My son is speech delayed. Not kind of speech delayed but like really delayed. I don’t notice it much on the day to day but when I pick him up at school and here the jabbering little people, I realize how much he is behind. He gets easily confused. He’s very rigid in his ways. And if things change, because he can’t always vocalize his emotion, it often turns ugly and it turns ugly fast. I think in the last year of preschool, at least half the time, I’ve had to carry him to the car, literally kicking and screaming. We stopped popping up to see my mom, his “Gommer”, because it made it hard to leave if we didn’t get a treat, then water, then see Papa’s fish and then potty. It was ugly if we had to use the elevator instead of the stairs and it got to the point where I just cut out the visits. Because while I know he can’t help it, feeling so out of control, I know I can control the amount of things that trigger him and how often we encounter them. It’s easier to avoid the struggle because I know he can’t tell me and if he can’t tell me, I can’t help him through.
He’s a smart kid. At least I think he is. He has this memory that’s amazing. I am sure he could tell you the number of steps we took in Disney or the order in which we rode rides. He’s my buddy. I love him.
Dexter turned four this year. He’ll have one more year of preschool before heading off to kindergarten. Maybe. I know it’s early but I’ve already begun to consider holding him back. I worry if I send him to school after spending the last few years fighting for words, that I will make him even more stressed out. And as much as I welcome the idea of daily school, the routine of it and the added learning, I cannot force this kid to fit into a square hole, when he is clearly a circle peg.
I like circles. But I imagine, no, not even imagine, I know what it’s like to roll around, not fitting in.
Dexter has wonderful teachers who I know love him. I know they genuinely love him and we love them back. He speaks kindly of them even when I know he’s had a bad day. “Miss Susie takes me potty, she’s my best friend” or “Miss Joy said no line leader, that’s okay, I’m in her heart”. I know what he means and so do they. He know he’s in their hearts and I hope they know they are in his. I’m grateful for his teachers in this village that feels very shallow some days. He’s been blessed this year with the most amazing speech therapist. I’ve mentioned her before. We started off rocky but I can honestly say we look forward to seeing her each week. Because of all this love, I feel tremendously worried about the next years because I know, you’re not always so lucky in who you get in your army.
I recently read an article by another person about what it was like having a child with a speech delay.
When I pick him up from day care and he’s bubbling over with words, I’m so excited and so happy to hear him talking and know what he’s thinking. When we leave speech therapy and he’s had a good session, I’m on cloud nine. I live on a blissful high for two days until I come face-to-face with a child his own age who is telling stories and talking in complete sentences, and I’m brought crashing back down to Earth.
I read that line and just shook my head in agreement; wanting to reach through that screen to that mother and say, “I get it” because I do. Just this week I felt I had to add an asterisk noting that my son was speech delayed and answering questions like this was hard for him. People don’t know. And they have very good intentions. I will never ask for special treatment but I do feel upset, sad and guarded with each request I know I can’t fulfill. And when he responds “Dexters doesn’t know”. I feel sad. Because I know he’s smart enough to know when he doesn’t really know.
I count my blessings that the only thing we fight through is a speech delay. I hope and pray he’ll catch up soon. I know it could be much worse. That doesn’t make the battle any less difficult though. And it won’t make any victories less sweet. I savor each descriptive sentence and laugh at the days when I have to say to him, “hey buddy, stop talking for a minute” because last year I was worried I’d never have to say those words.
Last night, we stood in the drizzle watching his sister play lacrosse. He was cold, the rain was cold and he wanted to go home. And he said, “mommy, it’s so cold in the rain, let’s go home”. And I smiled. Because I am so very grateful for those words.