I say won’t instead of can’t because he could and now he doesn’t. Last fall, Babyboy had a little reliable vocabulary– Done, Hot, Down, Melon. (Yes, Melon. Cantaloupe is his favorite food.)
Then, Babygirl was born. The words dried up, and we’re still waiting for them to come back.
So we get alot of grunting, pointing and screaming when Babyboy wants something, or when he’s unhappy about something. When I coax him to say something, especially a word he once said, he shakes his head NO, or puts his hands over his ears.
He is otherwise pretty normal. He makes eye contact, sometimes getting endearingly in our faces and touching noses, giggling. He certainly understands everything. If you say “ice cream” out loud anywhere within a 50yard radius of his little ears, he will come running. He fetches, he throws things in the trash, he follows three-step commands.
But he won’t say a word. Our pediatrician recently urged us to contact Early Intervention and set up an assessment. They came, they saw, and then they took 3 weeks to call us back. They’re coming this week to deliver their assessment, which we assume will include Speech Therapy…
Meantime we endure grunting, pointing and screaming for every communication. This can sometimes be difficult, especially in public. We don’t take our kids to too many places, for this reason, mainly. He has screamed in stores, especially if I walk too far away from him, and he gets scared. He screamed some on the trip to Central America, in the airport, and on the plane. People look at us funny when that happens, like we’re abusing him or something. It’s stressful.
Yesterday we took Babyboy to a seaside park. It was a gorgeous sunny day; there was a vast expanse of rolling fields and a large playground next to a sandy beach; there were families and kids out by the dozens. There was certainly no need for any child to use an indoor voice, and no need for any parent to restrain their child from shouting at the top of their lungs.
Yet we had a run-in with the self-appointed noise police. When Hubby walked away from us to go use the restroom, Babyboy let out a long, urgent, scared squeal. You could almost hear what he was saying: “WHERE”S DADDY GOING? I’M SURROUNDED BY STRANGE KIDS AND ADULTS AND DADDY IS LEAVING ME?” An older woman came up to us with her arms crossed. She directed her scolding at Babyboy: “Use your words, honey, use your words!”
He howled again, even louder, and rushed to me.
“Use your words, so Mommy knows what you want!” She said again, looking at me this time, her look concerned, annoyed, and pitying; a look that was really saying, Shut your kid up.
I considered my options: I could say what I wanted to say, which is largely unprintable; I could explain that I knew exactly what he wanted, that he was sad that his daddy walked away and he couldn’t talk to tell us that; Or I could simply gather up our things and relocate, which I did. Fuming.
I wasn’t that perturbed about Noise Police Lady because I didn’t know her. But today was a different matter.
We ventured to church. Now, we are spiritual folks, and we love our wacky left-wing liberal Christian Church. I found this friendly little Episcopal franchise when I was pregnant with Babyboy. It was small; it was ethnically diverse; it was all-inclusive of ages, sexual preferences, and politics. But most importantly, there were children, many children, and they were welcomed and celebrated: squeals, giggles, tantrums, and all. There was also a large playroom in the basement, and Godly Play for kids (Like Sunday School) during the year, during Mass. I loved it, and I dragged my more-traditionally-raised Hubby there. Now, we are happily entrenched and ensconced in the wonderfully mixed-up mix of the congregation.
Now, as accepting of kids as 99% of the congregation is, there is one older woman who has scolded Babyboy for his noise during service. Last month, she said something to my husband about “Why don’t you duct-tape his mouth shut?” Now, when he shared that with me, he chuckled and described it as a harmless comment offered in humor by this basically Senile old lady. I was a bit shocked, and glad she didn’t say it to me, because my response would have been… largely unprintable.
We missed about a month of Mass, due to illness, travel, and on-call. Today we ventured back. I kept Babyboy in the basement playroom for much of Mass. She is, after all, a member of the congregation, and I didn’t want to offend her again. I really didn’t feel like enduring her criticism. After Mass was over, we have an informal pot-luck Coffee Hour, which is a great time to get to know the congregation. We’ve had many great conversations there, and I’ve made some good friends. Generally, kids run wild during that time, playing with the toys in the playroom, or running outside in the church yard.
So I was totally taken aback when Babyboy’s yell of joy, at discovering a new truck on the playroom, was met with a round of scolding by the Senile Old Lady: “Shut Up! Stop Screaming!” She stood and yelled at him, her hands on her hips.
Several members of the congregation immediately stepped in. “He’s just a baby, for goodness’ sake! Relax!” “Be polite!”
She countered: “It’s the same thing every time they’re here. I’m sick of it.”
I considered our options: I could say what I wanted to say, which is largely unprintable; I could explain that he was overjoyed to see the truck and he couldn’t talk to tell us that; Or I could simply gather up our things and leave, which I did. I did that because I was crying. Sobbing, actually. Hubby took us home.
All the pent-up frustration about not taking him places because he screams; his not talking yet and our fears about that; the scolding from the Noise Police Lady the day prior; and being exhausted because Babygirl is up once and twice a night still at 7 months; it all came out and I just cried for a few hours.
But I feel much better now. Our Deacon called us later on to say he was so sorry this happened; that there had been a big discussion about the incident; everyone was supportive of us, and certainly we should not ever feel like we can’t bring Babyboy to Mass. Our pastor wrote us a long email that we are 100% supported by the whole congregation, that the overwhelming majority love having kids around, and we should always feel welcomed, and that we can always bring Babyboy there, and he can make all the noise he wants. And I know that the other parents feel the same way.
The Early Intervention folks will be coming this week, and we know, really know, that Babyboy is fine. My own brother was a very late talker, and he turned out okay- he’s a practicing physician. We know that all toddlers have screaming fits and temper tantrums, even if they can talk. We know this will pass.
We’re just, well…. worried, protective, proud, frustrated and full of love for our Babyboy, all of it in one big emotion.