It’s only been five months since we took Kate to see her pediatrician and officially learned that her speech was delayed. Five months since we went to our regional early intervention center whose evaluation of Kate left me in tears and my husband pissed-off-as-all-hell. Five months since we realized, in a cold, numbing kind of way, that no one cared about helping Kate for *her* sake, in a way that was right for *her*.
No one, but us.
It’s been a journey, that’s for sure, and it’s a long, long way from being over.
And you know what?
I’m okay with that.
Even though there were tears, even though there were more curse-words than I’ve probably said in my life, there’s also been acceptance. And probably just as important, peace.
Because finally, I’ve settled in.
Settled in with who my daughter is, with the choices we’ve made and the path we’ve chosen – and damn what anyone else thinks or what society and the world around us defines as “normal.”
This ‘settling in’ wasn’t easy and it took time (nor is it over, I’m sure)… but I found a way to get through it. Lots of research. Lots of questions about how my gut said there was nothing wrong but all the experts were pushing and beating against our doors with hints that there ‘was.’
So, I tackled the problem head on. Which means, I read books. As many as I could get my hands on, and found something all our experts hadn’t mentioned. It started with a book I discovered at a local homeschool conference, called, “Late-Talking Children” by Thomas Sowell, who described a type of child that felt exactly like Kate, someone who was incredibly aware, puzzle-focused, could even give directions to my parents house, but who just didn’t want to talk. And then I found another book, this one called, “Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage?” by Stephen Camarata, which led to a Google search where I found something truly invaluable….
And I realized I wasn’t alone. Not alone in fighting against the professionals and their expert opinions who wanted to push for a diagnosis and slap a label on Kate. Other parents who were often feeling just as lost and fearful and alone as I was. Parents who constantly struggled between worrying about their own late-talker, making sure they get the help *they* needed, and also, letting that child be who she or he is.
Parents who forcefully push society’s beliefs and expectations away to let their child be who they are. To trust their child.
Trust your child.
That’s an incredibly easy thing to say, and a damn hard one to actually do.
Trust that you’re listening to your child’s wants, interests, feelings.
Trust that you’re making the right choices for your child.
Oh, right, and you totally got to do all that when your kid’s not saying a word.
What I love about this late-talking group is there are parents who are like me, who are right down in the thick of it, straight in the trenches and we’re damn lucky to catch a glimpse of sunlight and insight into our children. But then, there are other parents who’ve been down this road, some for just a few years, others who’ve come out the other side. Kids who are growing past their language differences. Who are healthy and ‘normal’ in their own unique ways.
One message I continually here from those parents is to love your child.
Love the child you have, right now.
I have a very dear family friend whose daughter was diagnosed with autism, and told me once that when she looked back at everything she went through said, “I wish I could go back in time and just tell myself that she was going to be fine.”
We worry about our kids. That’s just part of the deal. But the difference is choosing to live in that worry, or somehow, find love and joy in your life right now.
Which again, is a very easy thing to say and an incredibly hard thing to do.
In a way, it’s what I tell myself when I see friends and their kids. It’s also the exact thing I tell myself when I see other professional writers who release, book after book. I could be doing that too, right now, but I’m choosing not to. I’m choosing this time with my children, to be with them during these very young years, because I’ll never ever get them back.
Eric, whose now figuring out the logistics of crawling, is reminding me of that daily. I mean, it feels like I blinked and he’s already moving out of babyhood. I have No-Idea-How-that-Happened.
Just like I’ll never get this time back with Kate. If a live in the worry, let myself be consumed by it, it’s the same as blinking. I’ll miss it and it’ll be gone. Forever.
But it’s this understanding, this acceptance about Kate and who she is, where she is at developmentally and with her language (and not caring what the world has to say about it), has come about slowly. Bit-by-bit. A huge part is the joy I feel watching her play with her speech therapist. Seeing how happy she is. Witnessing her accomplish these giant, but very tiny, miniscule leaps towards language.
If I blinked, I’d miss it.
I would miss seeing, and feeling, this joy.
That’s right. I said, “Joy.”
That’s my heart telling me I’m on the right path. For me. For Kate. For our family.
Now. Don’t get me wrong. There are times when I feel the worry, when I feel the grief like a sharp-cutting knife despite all this talk of joy. It can happen during an innocent conversation with a friend or at a party when I hear another child, younger than Kate, speaking in such clear, full sentences. Or, it can even be at Kate’s third birthday party and her not understanding what the other kids are saying, how she’s being mean by running off with the puzzle box.
The difference, though, is I can either choose to live in that grief, or not.
I choose not to (most of the time!), but I also don’t deny the grief. I let myself feel it. I let myself cry, and then, I pick myself back up and focus on the joy. Focus on playing with her. Seeing through her eyes.
To be honest, a huge part of that does come from watching Kate in her therapy because every session I get a glimpse into her and just how much she knows. And it’s just not therapy but during our normal day-to-day lives, where out of nowhere, Kate goes up and hugs Eric. Just, wants a hug from her brother. She’s never done that before, and let me tell you, my heart melted.
Again and again.
Kate just turned three.
Three years old and to every checklist given, instructed, and being taught to pediatricians and professionals, there’s something wrong with her. And you know what? They’re wrong.
All of them.
Kate is who she is. She’s going at her own pace and I’m providing what I can to encourage it.
This is what my family and I have always known, in our heart, but the world around us said no. That we were wrong. That she needed to be labeled and diagnosed and put into special programs that wanted to force her to sit around a table for an hour and learn to attend, learn to talk.
Me, I want her to smile. To be happy. To play.
To just be herself.
Like my husband says every time I feel the grief… “Talking is overrated.”
And he’s right.
For our family, for our little girl, he’s absolutely right.
Kate will talk, when she’s good and ready. But in the meantime, with the resilience and happiness only a child could have, she’s getting along just fine without it. And you know what?
So am I.
(Above photo credit to my friend Cathy M.)