20 Months – And Still Waiting to Hear “Mama”

Sam turned twenty months old this week, and as you can see from the title he has yet to start speaking. I wrote about his apparent language delay in the past post Waiting to Hear “Mama”. At that time we were preparing for Sam to be evaluated. On Evaluation Morning I felt nauseous as I anxiously wandered around our apartment once again to reassure myself that it was clean and orderly. The evaluators were coming after naptime. Hopefully Sam would be well-rested and ready to “play.” While he napped I showered and dressed, but couldn’t bring myself to eat lunch.

All my worries about the evaluation being stressful were, happily, unfounded. The key evaluator was a relaxed and pleasant older “grandma” type. “Grandma” brought with her a big bin full of toys and wonders for Sam to explore. Sam had fun while the nice lady played with him and took notes. He especially loved the mirror. We play and dance in front of the big bathroom mirrors all the time, but this was a mirror he could hold himself so that was great fun. She also had a wind-up caterpillar that enthralled him. He cried when she was leaving. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t crying because of some instant magical bonding between him and the evaluator. More likely he was thinking “Who brings me a bin full of presents and then takes them away when they leave??? What kind of person does that? Bring back those toys!”

So thankfully the evaluation was fun for Sam, and I was relieved to have it over, but I felt ambivalent about the results. There are four areas: cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and motor and self-help skills. Sam scored below average in three areas and slightly delayed in communication. They said it wasn’t enough to qualify for therapy at that time. Contact them again in three months if we didn’t see positive progress in Sam’s language skills. On one hand, I was relieved to discover that, while I thought he might be very delayed, in truth it wasn’t that severe. On the other hand, if three months were to pass and he still wasn’t speaking, then he would be even more delayed due to the wasted three months without therapy. To pile on more worries, I was surprised that he scored below average in social skills. I think his social development has been great because he has a strong connection with us, and he loves to give me hugs and kisses. It’s all tied in together though; a lot of the social skills tested also require communication. Ultimately though I decided I was glad about the results. He didn’t need therapy. Sam would probably start talking in no time.

Two months passed. Sam still doesn’t say any words. He does recognize some more words such as “socks.” And if I ask “Where’s froggy?” he searches the room and then brings me his stuffed frog that he got for Christmas. (We also got him a mirror to play with for Christmas since he had so much fun with the evaluator’s.) But still no “Mama.”  Still no words at all.  And I haven’t had much luck with signing, although I admit I really didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t even get him to do the simple sign for “more.” I’ll have to call the evaluation agency back in a few weeks, and I feel disheartened by that. I thought for sure that he would be picking up language and speaking by now.

To add on to my worries over Sam’s language delays there’s my frustration with the tantrums. It’s a safe bet to say that we are now in the stage of toddler tantrums. From the horror stories I’ve heard, his tantrums aren’t even that bad. However, they are super frustrating for me because of the lack of language. I don’t even know why he’s tantrumming! He’s screaming and crying but not asking me for anything! I can’t help but think that maybe if I just knew what he wanted, I could eagerly give it to him and we’d all be happy. For instance, this morning beginning at breakfast time he was screaming and crying and screaming and crying. Perhaps he was just saying, “Gee, Mama, this oatmeal is too warm, too cold, needs a bit more cream, I’d rather have some of that lovely spinach soufflé instead, etc.” All valid requests I would have been happy to fulfill. But I have no idea what he wanted. It makes me sad, really sad. It probably makes him sad, too, and frustrated, too – thus the tantrum. He was crying like that on and off all morning.  I still don’t know what he wanted.

For once, I stayed calm and didn’t allow myself to get frustrated and raise my voice over his. I used to think that the best course of action to take with a tantrumming child was to walk away and ignore them. I know that is the common advice from most experienced moms and experts. Now, I’m not so sure. And like I’ve said at the beginning of writing this blog, I’m tending to lean towards the crunchy munchy side of things, off center from the mainstream way of thinking.

So I spent the better part of the morning holding him. (It’s similar to an idea I read on another blogger’s site. She’s a mom in New Zealand with interesting insights and ideas about children and parenting, and she wrote about Boring Cuddles.) From what I’ve understood about small children not yet mastering their emotions and self-soothing skills, it seems counter-productive to just let him tire himself out screaming. Counter-productive, and cruel. When it comes right down to it, my compassion for his frustration and my crazy love for the little guy make me want to hug him. So I hold him, firmly so he feels secure, and I sway back and forth. Sometimes it’s difficult to hold him when he’s thrashing about, but I do my best.  And sometimes it takes longer than other times (this morning took a while) but eventually he’ll calm down. Some people might disapprovingly accuse me of coddling during a tantrum, and perhaps when he’s older and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store because he wants candy I won’t stop to hug him. But, for now, he’s only twenty months old, he can’t even say “Mama” yet, and I think he needs hugs and cuddles. Come to think of it, I could use a hug and a cuddle today, too.

