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.)
Weekend Reading: The Trying to Rally Edition
2 days ago