My little Sunshine said “fart” tonight. This was a big moment for our family. Because our child has a speech delay.
If you read my About Me page, you know that Viggo is 2. He just turned 2 this month. I’ve called him Sunshine from almost day 1. He just always has this beautiful light coming from him. His round little face, when it smiles, looks just like those cartoon-y smiling suns. If he has an angry moment, it is so short-lived it is often interrupted by his own smile. So why would this sweet, cherubic face saying what we call the baby f-word cause us such joy? Because Viggo is just now learning to talk. Oh, of course, you say. So are all 2 year olds.
I can’t tell you how many times I checked, and re-checked, his sister’s and brothers’ baby books to confirm that, yes, their 1st words were at 6-7 months. Sure, still babble, but enough of a word to record it, and watch their language consistently improve from that moment. I always tried, and still do, to never compare the kids to each other. Other kids? Sure. Damn straight they better be able to say their ABC’s before Billy down the street! I’m not raising slackers! But, I never wanted that horrible family dynamic in my household, with the comparisons, and measuring against each other. Easiest way to ensure sibling rivalry is to be the instigator of it. So, I told myself to put the books away. He was fine. He would probably learn to wipe his own ass before all of them and it would all be even. Then, at his 15 month check-up, as they asked the developmental questions, the dreaded one: “Does he say at least a million words?” Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it might as well have been what they said. I started crying as I answered, “Not. Even. One.”
It was time to get help. Luckily we have access to a wonderful county program that evaluates any delays, and then can come to work with your child if there are any issues. So next, the testing. Lots of questions. Watching him. He qualified. Duh,right? Well, it was actually for motor skills because he wasn’t walking yet, which was no biggie to me because, again comparing, all my kids were late walkers. He had no problem in his scores for communication, because of his ability to communicate without words for that age. Viggo can look at you and in a second express his feelings. And at that age, simple pointing and grunting was still acceptable. “Luckily”, because of the motor skills, they could help him with whatever we wanted. So, they started coming, about once a week, to work with him, and to help me teach my child to talk.
Now, I’d like to say, before I go any further, that I know this is not the worst problem in the world for your child to have. That many of you may be thinking, “So what, my kid has, or can’t______”. But, my purpose of this Living With story, and those to come, and hopefully ones that all of you contribute, is to show that we all have things going on inside of our homes, behind closed doors, that may be a struggle that nobody knows about. That maybe one of these struggles just gave you a really difficult moment before you left the house, so if you’re extra distracted you shouldn’t be judged for not being your cheeriest. That maybe you just need somebody to smile at you for no reason that day. Maybe you’ve been upset about a friend complaining about a problem they’re having, because it’s not as big as yours. But in their life, it’s changing everything. So, here’s what it’s like to live with my child with a speech delay.
Viggo has NO problem communicating his feelings, as I mentioned before. He is a very expressive child, and says so much with a smile, or his patented eyebrow movements. 🙂 Maybe that is one of the reasons he wasn’t feeling the need to talk? That answer is unknown. He doesn’t appear to have any other issue that would cause problems with speech. We can’t blame another medical issue, or use that to know what to expect next. He is learning to say words, and is progressing, he just started out late. So at his age, when his siblings could tell me what they needed, even if only I could understand some of the words, I have no idea what my baby needs for me to do for him sometimes. I feel like a horrible mother. When they’re younger, you know what they need, and they want so little, because they don’t realize yet all there is out there to ask for. He knows. He knows everything that is in the fridge and the food pantry. He knows every toy in the house. Every stuffed animal, every kids show we have DVR’d. He just can’t tell me which of these things he wants. After what seems like hours (although probably just minutes) of playing the guessing game, he is settled on the floor with me playing with a toy that I have made look really fun. After he has given me what I swear is a sad,exasperated look. I tell him Mommy will be right back, and I go into the bathroom to cry. What did I do wrong? I put so much effort into perfect blood sugars while I was pregnant. Not a sip of alcohol, walked away from anyone smoking, no caffeine. I wouldn’t even take the Tylenol I was told was perfectly safe as I struggled with the low blood sugar headaches. What did I miss that did this to him?
When Daddy comes home I tell him how great Viggo did today. I always play up the words and sounds he is repeating. Because Daddy is really stressing about this, and he doesn’t need any more stress. And it really isn’t something we’re supposed to be worrying about. He’s just behind. He can still be a doctor, he’ll probably just graduate a year later? I don’t know how that all pans out. So, I have Viggo repeat the new sound of the day for Daddy. See? He said “Please”! Pronounced “bah-e”, but I figure if I’m smiling as he says it, it will sound more clear to Daddy.
Then there’s the “support” of others. I have a growing group of friends and family who now know we are dealing with this. They all have their input, and “helpful” comments. And they all make me feel like shit. I now try to only vent to one friend who has a sister going through the same struggle. It’s the only time I feel better discussing it. Why? Because these are the things that people say:
“It’s not a big deal” I’m just never sure how to respond to this. Not a big deal in the scheme of things – like compared to the world’s problems, or your problems, or…?
“Well, he’s the fourth. You just don’t have as much time to work with him.” Insulted. That’s how I feel. I mean, I know they’re trying to tell me that it’s not my fault, it’s situational, but it actually does pin it on me. I have gone to great lengths to give all of my children the same, well, all of me. I believe in the importance of teaching your children from birth. Reading, numbers, letters, we do it all, years before they actually need it, but while their brains are doing the most developing. Please don’t tell me I slacked off with one of them. With each kid I just get less sleep and less showers. They get the same attention.
“He doesn’t need to talk. He has all those other people in the house to talk for him.” Okay, so maybe in their eagerness to cater to their adorable little brother, they will sometimes give him what he wants before he asks. I mean sometimes. Rarely. They have been equally eager to hear him talk, and have been so great being his little teachers. He doesn’t just flash them a hand signal, like a gang sign, and they run to tell me what to bring him.
“With so many people in the house, he can’t get a word in edge-wise”. Sure, we all ignore the cute baby in the room every time he opens his mouth. That just doesn’t make any sense.
“He’ll be fine.” I know. I know he’ll be fine. That all the things he does that show he is even intellectually advanced for his age, his ability to capture people’s attention, and get them addicted to him within minutes, will make him possibly one of the most succesful persons I’ve ever met. That doesn’t help me figure out if he wants Curious George or his green monkey when he seems to be asking for one of these at nap time.
“He’ll start talking one day and never shut up. You’ll want to go back to when he didn’t talk.” Except for always wanting to hang on to these days with them all when they are so wonderfully cuddly, I will never want to go back to the day I realized he was crying for 20 minutes because there was no water coming out of his sippy cup.
For now, we try to put the worry in the backseat. We try to stuff the frustration back there with it. I make it through the day, until everyone is in bed, and I cry it out again, along with all the other things that can pile up behind closed doors.
Tonight, as the kids were playing before bed, I heard Viggo say a word as Daddy was making Vida’s doll make a not-so-lady-like sound. “Fah” Tears welled up in my eyes. He looked just like the rest, playing around, laughing. My boy said “fart”. I can go to bed happy tonight.
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