Friday, February 15, 2008

mama angst

Thank you everyone for your supportive comments yesterday. I had a hunch that I was still numb, that I hadn’t really absorbed the news of Swee’pea having speech problems, and sure enough, I was right. I spoke to my mom late in the afternoon, and didn’t think we’d had a particularly significant conversation, just a lot of well that’s great that it’s been identifiedand he can get help and you know so-and-so's son had to have speech therapy and yes Swee’pea is still brilliant and adorable and wonderful. What with the dinner and bath rush and Survivor and Lost, I didn’t reflect too much afterwards either. But as soon as I laid down in bed last night I started to cry.

I thought about the parts of the evaluation where the daycare had indicated minor concerns but which really underlined the impact of Swee’pea’s speech problems: that he does have 50 words at least but a lot of them sound the same to the untrained (i.e. non-maternal) ear, that he does use the possessive A LOT at home – everything is “mine” – but it just must not be clear to his teachers. I knew his pronunciation wasn’t great, but I had thought people who spent any amount of time with him were able to figure out the idiosyncratic speech that turns snowman cake into "mama dee," that he was able to make himself understood. I feel so sad for my little boy spending his whole day at a place where people may only understand about half of what he expresses, and I think it’s a testament to his sweet nature that he’s not having constant frustrated outbursts.

I thought about how my mom pointed out that I always translate for Swee’pea when we’re with other people. I knew I was doing it, but I didn’t think it was *really* necessary, just a little helping hand. This morning I noticed he looked to me when his dad didn’t quite clue in that “dada ma ba do?” meant “daddy’s taking my car to work?” as opposed to “mama nanaDO ba do” which meant “mama’s taking Janna and Jules’s car to [my] school.”

I also must confess that a very small part of me, a part that is easily dismissed with a modicum of intellectual consideration, cried a little bit because Swee’pea is the first child of his generation in my family to need therapy. His cousins have all had brilliant verbal and speech skills. I cried a little bit at that discovery in myself, that I do actually have some expectation of the intelligence of my offspring, and I *know* he’s intelligent and his speech doesn’t have any bearing on the cognitive processes behind it and I know this must seem really shitty to the parents of children who have severe medical or developmental challenges, but a very small part of me grieved a little bit for the lost perfection of my most amazing little person. Of course, I *know* intellectually and always have that he’s not perfect, but having someone else in some authority tell me that feels sad.

And there is also the wondering. Have we, Swee’pea’s parents, done something to cause this challenge? Have we shirked some crucial parenting task? Is it because I blog too much? Is it because I’m too focused on my photography? Are we negligent?

And finally, a few recent and not-so-recent conversations replayed in my mind now in a different light.

* * *

The other day, I was talking to a coworker about my concerns about our local school. My friend’s son has behavioural challenges and the school has said they just can’t accommodate him, he simply can’t come to school. So the only other options seems to be homeschooling. And I can’t help but wonder if the school were in a richer area, if they would find a way to accommodate him with more resources. It makes me want to move to an area with a better school.

My coworker mentioned that because she is the parent of a boy who has always been clearly bright and extremely precocious, verbally, she’s never considered whether some schools have better capacity than others to accommodate children with special needs. I thought what a nice way to spend your child’s early years, if a touch insensitive, feeling absolutely confident that your child will not have special needs. For whatever reason, instinct, awareness, or just neurosis, that is not something that I have taken for granted even once in Swee’pea’s life.

* * *

The last time Swee’pea saw his Nana, now over a month ago, was at the hotel she had to stay in after she arrived on our doorstep in a police car. She kept saying her usual things to him, the things she has said to him for most of the last year: “I want to hear you TALK! Won’t you talk to me? I want to hear some words. Well you’re definitely making noises, but it’s not very clear, is it?” Etc. etc.

Her approach, too busy talking to hear or understand his efforts, has always peeved me but last time I got the sense that Swee’pea knew exactly what she was saying, that he’s not good enough as he is and she wants more more more from him, and he wasn’t terribly keen on it. Usually he was pretty happy to see her and have her read a story but that time he didn’t want to sit next to her, despite her loud exhortations.

I know there is more at play in this instance than Swee’pea’s speech challenges, but reviewing the conversation in light of the daycare’s evaluation and recommendation makes me aware that I will have to protect Swee’pea from his Nana’s negativity, her inability to inhabit the moment and enjoy what’s available right now, in future visits with Nana.

* * *

(I know this is a great opportunity for Swee’pea, and I’m really ok with it, but I’m just trying to tease out all the complexities of my response, my "mama angst" as another coworker called it. Intellectually, it's simple, a no-brainer. Emotionally, though...

I know this is a very minor challenge and I hope my response doesn’t disrespect the parents of children with more severe challenges.)


Beck said...

Sweetie, don't worry. Please don't.
BOTH of my older kids are in speech therapy - The Boy with a minor articulation disorder and The Girl with full-fledged disbraxia and BOTH of them are gifted (really!), popular and doing REALLY well in school. Literally one THIRD of the kids we know are in speech - they are VERY quick to send kids to the speech therapist these days and it means absolutely NOTHING about his intelligence or abilities.

Julie Pippert said...

I understand needing to wade through the angst, but honestly don't get too bogged in the why. I don't think there is a why answer. It's not you. And SP is so young...this is the earliest anybody would ask a question, honestly. This is just a little thing. My oldest had to go to a short bout of therapy for mirroring. All kids have some challenge. And with help they overcome it. You'll take care of it and THAT is what matters. You're a good mom.

Mad Hatter said...

Swee'pea is perfect. That is all there is to be said in the matter, although I do appreciate your need to tease it all out.

