Missing Out

I have a 20 month old son who doesn’t speak (yes it’s true, he does have a flaw).  At least not a language that I can understand.  He’ll say “HI!” to anyone and anything that he sees (including potted plants, wheelchairs, and popsicles) and happily points out every “Ball!” that he sees (whether it’s an actual ball or an orange, grape, Tiddlywink or anything else that happens to be round) but really, he doesn’t speak.  He gets his point across by pointing, making hand motions, strange mouth shapes and a variety of grunts, but for the most part, I have NO idea what he’s trying to say.  I’m assuming the majority of the time he’s either saying, “Put me the fuck down, I’m tired of being carried, I just want to RUN!” based on the fact that he’s at his happiest when he is able to just run around wildly (Anyone know where I can buy a leash?), or “Can you PLEASE get me another beverage already?” since he slurps down quarts of juice, water, milk or any other liquid in nanoseconds.  But there are other times that he is standing in front of me, waving his arms, “Buh, Buh, Buh”ing and I’m pointing at everything in sight saying, “You want your truck? You want the phone?  You want your toothbrush?  You’d like to dance?” and we both end up just exasperated.  It’s like when you’re playing Pictionary and your partner isn’t guessing what your stick figure is supposed to be doing so you just keep making it darker and darker and drawing it again and again and pointing at it harder and harder… it’s so frustrating, it’s so OBVIOUS in your own head!  Why can’t they figure it out?  I know that’s how poor Luke feels.  He shouts his word louder and louder.  He stares more intently with each shout, “BUH!”, and I Still Can’t Get It.  It’s horrendous.  To be the mom and not know what your child needs.

Mind you, he totally understands absolutely everything said to him (except colors… we’re working on colors).  Thank. God.  Since he doesn’t have any words, it always surprises me when I say something like, “Luke sit down, take off your boots and socks and go put them in your hamper.” and he does just that.  It’s like a silly magic trick.  Tonight at dinner with my whole extended family I said, “Hey everyone, watch this… Luke, see how many pieces of pasta you can balance on your spoon.” and he went and stacked 4 bowtie pastas on his spoon and said “YEAH!”.  Ok, so I didn’t get the standing ovation for my son that I hoped for – I guess I just wanted everyone to know that my nonspeaking son has TALENT dammit.  Real Talent.  And, although he’s like a prisoner in his own head, unable to speak, he is definitely a part of the conversation.  He can relate.  He can respond.  And his non-biased mom, thinks that’s a huge relief.  

On the opposite end of the spectrum and on the opposite end of the life cycle, is my 96 year old grandmother.  Nana.  Nana can barely hear anymore.  She “assumes” what people are saying to her based on what is going on around her but really, she has no idea what’s being said.  It’s terrible.  She feels secluded.  She feels left out.  She sees that people are laughing but has no idea why. She sees that people are looking to her for a response, but all she can do is smile and nod for fear that she’ll respond inappropriately.  She’s tired of saying, “What?”.  She’s tired of asking everyone to speak up or speak slower.  She feels like an outsider.  She’s no longer a part of the conversation.

But she can speak.  She still has all of her words.  She certainly gets what she wants and if she doesn’t, you’ll hear about it!  She loves to talk.  Get her going, and she won’t stop.  She’ll tell you about every morsel that she ate for breakfast, lunch, dinner and every snack in between.  She’ll tell you all of the gossip going on inside her assisted living home.  She’ll talk about her younger years, my mom, her dogs and her love for fashion.  She’ll rattle off the headlines from the news and the reviews of movies in the movie theater that she’ll never see.  Because she can’t hear.  She loves to talk.  It’s how she can communicate.  It’s how she can still feel a part of life.  Like Luke, she’s also stuck inside her own head.  The world around her is listening and responding.  But she’s able to only be on one side.  Talking.  