 

(After he calmed down, I took him outside for a long walk. He got some exercise and to release some energy, and the fresh air was good for both of us. After our walk, he fell right to sleep for his nap.)


Another Lie That Parents Tell Kids?

Another lie that parents tell kids?

Husband and wife are fighting over something kid-related. Junior approaches Parent afterwards and asks, “Are you fighting because of me?”
“No, Sweetie, of course not.”
There’s one of those bold-faced lies that parents tell their kids. Isn’t it?

My husband and I hardly ever used to fight. In fact I couldn’t understand why other couples would fight so much. I remember a conversation with my mother-in-law where she said she couldn’t understand how we never got angry with each other, never fought. Jack and I have been together for over twelve years and friends for a few years before that. We got along like best friends. What was there to fight about? Nothing. But now it seems that we fight all the time. What changed? We had a baby.

Friday night’s fight went something like this:
Context: Sam is going to have an evaluation done because of our concerns regarding his delayed language.

Me: Perhaps it would be better if you (hubby) were not present for the evaluation.
Jack: Maybe they want parents to be there.
Me: Well, yeah, it’s important that a parent is there. I’ll be there.
Then somehow as he’s arguing why can’t he be the parent that is there, I might have said something about me being the primary parent. I admit (to myself and three days later) that “primary parent” was completely the wrong phrase to use because by default it labels Jack as the obviously less appealing “secondary parent.” He pointed this out to me quickly and angrily. However, when I said “primary parent” my thinking was that I am the parent that is with Sam for most of his waking hours, so perhaps I would have a better chance of getting Sam to “perform” for the evaluator. Back to the fight…
Jack: I can’t believe you’re doing this!
Me: Doing what?
Jack: Marginalizing me as a parent!
Me: What? I am not marginalizing you as a parent. I would never do that! That’s not who we are! That’s not what we’re about! And you know what? This is not about you! It’s not all about you! It’s about Sam! It’s about a concern that I had, and I wanted what’s best for Sam.
Jack: Based on nothing! No one told you that. They didn’t tell you that it would be best if there was only one other person there. You’re basing that on nothing!
Me: Oh! So my feelings and concerns are NOTHING?
Jack: Oh, please!
Me: And how can you accuse me of such a horrible thing as trying to marginalize you as a parent? I would never do that! Just like you accused me of thinking our son was stupid because I was concerned about him. I can’t believe you accuse me of such horrible things! I would NEVER try to marginalize you as a parent!
Jack: Well, that’s certainly what it sounded like.
Me: Well, maybe you should say to yourself “Gee, Gwen would never try to marginalize me as a parent. She must not have realized how that sounded. Let me see what she really meant instead.” Instead of attacking me and accusing me!
Jack: Well, I was hurt and that’s my defensive move.

Long pause… is the fight over? Nah, not yet.

Jack: So why can’t we both be there? I think we should both be there.
Me: I think it would be better if only one of us is there.
Jack: And why is that?
Me: I think it might be too distracting for Sam if we’re both there.
Jack: You think it would be too distracting if we’re both there?
Me: Yeah, maybe.
Jack: But not if you’re there?
Me: Right.
Jack: So what is it exactly about my presence that would be so distracting?
Me:
Me:
Me:
Silence for the next hour. Which signified the end of the fight.

Yeah, I admit, when reading the words in black and white, I don’t come out looking too great. So what was I thinking? I thought that the calmest atmosphere would be best for Sam. I thought that he might get confused, overwhelmed, or fussy if he had two parental voices commanding that he GET THE BALL THE BALL, SAM, WHERE’S THE BALL CAN YOU GET THE BALL? Or even worse, one parent tells him to get the ball while the other parent, seeing that Sam is not moving towards the ball, decides to prompt him to get the cow. GET THE BALL, SAM, GET THE BALL, HOW ABOUT THE COW, SAM, GET THE COW, THE BALL, GET THE BALL, GET THE COW, C-OOO-W, GET THE COW! BALL! Cowball?

I was also a bit worried that Jack wouldn’t want to sit back and allow Sam to play and explore on his own. Maybe he would try to guide Sam towards certain toys and activities for the evaluator’s benefit. (Although I suppose for all I know, he/she may prefer guided play for the observation.) However, Jack will often leave Sam to play and entertain himself. So, really, I’m not sure what I’m worried about. Perhaps I’m just worried, period.

But back to my original question – which bothers me because I don’t want to be the kind of parent who lies. Our whole fight was because of Sam, was it not? If Sam were to ask me if it was his fault that we were fighting, I could confidently say “NO.” It is not his fault if we disagree, even vehemently, about some parenting issue. But, we are fighting because of him. Am I just splitting hairs? Can any other parents shed some light on this question for me? I remember my parents fighting when I was young, and there was nothing wrong with my ears. I knew full well that they were arguing about me. I assume that if I had asked my mother if they were arguing because of me, she would have hugged me and said, “No, Sweetie, of course not.” And I probably would have thought she was lying.