Our Non-Talker

When I give completely unsolicited advice to parents who are getting ready to have their second kid it goes something like this: “The great thing about the second time is it is a million times easier. You know you have the ability to keep a newborn alive. It really takes the pressure off and lets you enjoy the baby. But the hard thing is you think you have this parenting thing figured out. You don’t. Because every kid is different. You can’t just do the exact same thing. You have to recognize and respond to the needs of each kid individually.”

Pretty great advice, if I do say so myself.

It would be fantastic if I could, you know, follow it.

C, our wacky and cuddly and fearless and frustrated and frustrating C. He is a very different kid from T. And yet we seem unable to adjust our expectations to fit his needs. I worried because he was such a late walker. My expectations were based upon what his brother did-the boys are almost exactly two years apart. T was walking during his second Christmas, so during C’s first Christmas, when he was a tiny baby, I daydreamed about the next year when he would be walking. As we got closer and closer to that Christmas I was more and more upset that C wasn’t reaching the milestone. Why was I putting that pressure on him? His walking or not walking had nothing to do with Christmas or our family’s enjoyment of it.

A year ago I would imagine having conversations with C over this summer. The summer before T turned two he was speaking in complete sentences and could recite his ABCs. C says “bye bye”. He can mimic the number of syllables in a word. He hums the Star Wars theme. He says ball. Other than that his vocalization sounds like Young Frankenstein in the Putting On the Ritz scene. And while it is fucking adorable it is also frustrating as hell.

Months ago our pediatrician told me I should contact the state to have him evaluated if he did not steadily add new words between then and his second birthday, August 31. I’ve tormented myself over it. On the one hand I don’t want to be the panicky Mom who wastes state resources over a kid who is fine. On the other hand I don’t want to do nothing and find out he needs help. After a lot of hand wringing and talking to Z we decided to do nothing until he starts preschool in the fall. His school has a wonderful partnership with another school that works with special needs kids. If he is having a speech delay that requires intervention he will be quickly identified and given help. So we do have a plan.

But why does this delay in his development bother me so much? There are other kids in our extended family who talked late. And you’d never know it today. On his college application he isn’t going to have to disclose that he didn’t talk as he approached his second birthday. Hell, it isn’t going to matter to us a year from now when this is all behind us.

Why don’t I focus on the great parts of his development? He is a master climber. He approaches physical feats with an astonishing lack of fear. He completely understands everything we say to him and has the ability to follow direction.

Part of the problem is the frustration. He is frustrated with us. My Mom smartly pointed out that he thinks he IS talking and he doesn’t understand why we can’t figure out what he is saying. We are frustrated with him. Life would be so much easier if he could communicate with us!

If we are honest with ourselves we gave T tons of more individual attention when he was C’s age. Because he was the only kid. We haven’t taken the time to sing the alphabet song 85 million times to C. We haven’t gone over colors with him until we were blue in the face. We don’t spend ages reading book after book to him. We aren’t the same parents that T had. Because we are juggling two kids. And T is standing in our faces very clearly articulating his needs. It’s easy to respond to them because we don’t have to play 20 questions to do it.

For C’s sake and for my sake I need to chill the fuck out. My worries about his development are a waste of time and resources-two things that are already at a premium. Intellectually I know that I am not helping him. He is his own person and he is figuring out life as a pace that is perfect for him. We need to respect and respond to that.

So do you know what I’m doing now? Imagining next summer when C is potty trained and we don’t have to change diapers anymore. T potty trained a few weeks after his turned two and a half and had it figured out pretty quickly. C will be almost three by next summer. I’m giving him a couple of extra months in my mind.

Because that makes it reasonable….

K and C cry

C and me post workout. Z was taking T to school and little man felt left out. Another piece of the puzzle. Poor kid wants to do whatever big brother does.

The boys have been enjoying our luxurious pool.

