m going to listen, with my full heart and soul, to him. To who he is and how I can help him.

And that’s why I know we’ll be okay. That’s why, even if this is work (and it sure would have been nice to not worry about it with one of my kids), we’ll come out this better than okay. Because I’m willing to trust in Eric.

I’m willing to let him take me on his journey… his, and no one else’s.

 

Side note: One of my goals this year was to make this a weekly blog. I still may not be getting much sleep due to stupid teething (thanks, Eric) and I still may not be back to fiction writing, but I am writing these blogs. So check back every Thursday for a blog post about being a parent-writer or a parent of a late-talker, cause man do I got a lot to say about both these days!

And one day… dear lord I hope it’s soon… I’ll be sleeping again. Even a little bit. I’d totally take a little.