Posting Every Two Months Or So

How do mommybloggers do it? When do parents find time to write? I swear, every drop of my creative energy is poured into being totally interested in the Best Toddler Ever.

It’s been months since a real post. I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll do a quick(ish) update on H’s talking.

We had to miss a speech therapy appointment due to a time conflict, and then our therapist is having surgery, so it’s been a while since she and H have met. Somewhere in there, I guess H just decided that he didn’t really need that stuff anymore, and started yakking. I mean, it’s not like he suddenly opened his mouth and started reciting Shakespeare, but sort of out of the blue he began connecting sounds and gestures to communication, and that was all she wrote. You could almost see it clicking as he figured out that the noises and movements people were making meant something, and that he could get things that he wanted if he did little things like taking our hands and leading us to the object of his desire.

It kind of seems like forever ago (early to mid March) that I was playing with him up in his room, and he turned to his wooden alphabet puzzle and shuffled through the pieces. Then he very deliberately found the Q, held it up, and said “Q!” I froze, shocked; he did it again, with about a third of the letters. How the heck did he learn his alphabet? This is NOT something we’d been trying to teach him! I guess it’s all of the toys and PBS shows… he does love Super Why… We played with this with him and discovered that if we sang the alphabet song and stopped at the natural breaks, he’d tell us the next letter. We never did get a great video, but his enthusiastic “Q!” and “thee-you-thee” (T-U-V) would melt your heart.

And then he turned into a little myna bird (do you, I always thought that was spelled “mynah” until just now, but apparently not), copying back everything anyone said. It started with little things, and then whammo! Everything!

Out of nowhere — and really, no one coached him on this, it was bizarre — he started saying, “Be happy!” So of course we had to jump on that and teach him to say it in response to, “Don’t worry”… and then he started saying that, and that was adorable and silly. Kid can’t say mama and daddy but he knows Bobby McFerrin.

He also sings “choo choo!” at relevant points during “The Chatanooga Choo-Choo,” punctuates the rubber ducky song with appropriate “ba-do-ba-do” and “foh foh foh-de-oh”s, sings parts of “C is for Cookie,” and does a passable Ernie laugh.

On April 11 we were at the bookstore and he was running laps around the picture book section. I was tired and hoping I could get him to settle down for a few minutes, so I picked up a brightly-colored Wonder Woman ABCs board book and called him over. I’m thinking maybe he’ll consent to letting me hold him and read a few pages, but instead he grabs the book away from me, opens it to a random page, points to the large yellow T, and says, “T!” He flipped the pages and I kid you not read every single damn letter in that book. Not the little words, and I guess it’s not too startling that he could recognize letters in a book if he could recognize them in his puzzle, but I was blown away. Since then he’s picked out letters in EXIT signs, television shows, and t-shirts. I keep telling him that he needs to learn to brush his teeth and use a toilet before he has to learn to read, but he’s not interested in my opinion.

This week he’s figured out animal sounds. I guess it’s not that impressive, given his age, that we can bray and he’ll say “donkey,” or we whinny and he says “horse,” but it’s such a huge improvement that it feels to us like he just got his Mensa membership. As of this morning he has monkey, donkey, horse, pig, sheep, cow, dog, and cat. He knows eyes, ears, and nose. He says “uh oh” and “okay” and “oh no” and “hi” and “okay guys” and “kiss” and “bye bye”. Once he said “okay go bye-bye be happy” as we were walking to the car. He says “shoe — feet” and “step up/step down,” except it usually sounds like “sh*t” instead of “step,” but we’ll take it.

He seems so happy. I mean, he’s always loved it when he realizes he’s entertaining. He likes to make people smile and laugh and applaud, and he gets a lot of positive reinforcement when he speaks. If only he knew how happy it will make me the day he says “mama” instead of just knowing what it means!

Also, it might be good for him to learn a few other useful words. I mean, sure, “monkey” comes in pretty handy, but names and things like “milk” or “fix” would probably make his life easier. I know it is my fault that he doesn’t know my name; he’s never had to annoy me to get my attention, or call for me from across the house. I’m too attentive to him, but I don’t regret it. I just really like being in his presence. And I figure he’ll come up with something to call me eventually. šŸ™‚

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Hair Raising

Tonight, my baby boy is getting sleepy and fighting a runny nose, and as a result running at about half speed — maybe slower. He’s just bleary, you know? I wasĀ sitting in a chair and he was at my knee, so I picked him up for a snuggle. I expected him to grab my necklace — he’s a big fun of chain necklaces right now — but instead he kind of cocked his head, blinked at something just past my ear, and then reached up and touched my hair.

