In our little cul-de-sac there are houses, just like ours, that are considered multi-family homes. And in them live the best of all kids, who range from ages 0-15. And wow, are they an impressive group. Every time the sun goes down and they inevitably come out to play a game of kickball in rollerblades or race their bikes up and down our street, Jude gasps when he hears their fun, runs to the window and squeals, “Hey, girls! What ‘r you doin’?!” And they sweetly yell up, “Hey Jude!”
Last night, the air had cooled significantly and we decided to take out our scooter and join them.
Yeah, I take pictures of Jude on his scooter and it might look like he knows what he’s doing, but most of the time just he and I go out and he weakly pushes off for a couple yards and then finds something else to do, or he puts both feet up and expects me to push him the whole way. I’ve been dying to have him really use it and challenge himself and gain some gosh-darn balance. But, each time we try we ultimately leave without developing any new skills on the freaking thing.
But alas! Last night—OH, last night—Jude, seeing the other kids with their scooters and their bikes, decided he wanted to keep up with them, and just took off. Like, don’t-scare-your-mother-or-anything-going-down-that-hill, took off. He weaved, he soared, he CONQUERED.
Guys, it was amazing.
Scooter! from Britney Stevens on Vimeo.
And then, when it inevitably got dark and the street lights came on, it nearly broke his heart, but we had to say goodnight.
And as I sat him on the potty, and positioned myself square with his filthy face and his matted and sweaty helmet hair, he looked up at me and said, in young toddler grief, “The girls.” I told him I know he misses them and that we’ll go out again tomorrow. And then he looked me in the eyes again and rambled something about falling down and rocks and that he’s okay.
And then my heart swelled.
Listen guys, I try not to talk too much about our journey trying to get Jude to talk and communicate on the level he “should” be at his age, because it’s tiresome and difficult. But what I will say is that the past two years have been agonizing. You moms and dads of kids with speech and communication delays know the sadness and longing you feel for your little one to talk to you, to look at you and to even initiate play with you. You know the frustration of people and parents looking at your kid, looking at their own, and then looking at you and thinking (or even asking), “What’s wrong with him?” Or having little kids not like him, or even pick on him, or bully him, because he isn’t talking as much as them, and praying he doesn’t know that the kids are being mean, as your heart breaks when he half smiles and goes off and does something else, all-the-while you knowing full-well there’s nothing wrong with this darling, sweet, mischievous, smart, affectionate little child, he’s just not talking yet.
He’s JUST not talking yet.
And clinging to those people who can look at him and say, wow, Jude is so smart, or so sweet, or so handsome, or any of the other millions of wonderful things that he is.
I’ve had people say, “Have you had him checked?”, “Did you check his ears?”, “You know, he might have autism”, “Oh, have you heard of speech therapy?”, and I smile and say “Thank you for your advice and concern” because I really do mean it, but at the same time thinking, “I live with this daily, you really think I haven’t considered all of this? And not just considered it once, but it actually occupies my mind constantly, every day, every moment and every time I try to get him to say 'apple' or 'mama' or 'please' or even just respond to his name for the millionth time?"
I’ve had people say, “You know, you’ve been off working, maybe that’s why he’s not talking,” as if me being gone two times a week for the last 4 hours he's awake is the reason my son has major communication delays (and gosh, that’s not harsh or anything)—and can we please talk about something else that doesn’t involve your completely speculative, uneducated, and self-proclaimed-brilliant opinions about my son who you barely know, and not pull them back out until I ask for them? I appreciate that you’re newly concerned for the welfare of my son, and that you have about a million golden nuggets of advice to throw in my face about why your child talks so beautifully, clearly and early, that I promise are due purely to your child’s personality and probably have absolutely nothing to do with anything you did, but no please: Tell me that I should talk to him more, read to him more, set up more playdates, play more music, turn off the TV, take him to a speech therapist, pray, or have his hearing checked (please, tell me one more time to have his hearing checked, because I might forget), because I swear, I just sit here thinking in a dull stupor, “Someone please help me, I think my son might not be talking.”
But recently, over the past 6-9 months, things have become easier, and he’s become a different kid. He is still my same darling, smart, sweet, mischievous and handsome little man, but he has decided it’s time. Time to open his mouth and eyes and embrace his speech and the world around him.
And it has made me realize what I realized all along, but what I regrettably questioned at times with all the negativity and doubt around me: He really was everything I knew he was, he just wasn’t ready. And now, each and every day I practice the speech tactics we learned from a wonderful, patient, loving speech therapist who reassured me over and over again, “He’ll talk when he’s ready, but for now, these are things you can do”, he learns something new, says something new, and loves something new.
And it makes my heart swell over and over again.
We still have a long way to go, but every time he says, “Mama, may I have juice?,” or “Mama, this is for baby sister,” or sings “I love you,” I think back to a year ago or two years ago and wish I had been less worried and just allowed myself to completely embrace him for who he was at that moment.
Because, guys, every day with him really is the best day of my life.