Wednesday, April 25, 2012
The Prayer to Word Exchange Rate
I vividly remember the days when I would follow Sweet Girl around the house or the yard just hoping that she would say something. Anything. Anything at all. She was two and half years old before she started calling me "Mommy" on a regular basis. I just knew that if she were able to talk to me, then we would be able to handle anything that came at us. She's scared of other people? No problem. We'll figure it out. You tell me when you've hit your limit and we'll leave. Sweet Girl likes to jump? Ok, we'll make that part of the daily routine to help calm you down. But we can't do any of that until Sweet Girl could tell me. Or that's what I thought. I got used to observing her behaviors and finding any kind of pattern that was there. I was a mothering super sleuth set to figure out how I could make the world more accessible to my daughter. And I don't mean to brag, but I wasn't too terrible at it. I quickly realized that singing was both a coping mechanism and a source of sensory input. Lots of people around? Singing would help her deal with the anxiety that came with that AND allow her to have sensory input without having to jump on someone else's couch (which I discouraged, though I'd be greatly overstating if I said she never did it). Also, the louder and faster the singing was acted as a signal for how close she was to overloading her threshold of tolerance. For a long time singing in place of answering direct questions was an avoidance mechanism: she knew something was expected of her but she didn't know how to provide it and so she would default to a mastered skill - in this instance, singing.
I understood this and thousands other big and small things and that was ok, but it was exhausting. Having to explain these things to other people; having to deal with only being 90% sure that I was interpreting this correctly; not knowing for absolute certain what it was that was bothering Sweet Girl; and never knowing exactly what hurt when she was in pain: all that takes its toll on a person. I remember the day she was playing in the backyard while I talked to a neighbor in the side yard. Sweet Girl came running up to me crying and screaming. From a distance I thought she'd found her way into shin-deep mud and was upset she was dirty, but as she got closer my neighbor realized she had stepped in an ant hill. It wasn't mud on her shoes, socks, and legs but hundreds of black ants. Thankfully my neighbor moved with enough speed to actually be useful (unlike myself who was still shocked and not just a little disgusted at the number of ants there) and stripped Sweet Girl of her socks and shoes while simultaneously wiping down her legs in a huge sweep. I ran her inside and sat her in the sink with the cold water on her red welty legs, called the advice nurse, and gave Sweet Girl a dose of Motrin for good measure. The good news is that it was black ants and not fire ants. The bad news is the situation could have been a lot better if Sweet Girl could have told me (even while screaming which I would have been doing in her place) there were ants trying to eat her alive.
And so it was that I would fervently wish for Sweet Girl to find her voice. If prayers were pennies, the heavens would be heavy and it would rain copper for years. I lost sleep, cried a river of tears, and tried a host of techniques to inspire her to speak. The first time she said "Mommy!" I cried tears or happiness. The first time she put an original two word phrase together, I texted everyone I ever knew. Her first purposeful sentence was the same as winning the lottery (well, emotional lottery...those words were precious but they have a crappy gold standard conversion rate). I looked back on those times this weekend as my bowl of cereal was interrupted no fewer than ten times with "Mommy! Mommy! Blah blah blah. So forth and so on. Whatnot." from both Sweet Girl and Little Man. I looked back on those times with all the wishing and praying and I thought: "Well that was stupid, Sarah."
Obviously I'm thrilled that Sweet Girl is a better communicator now and pretty much over the moon to see the progress Little Man is making in his quest to become the boss of the English language. But gone are the days when there was any kind of silence to be had. We still have some things to work out; Sweet Girl struggles with syntax and sentence structure in general and her speech patterns are still a bit stunted. I often think she's learning English as a second language, whole body motion and song being her native tongue. Little Man has pretty much been Repeat to Sweet Girl's Pete from the get-go, so it's not surprising to hear his need to narrate the obvious. It's just so loud all.the.time. I suppose, though, that gives me a better opportunity to revel in Sweet Girl's latest developments. Like when she nearly shouted "I'm scared!"at me as I was performing a splinterectomy on her pinky. I was scared too. Or how she's starting showing possession not just of things, but people as well. She yelled at her thief of a brother when he stole her Fisher Price barnyard animals: "Hey! That's mine!" I let those two figure that one out on their own. I am happy to report there were no injuries or fatalities to the barnyard animals or the siblings. And when she walked into the living room wearing Sean's shoes she told me she was wearing "my daddy's shoes." Wear them indeed. And I suppose if my prayers were pennies then I've already prepaid for a million of her thoughts. I just wish she wouldn't try to cash it in all at once.