I had a conversation with my 3.5 year old son today and it went something like this:
“I really want to go to the book store and ride the elelator (escalator) and play on the train table.”
“We already did that today.”
“We rode the elelator up, up, up and turned right and saw the train table with LOTS of new trains and I played with my best friend.”
“Yep. Now can you go night night?”
“I want you to stay and cuddle with me.”
Other days our conversations center around how cool motorcycles are, what it would be like to jump on top of clouds, how much we love one another, why chocolate isn’t considered a food we can eat for lunch, and why saying “huh” all.day.long is not cute. Each time I am tired of the non- stop chatter stream spewing out of Fletcher’s mouth I think back to what only seems like a few months ago and how he couldn’t say the “s” sound, would sign for most of his requests, and if he was talking it was in 2 word sentences.
I thought he would never speak! I worried about his speech at least once a day and compared him to other children his age. Others were saying “Mama I’m hungry” or “Gimme toy” but the most I was getting out of Fletcher was his modified sign for “more” which meant “I’m hungry, feed me.” or him grunting and pointing to a ball and going “ba.” I doubted my mothering skills and assumed by blogging during parts of our day together that I had scarred him for life by not spending time working on his pronunciation or showing him flash cards. I was so happy we learned baby signs because otherwise I wouldn’t know any of his needs.
I endured the scrutiny from other parents and, to a greater degree, from my own family. Each time we would video chat with my in-laws remarks were made about my son never talking. More often than not my mother-in-law instructed me to sound out words while Fletcher was made to watch my lips move. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is not what I said because I had done so a million times. He just wasn’t interested.
Fletcher had no problems understanding all of our conversations or instructions. He could point out every animal/color/shape/number/letter in any book and he was happy to do so. Ask him to say “Can I have some Milk?” and you were met with a disinterested stare.
I continued to worry about his speech but was reassured by my pediatrician that no early intervention would be needed and that he would certainly start speaking soon.
Then something clicked and Fletcher was putting 3 words together, then 4. He was communicating his needs to us. He wasn’t singing Lady Gaga songs yet (like another friend his age) but to me this was like Christmas!
The speed at which he developed language was astounding. Daily I could see his sentences improving. Within a few months he was right at the level of his peers, even better than some, in terms of his speech. He might have taken almost a year to start up his conversations but once he mastered the art he never stopped.
Now my little Everett, who uttered “dada” at 5 months and had us all thinking he was going to be a master of words, is taking his time hitting his speech “milestones.” I’m taken right back to a few years ago and wanting so badly for my first son to say anything so that I would know he wasn’t delayed.
This time I’m rather enjoying this slow progression to speech. I was waiting for Everett to say Mama and he finally did 3 months ago. Now since this is one of his few words I hear it a few dozen times a day. He so effectively communicates by signing, pointing and saying “this” (by the way, his first real word was “this”), or by me just understanding his needs that he doesn’t need a lot of language. I’m not discouraging him from speaking but I’m not terrified that he is behind his peers and will therefore not get into a good college some day. Fletcher is very intelligent, polite, well spoken, and won’t stop talking. It took him a year extra to get there. I just wish I could tell myself a year ago that soon enough I’d be listening to the full version of “This Old Man” non-stop for a week.
Besides, with only one child talking I am saving myself from the inevitable spoken battle over which light saber belongs to which child!
So if you are one of the mothers out there who think their child is the only one not talking, the only one who can’t sing “Poker Face” at 2 years old, the only child who chooses silence over constant babbling, you are NOT ALONE and most likely your baby will soon be annoying the crap out of you. If your doctor isn’t worried, you don’t worry. I have asked a friend of mine many questions related to toddler and baby speech troubles who is a Speech Pathologist. She has a blog now at Playing With Words 365 and she is a fantastic resource for anyone concerned about what is “normal.”