Wednesday, July 3, 2013

He Asked Me Why He Couldn't Talk

He asked me why he couldn't talk. I really wasn't prepared for that. Actually, I wasn't prepared for that at all.

The day had been just like any other.

The boys were home. They were rowdy, and I decided that we needed some structure, some teaching time, perhaps.  Only, I'm not really a teacher, I just play one when I'm at home with them.

After years of watching the boys in countless hours of therapy sessions, a mother tends to pick up a thing or two, and I have asked my share of questions, too. I'm not a bad fake educator. In fact, I can be quite a good one.

However, there are always times when slips happen, when words are sloppy and cues are missed. There are always times when what should have been expected simply was not and times when something astonishing happens that completely throws you off of your game.

Like when your son tells you that he doesn't understand why he can't talk like everyone else.

Those simple questions that come from a mind that is largely intact and untapped seem to rock my world the most. Most of the time, I'm unaware of how much he really knows.  Most of the time, with his vocal stims and his ticks and postures, he looks as though he doesn't know as much as he really knows.

But, then, he'll show you that he knows not only things but things and so much more!

That is when I struggle to make nice with reality.  How can I just gloss over what he lives with on a daily basis? I can't. Because it is right there. In front of me. Put into terms that I understand.

I understand the depth of his understanding.

I understand the depth of his disconnect with life.

When it is put that way, I understand it loud and clear.

And it makes me angry.

I am blessed with a very good natured son. His smile carries with it the warmth of the sun. Often, if we don't understand him...meh...he'll move on to something else. He's good like that. I guess this is why I don't wake every day feeling anger in my heart. I guess this is why the harshness of his reality doesn't smack me in my face every single day of his life.

He is a happy soul.

We are fighting for his future but we are loving who he is today. Anger is not a part of me. I am not a bitter person. I do not cry for the loss of a child that never was. Not now, anyway.

In front of me is the child that I have. He is such a great kid. He has these beautiful blue eyes, ones that have always been filled with curiosity. And, on that particular day, even though his hands were moving about and his voice was stimming, even though it looked as though he was not paying attention to me, he was, indeed, very focused. I saw those blue eyes looking intently on our answer cards.

"Are you telling me that you don't understand why it is that you can't talk like everyone else?" I asked him.

"Yes," he indicated.

My heart dropped. It was a day that I wish I carried a true-to-life educator in my pocket. One that had all the answers. One that could wave her magic teacher's degree and say the right words to him so that he could understand and be okay with why he is different in that way.

I wanted someone with me that could take away the pain--if, indeed, he felt any pain.  Do you think that he did? Do you?  I know that I did. I felt pain. I felt sorrow. I felt so darned mad and cheated for him that I wanted to scream!

In the end, what good would that do?

I decided to play teacher one day and sat cradling my preteen as I asked him some questions.  He caught me off guard, and I suddenly became a parent, woefully unprepared to answer for him a question he had every right to ask of me.

I had no good explanation.  I wanted one. Oh, how I really, really wanted one. I tried, but it didn't work. He still didn't really understand, and we both left the conversation empty.

"Do you understand?" I asked him at the end.

"No," he indicated.

I felt as though I had let him down. I felt as though everything in his life had let him down.

"Tickle me," I heard him say to me from behind my shoulder.

I smiled and turned his way.  There he was with that good nature again.

"What? Did I hear someone say that he wanted some tickles?!" I teased.

He laughed, and I walked back over to him, relinquishing that anger to a distant memory.


  1. He may not talk in words, but he is a great and wise communicator. And he does so because you are a loving and tender listener. What a heady combination....

    1. You know, I will agree with you. And, thank you.

      I am blessed that Trey is very good at finding a way to make his thoughts known, and we work very hard to figure out what he is saying. But as a mother, I want the world for him. I would like for him to be able to express his expansive thoughts which I KNOW he has. It is those thoughts that are trapped. And, when I am so harshly confronted with how it must feel to have those thoughts trapped, the emotion hits me.

  2. Falling short of your own expectations or rather desires is just life. We can't always have the answers that work, but we can always try. He won't remember that you didn't find the right words this time, he'll remember that you tried. He knows you will try again with different words. He knows you will always try new things for him. Not hats what matters.

    As Amy said, he has a masterful way of telling you what he needs and you hear it. Isn't that the key to success?


    1. Very true. :) This conversation is not finished.

  3. Wow. That would be a tough one. Kudos to you for hanging in there and doing the best you can. I don't know what I would have said in that situation.

  4. what a moment... a child and mother learning together... :)

  5. I might mess up what I'm about to say, so please bear with me. As I was reading, I could feel your anger and pain. I hurt just reading it--for you, for Trey. At the same time, what you experienced was something I think all mothers--all parents--have experienced. We've all walked in those painful shoes. When our kids hurt, when they see themselves as falling short, being different, being somehow less, we hurt, too.

    I don't mean to minimize Trey's challenges. He deals with all sorts of issues most kids do not, and he handles himself with warmth and grace. My guess is that part of his warmth and grace are inherent and part can be credited to the loving environment in which he's being raised. He's an extraordinary kid, and you, well you are a spectacular example of what motherhood should look like. ♥