Mouse said...

It took me a while to tease out that part of my angst around Scooter's speech issues was that intelligence tends to be made apparent through verbal ability, at least in adults. I also came to realize just how frustrating it was for Scooter to be thinking all sorts of things that he couldn't express.

In the end, his particular issues have responded more to OT than speech therapy, though he's on the school's radar for possible articulation therapy starting in kindergarten. At some point, the mind finally settles and this becomes 'normal,' at least for your kid. But I think it's best to work through some of the angst up front--then you can set it aside and figure out your actions.

(P.S. I didn't comment yesterday, but have to say that having the speech therapy as part of the preschool day and not a separate cost sounds wonderful.)

Janet said...

You know what? I think it's normal to mourn these little events that challenge our preconceived notions of The Way Things Will Be.

When I learned that my first child had a peanut allergy I was very, very sad. My reaction shocked the hell out of me because, hello (!), it's just a food allergy and there are so many other conditions he could have that would be far, far worse. Still. I mourned a little bit for him, that he would have to carry an EpiPen around and scour food labels for the rest of his life.

zoom said...

You have so many wise commenters around here!

bubandpie said...

Speech delays can actually be associated with higher-than-average intelligence in boys - it has to do with the brain develops. The son of a friend of mine was a late talker and now, at age 8, he is doing so well in French Immersion that his teachers suggested he take up Mandarin (which he is now doing, with great success).

Karen said...

yep, don't sweat the why - it just is - and speech therapy is so available now that it seems like everyone is getting some. Did I tell you LPs receptive speech score was about 50% below average? It was pretty low. He understood very little of what we were saying to him - and yet somehow managed to pull out an average expressive speech score - who knows how? It makes no sense, but both are climbing since therapy - fewer tears all around.
He's perfect and you are doing a great job - and speaking for myself alone as a kid with slightly more complicated issues - you've not offended me. Everyone has the right to worry about her own kid - and to want them to be all that they can. We are all on that road together.

nomotherearth said...

Without negating your feelings, we all get upset and feel we've done a bad job when someone says something negative about our kids. We immediately get defensive and hurt. At least, I know I do. You're doing a great job. It's so hard not to worry, though. I know.

Kyla said...

That's it, you know, you nailed those feelings. It doesn't matter what the catalyst is...something big or little...the feelings are valid and tough to process. I learned long ago that there is NO comparison in these things. When something is not right with YOUR child it is HUGE and you are always entitled to hashing out those feelings.

But the why of it all? Try not to spend too much time dwelling on that. It makes it more difficult and doesn't accomplish anything.

You're doing what is best for him now that you know, and THAT is what matters. If you ever need an ear, I'm here.

And your boy, he is glorious AND perfect. You are a good, good mother.

dawn224 said...

I'm a speech therapist myself, and my gut always tells me that kids will take longer to learn one skill set so that they can focus on another skill set.

I have a really physical 9 month old, I assume he won't talk till he's 4, just to really mess with my head.

Shoot me email if you need a sounding board - dawn @

Anonymous said...

I'm sure S'Pea is and will be fine. My instinct says his response to his Nana shows he is clever and perceptive -- to the emotions and energy of those around him.

Mama Angst is part of the territory. It can only be alleviated by large doses of chocolate. No. Really. Honest.

Janna said...

Hey there - I am sorry I missed the first post on account of being away. You need to relax and accept yourself - everyone who parents (well mostly everyone) tries their bestto make good decisions - that is all we can do - be grateful for the support he has and you can always meet the speech therapist to see what your feelings are after speaking with a professional. I know a great therapist and many people who have benfitted from them. Jules didn't speak until after 2 and he is just fine (well, in my uneducated opinion???).
Anyways, don't take everything super serious k? Its all good.

Cloud said...

Heck, I get mama angst when Pumpkin decides not to eat her veggies for a week, so I think you're allowed some angst when you learn your perfect little child needs some speech therapy. He's still perfect, but its a different sort of perfect than you imagined/expected and with all the high-stakes parenting crap out there it is hard not to take it personally. And if you can't tease apart your feelings in your blog, where can you do it? But Beck said it best- don't worry about the therapy. People have no problem understanding me now, despite my early speech therapy needs. And I have landed in a career that occasionally requires that I stand up in front of an audience of strangers and give a talk. Swee'pea will be fine (and so will you)!

ewe are here said...

There's not a whole lot I think I can add here... catching up and I just read all the comments on these two posts...

But I will say that I think you're lucky that any speech issues have been caught while SP is so young: it's a very minor blip in his development, and it will be ancient history before you know it.

And he's still perfect, btw, perfect for you. :-)

Mimi said...

What a thoughtful post, Sin. Swee'pea is lucky to have you as an advocate -- and of course, you know you haven't done anything at all to 'cause' this, right? Because you haven't.

Lisa b said...

Sorry I'm late to the party here. Mama guilt is normal and NO you had nothing to do with this.

All my thoughts are running together here but I'll tell you this - the banker came home last week and told me one of his clients didn't speak until he was four.
Knowing who these clients are I would go w B&Ps assessment that he is actually BRILLIANT.
Which you already knew.

b*babbler said...

Oh Sin... you're experiences and concerns are your own, and no less important than those of others. Never worry about the disrespect.

And the mama guilt? I have it every day that passes that Peanut doesn't say a word. Every time we go out and children 4 and 5 months younger than her run circles around her using their words. The guilt doesn't necessarily get easier and you won't find the answers you're looking for, but try to rest assured that you DIDN'T do anything wrong, and that by getting the help, that you are doing everything right.