These two may not say much, but they know how to enjoy a Friday night. (Mac and his girl Sarah after some pool-time fun on a recent weekend getaway.)
Tomorrow night's class will be week 5. Week 5 of our commitment to the Hanen speech therapy courses. Week 5 of grandma showing up to run the show for a night while I steal away to sit on a folding chair in a u-shaped configuration of plastic tables from Costco with 15 other parents whose children are in some stage of silence as well. Week 5 of becoming painfully aware of any and all little things we might (or might not) be doing to at home to enable Mac's mums-the-word attitude. The truth is that four months into speech therapy and five weeks into Hanen training, Mac still doesn't say a dang-darn thing.
To be honest, the focus of the Hanen program surprised me. I expected to show up and learn techniques for teaching McKay how to be a communicator. But instead, the spotlight was turned big and bright on all of the little things I might not do well - letting him lead me in play, getting on his level when I talk to him, waiting, waiting, waiting for him to answer me. Was I the problem? Oh, please let it be that easy.
As the hours of the first course passed on, I could feel myself losing it. While I pride myself on being decently self-aware that I have not dealt with much of anything that goes along with the grab bag of emotions I've kept securely stowed away for the past two-plus years, this class blindsided me. The dam was about to spring a leak and it was time for me to leave. As class wrapped up, I promptly ended a conversation with one of the leaders and high-tailed it to my car. Crap. This wave of emotion was going to take more than a few deep breaths to scare back into hiding.
I called Matt. I was sobbing and hardly coherent. Of course he doesn't talk, I half yelled through the phone. Why would he? We have effectively ignored him every time he told us, no, or stop, or that hurts, or I don't want to swallow that medicine, for his entire life. At what point does being held down, comforted through lies that everything is going to be okay and then put back through that entire experience again and again, start to shut a little soul down? Forget the speech therapy. This kid will more likely need a slush fund for some serious counseling through the years. What have we done to him?
I cried for a solid hour. Very, very rare. Maybe the first time ever. No. No. No. Not now. Shut it down. Shut it down NOW.
As the classes have progressed, as we've been videotaped interacting with him and, along with others in the class, volunteered to have our homes, children and most tender worries put on the big screen to be tested against the criteria for parents who successfully encourage speech, I remain pretty raw about the whole situation. I continue to struggle through some of the 'why' of McKay's silence. Is it fixable? Will he always face an uphill climb when it comes to language or academics or life in general? Why can't something, anything be easy for this kid?
I know - he's two and a half and I'm being a bit dramatic. But it's where I'm at right now.
I am also to the point where I realize that the only thing I can change is me. The rest is up to Mac and God. And maybe that's what this entire Hanen journey is all about -- reminding me that whatever the issue, I can only figure out the most positive and productive things that I can do to bring opportunity to the situation and continue to do that -- over and over and over again. Whatever the situation, whatever needs changing, your child, your parent, your neighbor, your spouse, we can never change someone else. We can only change ourselves. So that's what I'm working on right now. Changing my patterns. And it's brought some unexpected blessings.
I've realized that I'm not as hungry for words as I thought I was--I'm hungry to connect. McKay and I are bonded, permanently. Forever. And ever. And ever. But it's the day to day connection of knowing what he wants, learning his favorite color, animal or book--that's what I really want.
Little by little, I am getting a bit more of that now. In the past two to three weeks, we've had a lot of eye-to-eye conversations and somehow I think he's understanding more. Just today I came home and laid on the floor next to him and we held our hands up in the air, counted fingers (he pointed and I filled in the blanks), I said 'yea' and 'clap.' And he did. He put his two chubby paws together and clapped. He laughed and I felt happy. Simple, simple, simple moments.
And then I remembered, it's orange. He always chooses orange first whenever we open the crayon box. Orange circles, orange lines. Words or none, I know this kid. And we'll find his voice soon enough.