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15 thoughts on “Our Non-Talker

  1. I remember freaking out about this too. Max didn’t have many words before he was two. He didn’t need to. He gets everything from pointing and grunting. And now at age four, though he can talk pretty “Cwearwy” (Clearly) he will still dance and make happy “eh-ah” sounds if he thinks he can get away with it. I fearfully wrote down every new word he used and kept a list and as soon as he hit preschool, it was like someone had downloaded the word program into his brain. Even still, a month or two ago, he was saying something I couldn’t get, but what I *did* understand was when he said quite clearly, “You’re not understanding me!” and started sobbing uncontrollably.

    And even though my two are clearly “different” I blame a lot of it on girl/boy stuff, but also they are just complete opposites, eats like a bear/eats like a bird, calm thinker and listener/jumper who can’t sit still. I can’t help comparing them. It’s like you figure out the instructions for #1 and then they’re completely rewritten for #2.

    Anyway, just wanted to add that your video of the boys in the pool reminded me when I was at home with Sammie and Max and letting them play in their wading pool. (Same one?) I loved the pictures from that day.

    You’ll look back on these times with great fondness when they get older. (I say too magnanimously, self-righteously, etc, etc.)

  2. A psych professor I had once described second borns as “letting the world go on around them. And they could care less.” on the other hand, first borns are super achievers. Looks like ur guys are classic

  3. Dave and I get super frustrated when our C approaches a milestone and then does not climb over it, but skirts around it. We have a habit of getting super frustrated, snapping at each other, realizing we’re stressed out because we think something’s wrong with C, trying to chill, and failing. Then when we’ve convinced ourselves that he’s going to be unable to operate in society due to his inability to roll over, or correctly identify blue, for example, he does the thing, and is totally nonplussed about it.
    Also my C had some of those ny services and they were great. Now that I wrote that though I’m worried everyone who’s reading this will think he’s slow.
    Oh hell.

    • Yes, yes, yes to the snippy spouses thing.

      And yes, yes, yes to the worry about how others will perceive the need for special services. Maybe because in our circle academic achievement is a real point of pride? We were the dorks and nerds, yes, but at least we were smart. So if our kids don’t hit every milestone, forget about on time, but EARLY we freak out a bit. Or is that just me…..Yuck. That is not the kind of parent I want to be. And yet here I am freaking out that C’s late talking will equal low SAT scores and admission into a second tier school. I hate myself.

  4. my first was literally speaking in paragraphs by the time she was two!! Now, fast forward to my third, he is 19 months old and he sounds just like your little guy. I get frustrated more than he does probably (because I swear I understand everything he needs anyway…mostly) but, I am not worried at all. Maybe that’s what the third does to you? Because I am a MAJOR worrier. And, I have anxiety about plenty of stuff. But, with each kid, I have noticed that I chill out a LOT more. And, no, I will not be having 10 kids in the hopes that my anxiety will completely go away. 🙂

  5. I can relate to this so much because my second child is way behind where my first child was. HOWEVER on the speaking thing, he did turn out to have a posterior tongue tie that quite a few doctors misdiagnosed (i blogged about it)
    IF your son’s breastfeeding,eating wasn’t /isn’t great. IF he appears to want to talk but can’t copy words at all but AH AH AH AHs the whole time, do bear TT in mind

    • Thank you so much for the thoughtful suggestion, but this kid is a fantastic nurser. In fact, we are still going strong. His big brother had much bigger latch problems than he ever did. Thank goodness!

  6. I have a 20 month old who isn’t really talkign that much either. And a 6 y/o who was telling us entire stories by 18 months. It is so hard not to compare! I really like how you point out that it is so tempting to focus on the perceived “delays” as opposed to all of the strengths our kids have. My totally unsolicited advice is that it is always something with kids. If it isnt their language development that is driving us batty, it is potty learning. If it isn’t potty learning then it is aggression or tantrums or bedtime troubles, and on and on… Sigh. Good post. It also makes me realize that chilling out is in order! Thank you!

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