Both of these little boys have had their fair share of interesting vocabulary developments over the years. There had been speech delays in years past, but now there is little quiet time. There has been mispronunciations and completely made-up words.

Children haven’t been conditioned to follow our extremely tricky rules of speech just yet, so they quite often just come up with names for things as their creative brains see fit. One of the best things about watching kids grow up is witnessing them gradually grasping language, but then also free styling with that same language to rename things they can’t say.

Then there’s poor Grandma Nancy who has been called everything but Grandma. The names she’s been called include:

  1. Grammy
  2. Bammy
  3. Bamsters
  4. Bam

And now… “BOJO”

Oll-E > Wall-E

Both are pretty cute and they even sound the same

I’ve blogged about all the normal baby and toddler firsts… I’ve talked about cleaning nuclear-like diaper messes and first solid foods… I’ve written about bubble wrapping and baby gating the house for their first steps. Now don’t get me wrong those are all hugely significant moments in time, but they all pale in comparison to hearing you child speak their first words. I’ve been in educational for nearly 20 years… I’ve taught children to read, to multiply triple digit numbers and I’ve taught children how to explain their thinking, but teaching a child to speak… that’s just magical.

Parenting is just a series of events that makes you feel equally proud and sad… watching your child become more independent each and everyday makes your heart both swell with pride for the amazing little being you are raising and also makes your heart long for the days when your baby needed you for everything. Like Elton John said, “it’s the Circle of Life” (I’m not sure if that analogy works here, but it sounds good so if you don’t mind, please just roll with it).

Listen, becoming mobile matters, it’s a huge step (pardon the pun) in the growth and development of a child. Learning to talk… to have a reciprocal conversation… is like the when the caveman first discovered fire, or first time you realized you didn’t have to actually flip open a cell phone to use it. It’s a game changer

Oliver has been saying words for a bit now… some much more clearly than others. But to hear him say his own name… I don’t know why… it was really cool. It was special. I know he has asked for juice when he’s wanted it and I’ve heard him yell, “dog” when Buster and Max were being naughty, but this… saying his name… I feel like it transforms him from a parakeet to a real person. I’m not sure why (especially since he was literally repeating his name), but just stay with me here… it’s my blog so I can write whatever I want.

Talking is transformative, getting to a point where you’re child knows his name, can say his own name and can string a word or two together changes an entire parent-child relationship I’m just hoping we are getting to the point where we can get a response from Oliver when ask him, “why are you screaming and what was the purpose of throwing yourself on the ground just now?”

But for now… I’ll take the slow and steady progress, even if he sounds like that robot WALL-E when he talks!

What’s Wrong With My Son? Nothing, I Hope: The Truth Behind a Worried Dad.

So I’ve been sort of cryptic with some of my blogs regarding Jax and some perceived “issues” going on. Not that there is some major catastrophe or illness or anything like that. But between him not talking yet and my background as an educator it has been a difficult ride the past few months.   
So let’s just put it on the table… Jax isn’t talking… No animal noises… Not much other than “Daddy!” Which he repeats constantly. You don’t have to have a masters degree or be a teacher to worry when your kid is two and still isn’t speaking. It’s scary. Crazy things run through your head. People can tell you that, “it’s ok, he’s such a happy little boy.” That means nothing when you are the parent and worrying.  

I was nervous to talk about it, you know, because when you say things outloud it makes them true. Saying that you are worried about something makes it a reality. Well I’m tired of it. “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself” -Hermione Granger.  

I We have been working with birth to three for about four months now. We set goals we do assessments and we progress monitor. Still no words. We had hearing tests, we did eyes tests, we did blood work. Still no words. We had speech pathologists come to work with him, we took him to a speech clinic for evaluation… Still no words. If I hear one more time that his receptive language is above average, but he is below standard in expressive language I’m going to tear up my CT Early Learning and Development Standards handbook.   

So that brings me to my education background. I’ve sat through a countless hours of meetings on student progress or lack there of. I’ve listened as teachers presenting findings and data to parents. I’ve wondered what it would feel like to be on the other end. I always had empathy for those parents. No one wants to sit on that side of the table for a PPT. NO ONE, because your hearing a specialist at tell you something is wrong with your child. I always took into consideration that sitting on “that side of the table” was never a good feeling. 

Then the day came where I was the one sitting on “that side of the table.” I listened as a special educator said, “yeah, he could be on the spectrum. Maybe he isn’t,” the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness on our end was heart breaking.  

I’m not sure where my mind went that day. I’m not sure if I agreed with her or thought she had no idea what she was talking about. There aren’t other signs that I see… No sensory issues, no tiptoe walking, and he shows various emotions is appropriate setting and situations. I’ve talked to people close to me, at my school and just done research and I am sure he is fine. I mean he literally is one of the smartest kids I’ve ever met. He knows basic colors and shapes and follows multi-step directions. (I know 5th graders who can’t follow multi step directions).  

The whole situation is a whirlwind of emotions. It’s my son so I’m worried and want to talk about it, but it’s my son so I don’t want to worry or talk about it. I don’t want family or friends to judge me or us or him. I don’t want people at his school to look at him differently. It’s scary… I cry, Steph cries… Then he does something amazing and we smile and we laugh.  

He’s happy. He’s a happy little boy… But that’s not enough. Let’s face it. When I sit at PPTs and hear educators tell parents not to worry because their child is such a “happy little child” it makes me cringe because now I understand why that isn’t enough. I used to think knowing was enough. The theory behind things and situations will help you only so much, but you’ll never truly understand where someone is coming from until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes as they say. 

 Through this whole process, we’ve tried a million different strategies. We’ve given choices for activities, required him to look us in the eyes before he gets something he wants, we’ve practiced making faces in the mirror and tried to “stimulate his tongue withstand a tooth brush.” Som etimes I get annoyed with trying to balance being a special education service provider and a dad.  

When do I say enough is enough and just enjoy my son. Play catch (he needs a lot of work, it looks like at this point he’ll be a left handed reliever), draw pictures and swing on the swings. Then, when I spend the day with him doing those things I feel like a neglectful parent for not spending time identifying animal sounds and working on his B3 goals. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. 

It hurts in my chest to try to communicate with my son and struggle to do so. I think one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt in my life is watching him get so frustrated when he is trying to tell us something and he can’t express it properly so we understand. At this point we know him well enough to get most of what he is trying to say, but not all the time… And it’s those times that make you feel like a failure. You begin to feel like you did something wrong or skipped a step in his development. What did I do to make him struggle so much to tell us what he wants? Will he ever get to a point where he is not so frustrated when he can’t get what he wants to say out? Will he ever even be able to communicate what he wants? It’s scary. It’s scary knowing that you are worry about not just these issues, but the ones that might possibly come up as he continues to grow.  

I don’t want to sit here and pretend that I’m not the happiest dad in the world because that would be an absolute lie. This kid brings me more joy than a Yankees and Packers championship win in the same season (ok maybe not in the same season, but you get the point). I love this kid more than life itself. There is not a thing that could ever change that. He makes me feel like the luckiest person to walk this earth… He’s taught me about life and not metaphorically, he’s taught me about what it truly means to bring life into this world and then realize that life is the reason you live.  

Although he makes me so happy every second of every day… The worrying is a helpless feeling. One that very few people will truly ever understand.