motherhood · slice of life · speech

Facebook Memories #SOL20

Most mornings, I begin my day by looking through my Facebook memories from past years. This morning, a memory from eight years ago popped up. On my lap was an almost-two-year-old Isabelle. The caption read:
Today I’m thankful Isabelle’s ear tube surgery went well. She’s just tired & a bit groggy now. (Though she’s happy watching Maccabeats videos in the recovery room.) It is my hope her speech will develop over the next few weeks.

Every year, on this date, I look at this photo and remember how Marc and I clung to each other (and bawled) when Isabelle was wheeled into surgery. By the time we composed ourselves, the surgeon met us in the waiting room with news that everything went well. (Ah, first-time parents!)

In the post-op recovery room with Isabelle who we used to call Izzy. Speaking of “Izzy,” by the time she was 3.5 years old, her speech was good enough to declare, in a complete sentence, “Call me Isabelle, not Izzy!” As you can imagine, we ceased using her nickname immediately.

There’s something else I remember. I’ll be honest, thinking about it makes my blood boil — just a bit. And while I probably shouldn’t write about it, I am going to write about with the hope that it will help someone else — either someone whose child is struggling with speech or someone who knows someone whose child is struggling with speech — who is going through something similar.

I remember how nearly every other parent I knew — whose kid had gone through ear tube surgery — had told us that their child was speaking within days, sometimes hours, of waking up from the surgery. As you can see from the caption I wrote in November 2013, I wrote that I hoped Isabelle’s speech would develop over the next few weeks. The only reason my expectation was tempered was because Isabelle’s wise speech therapist, at the time, had already suspected Childhood Apraxia of Speech. She warned me, ahead of time, not to view a double myringotomy as a silver bullet. Thank G-d she did because I would’ve been crushed if she hadn’t given me some warning about how quickly the surgery might help after months of Isabelle’s tubes being filled with fluid.

I know the parents of kids whose children’s speech was helped by ear tubes were trying to provide me with reassurance. Really, it was false hope. And while I don’t begrudge anyone, I share this because promising someone that their kid will be speaking quickly after ear tube surgery feels only slightly less frustrating to me now as the folks who insisted, “Einstein didn’t talk until he was three,” when Isabelle wasn’t speaking after turning two.

People say and do things they feel are helpful. However, as the mother of a child who was luckily diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech at 27 months old (before most kids can reliably be diagnosed due to their lack of cooperation with the tester), I know how heartbreaking it was to watch Isabelle get frustrated at a young age when she didn’t have expressive language skills. Unless your child was diagnosed with a speech-related disorder, reassurances do little for a parent who is the thick of things with their child who is having trouble communicating. Rather than offering platitudes or advice, if you know someone whose child is a late talker, just listen. The other enduring present you can give to a parent whose child is struggling to communicate is wait time. I grew closer with moms who took the time to understand Isabelle long before she was easily understandable. They’re the moms who knelt down, leaned in, and did their best to understand my child. Those are the women whose friendships I will always treasure since they showed me that my daughter, and what she had to say, mattered.


10 thoughts on “Facebook Memories #SOL20

  1. Beautiful and poignant post. I love the ending about the moms who took the time to understand Isabelle and showed that what she said and thought mattered. When someone is truly kind to your child it is really unforgettable.

  2. You said you shouldn’t write about this, but I disagree. Your post is an important reminder to consider the impact of our words. Sometimes we say things that can hurt without even considering how the words may be received. I love how Isabelle used her words to let you know what she wanted to be called.

  3. Stacey, I’ve known you a long time. I remember well this struggle. My cousin was going through the same thing with his daughter and your posts were so helpful to me. I passed them on to them as well. Don’t we all wish we had a crystal ball to see where we would be in 8 years? Owen, my cousin, is a happy beautiful 12 year old girl; however, her apraxia turned out to be caused by epilepsy. She’s been through a lot of tests and tutors, and still requires help with all things verbal. They have found a good private Episcopal school for her that seems to consider her needs. Last I heard, she’s not being required to take a foreign language. (English is hard enough.) I want you to know that a struggle with a child’s disability is universal. Your voice in advocating for them is important.

  4. I often start my day by reading those memories, too. Thanks for sharing this one with us. You are right that people say what they think will be helpful, and so often it just isn’t! But love and attention are helpful. I’m glad you got some of that, too. Ruth,

  5. In trying to be helpful people don’t always think about the impact their words may have. I love that Isabelle let it be know in no uncertain terms how she wanted to be addressed.

  6. You impart so much wisdom! This is such important information for families with young children – honestly, whether or not they have speech issues…with children, we all need to be like the friends you treasured most, “They’re the moms who knelt down, leaned in, and did their best to understand my child.”

  7. Thank you for the reminder that the words we say do have such an impact. I always appreciate when people share experiences like this – it helps us gain insight and understanding of those experiences.

  8. Listening is so important. You’ve offered some excellent advice. As a former certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, there is little hope in comparing one family’s situation to another. Yes, just listen. And, hope for the best. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. I am reminded that listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone – moving image of those mothers leaning in to try to understand Isabelle. She’s conquered much in her young life – and I admire how she advocated for herself to be addressed by her beautiful name!

  10. >Rather than offering platitudes or advice, if you know someone whose child is a late talker, just listen.<

    This is my takeaway from your slice and much of what our world is today. Listening is such a lost art form. Thank you for sharing your experience, because, like others, I think what you have to offer is important for others to read. If it's not about your experiences as first-time parents, then it's about how we can just listen and let others express what they need without inserting ourselves into those needs.

    Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for continuing to share! 🙂

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