Two different issues.  One at the beginning of life.  One at the end.  Unable to speak.  Unable to hear.  Both frustrated, but both getting by.  One with so much to look forward to.  One missing how it once was.  I have shed tears for both predicaments. I feel helpless with both of them.  Wanting to help them but not having the power to really help.  I wonder which is worse.  Who feels more engaged?  Who can interact better?  I know, one doesn’t know any better.  He’s too young to really know what he’s missing.  But his little mind aches with frustration just the same.  His big tears, stomping feet and pounding fists tell me so.  And my Nana is too tired to make a big deal out of her deafness but I know she hates missing out.  I catch her shaking her head with sadness when she’s missing out on the joy surrounding her.

So I give hugs.  Big hugs.  Because unlike most forms of communication, hugs don’t require words or ears. And that makes us all feel better.



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12 responses to “Missing Out

  1. Kelly @ The Miller Mix

    I want to hug both Luke and your Nana! Luke will speak with a full and varied vocabulary one day. I can't imagine how hard the hearing loss is on your Nana — being cut off from the words and memories of your life is terribly sad.

  2. Corinne

    Fynn also didn't talk for what seemed like forever (and I'm sure you've heard this before….) and now I can't get him to stop talking. I remember being SO frustrated, trying to get him to tell me what he needed or wanted. I get chills thinking about it. And your Nana… like Kelly said above I want to hug her too! Thank goodness a hug can speak a thousand words.

  3. BlogInSong

    This is so loving. This makes me want to hug YOU. Here is a good hug for a good Mama and Granddaughter.

  4. naptimewriting

    Sign language, man. It had our son communicating more than 100 words before he said anything. It's easy to learn, one word at a time, and makes them SO confident and proud.Gets rid of tantrums and frustration and you feel like a great parent because you understand them. Grab any sign language dictionary or use the online ASL guides. Words like thirsty, more, hungry, eat, and hurt are great places to start. A word a day or a week and he'll be either talking or signing in no time.

  5. TKW

    Nap is a genius. I was getting a little soppy reading this, wondering how hard it must be to feel trapped in your head…But then I thought of my sister, who said only one word, "Baaaa" for the first two years (+) of her life. Like your little guy, she understood, but didn't speak. However, she did communicate with inflection. "Baaaa?" meant something way different than BAA!!"We still chuckle about it in our family to this day.

  6. Shell

    It's amazing just how little speech is considered in the range of normal for little ones. Hopefully, h'll have his language explosion soon.uuHugs- what a fabulous way to communicate.

  7. BlogInSong

    oh my gawd of course! The sign language thing could change your LIFE I bet. We used a few signs, but my speaking friend taught her daughter to sign and it was insanely cool. I like Nap!

  8. becca

    Yes Yes Yes! I will definitely try the sign language! I can't wait to get home from vacation to start. Awesome suggestion! TY Nap!

  9. Debbie

    This is such a beautiful post. So many of us are in that position of dealing with issues at both ends of life's spectrum. You put it into words so well.

  10. BigLittleWolf

    You did indeed capture this beautifully. I'll chime in as yet one more parent who had a child who took his time speaking. My younger, Mr. Creativity, hardly ever spoke until he was 3? Maybe 3 and a half? But I knew he understood everything. I don't think he was frustrated with the fact; he was a pretty contented little thing. He just had nothing to say, and in comparison to Mr. Non-Stop Talker (18 months older), it was a puzzle.Trust me – he's got plenty to say these days – especially with friends and girls around… As for your grandmother – does she have any hearing at all? My grandfather-in-law was about 90% deaf in his nineties, and had been for a number of years. I got him a walkman and good headphones. He was able to listen to music, to recorded talk – things he hadn't heard in so long. It perked him up immeasurably. I realize it's not the same thing as hearing what's going on around you, but if there's any hearing at all, could headphones that hook up to tv, dvd or other media be nice for her?You could record some things – video – and she could watch and listen. Just a thought.

  11. Nicki

    Becca – I started typing this before and let it go. Please have your son's speech evaluated. While it may be fine, I had a two year old whose understood vocabulary was at a 5 year old level. Unfortunately, he had a disorder that was preventing him from speaking. Yet, he understood fine.I think hugs for you and your grandmother and Luke are in order.

  12. Pingback: Language and Parenting « Nicki's Thoughts, Art & Friends

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