He ran his fingers through it, pulling them away from my head so that my hair strung out like coppery spiderwebs at Pippi Longstocking angles. As he moved the hair slipped from his fingers and he watched, enchanted, as it fall into new patterns. Then he reached for more, gently — oh so gently — tugging it different directions, feeling it run between his fingers, watching some strands fall quickly and others, charged with static, defy gravity.

Again, and again. Not hurting me, not even looking atĀ me, just mesmerized by the sensation of running his fingers through his mama’s hair.

It’s not an easy time with him right now. He is twenty months old and if, I’m being completely honest with myself, really doesn’t have any words at all. Sometimes he’ll say “num” for food, and he says “no” a lot — to the point where it has become meaningless, just another of his many unintelligible sound effects. He doesn’t follow directions. He doesn’t point or give kisses. He used to wave but that’s dropped off badly in the past couple of weeks. He doesn’t hug; he does a “grab you around the knees” if he wants to be picked up, and when you’ve just walked in to the house that can feel like a hug, but it isn’t. Unless we’re playing a chasey game, he doesn’t really play with us or interact with us, and gets frustrated with us if we try to make him.

HeĀ can talk; the list of letter sounds and syllables that he regularly makes far exceeds those on the speech table for those commonly made by 2-year-olds. HeĀ can point and wave and hug. He just…Ā doesn’t.

He climbs like a kid twice his age, plays with fairly complicated toys, dances to music, and has just triumphantly learned how to use a straw. He laughs and smiles and makes eye contact and is appropriately shy-and-then-flirty with strangers. He is the most beautiful little boy I’ve ever seen. When he plays piano — either reaching up to the real thing, or sitting down Schroeder-like at his Melissa & Doug upright — his noodling sounds increasingly deliberate and melodic.

I wouldn’t trade a thing. But what I wouldn’t give to sit down next to him and have him smile and say, “Hi mama.” What I wouldn’t give to have him point for something he wants instead of just angrily groping for it. What I wouldn’t give for him to want to communicate with me. My emotional strength is strained badly, between different facets of my life, and most days I’m not strong enough not to feel like I am failing at everything. I get a gold medal in loving my boy, but raising him? Teaching him? Failure.

We’ve had two evaluations with the Infant & Toddler program now. He’s qualified for speech therapy; he’s behind in three different types of speech, although the only one whose name I remember right now is reactive. Maybe adaptive? And… whatever they call it when you’re talking without prompting/reacting. We were supposed to have appointments every two weeks starting in the new year but we haven’t been contacted by our provider yet, and work has been so hard this month that we haven’t remembered to call until after their offices have closed for the day. And so it’s a cycle: Tell him good-bye, go to work and get caught up in the whirling maelstrom that is life in a middle school, get home, remember that something isn’t right, reach for the phone only to see the time, and then spend all evening irritated that I forgot to call (and that they fell down on their commitment to call themselves).

Except thisĀ evening, I’m notĀ irritated. My baby is sitting in my lap, adjusting his seat for a better angle, facing me with a rapt look on his face. He’s got a fistful of hair in each hand and is gently, so gently, pulling them until I’ve got enormous wispy wings unfurled on each side of my face. He pulls the hair forward, curtaining my eyes. He grabs more hair before the first handful slips away and shakes his hand free of the resulting loose snarls.

From this angle, his face looks thinner, older. Every few minutes I catch a breathtaking glimpse of what he’ll look like when he’s old enough to be one of my students. He is breathing through his mouth because of the stuffy nose, and making soft little puffing sounds with his rosebud lips. His eyes are pink-rimmed but so bright. His nose, his chin — God, how I love that chin. I steal kisses from his cheeks when he turns his head to consider which lock of hair to seize next. He is mesmerized. I am bewitched. We could both sit here for hours.

I duck my head a little so that I’m in his line of sight, say his name, and am rewarded with a moment of distracted eye contact. He’s in the middle of playing with his new favorite toy, but he pauses to look at me with a look on his face that I crave like the cliched drowning man craves oxygen. It looks like love. It looks like he loves me.