Term three began today and, despite enjoying their downtime during the holidays, both The Schmoo and Lulu Pie were pretty excited to hit the classrooms and see their friends again. The Schmoo is looking forward to starting water polo for the first time this term (a glance at her scary toenails has assured me that she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with – opponents, you have been warned!), and Lulu Pie has been chattering excitedly about playing ‘Policemen and Nunicorns’ (unicorns) with her mates, practicing her ballet moves on the trampoline and choosing the flower she’s going to pick for her amazing teacher (goodbye, only rose on the rosebush).
One member of the trio, however, has been even more quiet than he usually is. A man of few words at the best of times, The Guy seems to have retreated into his shell a little bit more every time I have mentioned school starting again. We have tried mentioning his friends and the fun that they will have together, reminisced about the stories that he loves listening to and the songs he enjoys singing, tried to ignite a spark by reminding him about his ball sport extra mural activity that he gets giddy about, but he isn’t biting. Don’t get me wrong, he absolutely loves his school and totally adores his teachers, I think he has just liked being a little home body even more.
The thing is, as the second youngest in his class, the other kids just seem so much older than him, and this is where I have that niggling doubt about our parenting choices that the universe dishes out in uber-generous portions from the second a new little body joins a family. Should we have left him at his old play group a bit longer to be a ‘big fish’, building confidence? This is the question that has been bouncing around in my brain for the past week. Although The Guy certainly does not lack in confidence in general and is hugely capable in all things physical, there is something that has been tugging sharply and persistently on my mommy heart strings, increasingly more so as the weeks go by, an anxious feeling that is refusing to let up.
You see, while both of our girls basically entered the world chatting up a storm, The Guy seems to battle in this regard. Despite having what I suspect is a bang-on-average vocabulary for his age (2 years, 9 months), his pronunciation is very unclear, his words muffled and incomplete most of the time. I have always been aware of it but never been too concerned as we can generally understand him at home and I had simply put my head in the sand, gathered a convenient herd of scapegoats around me and reassured myself with one of them whenever that niggle raised its head – he’s still very young, it will correct itself; they say that males are generally slower on the uptake in this area; his sisters speak for him, he never gets to practise his speech; he’s just a quiet person like his daddy; at some point he’ll figure it out – it’s going to click any day now.
And then we received his end of term school report. In amongst the positivity and encouragement about how he gives of his best, makes friends and could definitely be a bit better at sharing the swing was the line that hit me like a punch to the stomach – “His speech is very mumbled and we find him difficult to understand which causes him a lot of frustration…”. And that was it, my heart broke. My dear little boy struggles to make himself understood – his words, already so precious and few, are getting lost in this big class full of far more verbally capable children… and it upsets him. That was the kicker.
I am so grateful for that comment as it forced us to put the ‘goats’ out to pasture and have a good, honest look at what is right in front of us. Our boy needs help and we need to make sure he gets it. As an immediate action, we spent the school holidays really working on pronunciation, getting him to repeat words and sounds, playing word and singing games. I’ll chat to his teacher to get her valuable input and am already fastidiously Googling ‘paediatric audiologists’ in an attempt to rule out (or address) any lurking hearing issues. Here we go!
And so, as I walked my tiny humans into school this morning, Lulu Pie flying off with hardly a backwards glance, The Guy holding my hand tightly, troubled eyes staring up at me, small body sticking to my side like glue and saying “Come with you, Mommy” in an attempt to convince me not to leave him at school, I would be lying if I said that there was no trepidation in this mama-heart. It’s so true what they say – having children really is like having your heart walking around outside of your body, and staying strong, positive and calm on the outside for their sake while there’s turmoil on the inside is a skill that we have to hone as parents.
After settling The Guy in I quietly slipped out, stealing a backwards glance as I went. There he was, standing next to an oversized pegboard, completely absorbed in his task as he concentrated hard on fitting the brightly coloured pegs into their corresponding holes with those sweet, chubby, toddler hands, the same hands that had uncertainly held onto mine for dear life a moment ago, now calmly and deftly solving the puzzle without hesitation.
He is going to be fine. We are all going to be fine.