Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Different Children

You know, it really is marveling that two children who came from uterus are completely different.

For some reason I had it in my head that Natalie would be like a carbon copy of Tommy. Which meant that she'd be an easy going baby who would sleep wherever I placed her.


A big hah.

For starters, Natalie would not allow anyone to put her down when she was a newborn.

If you tried to put her down, even if she was in a deep sleep, her eyes would suddenly snap open and she'd scream in horror.

And what did my boy Tommy do?

Oh, he'd happily sleep in his crib right from the start. Only cried when he wanted something.

"You know your second baby won't be like that," everyone warned me.

I didn't believe them.

I remember worrying constantly over Tommy. I mean I was 19 when I had him, I didn't quite know what I was doing. And then when he turned two and he was barely saying a word I was in a sheer panic. I had assumed it was something that I had done wrong. Should I have read to him more? Talked to him more? Brought him to museums?

The speech therapist started coming to the house when he was two.

"It's best to start when they're small," I was told.

I agreed.

And the speech therapist would try in vain to get Tommy to speak. One word she was really working on?


She taught him how to sign more and she kept trying to get him to say it.

"Tommy," she'd say as I sat on the floor beside her. "Say more. MOOOORREEEE." She stretched out the letters and pointed to her mouth as she said it. Then she did the sign for more. "More," she repeated, also signing it.

And because I felt awkward just sitting there, I also signed the word more and said the word.

Tommy stared at us as though we were complete idiots.

She'd bring out books and would try to get him to identify what was in it.

"Look Tommy. A cat. CAAAATTTT," the speech therpist would go.

And Tommy, well, he'd grow bored and run off to his toys.

"Maybe there is something else going on with him," the speech therapist finally said during one session when Tommy darted off and staring running laps around us while flapping his hands.

Something else?

I had stared her her dumbly.

I mean I just thought he was speech delayed. I didn't think it was SOMETHING ELSE.

Of course I typed in speech delays in the search engines.

And was horrified with what popped up.

Verbal apraxia.


Mental Retardation.

I joined various online groups for people who had children with speech delays.

I felt better knowing I wasn't alone.

But a lot of those children got better. They started speaking normally at the age of three or four while my son struggled to put words together.

I had him tested for autism.

He doesn't have it, the doctor said. He's too social.

I was at a loss. He was able to start preschool at three.

I received a lot of phone calls.

Tommy won't sit still during circle time. His speech is below average. Really below.

Mrs. M****? Tommy still won't sit during circle time. In fact today he started dancing on a chair...

Fast forward to Kindergarten. Still speech delayed. But better. I stupidly thought that the worst was behind me.


Then the phone calls began again.

Mrs. M****? Is something happening at home? Because Tommy won't stop crying..

And meeting after meeting.

Because of his crying he would go to the principal's office if he got worked up.

A five year old already in the principal's office.

Then they suggested that he only go to school for a half day.

"Perhaps all day is too much for him," the teachers said gently.

Then they said he could try a full day but he'd go in the resource room most of the time.

It's a smaller environment. I think it's too much for him to handle being in a room with 21 other students...

But good news popped in through the cracks.

Tommy is actually understanding how to handle time better than my first graders. He sits in while I teach first graders sometimes and he's getting it...

Tommy is my favorite little boy ever. He loves to learn.

Of course more not so good news sprinkled in.

I tested Tommy for autism and it shows that he's most likely to have it. Obviously this isn't an official diagnosis but from everything I've gathered it looks to be like he has it...he shows a lot of mannerisms..

Mercifully he passed Kindergarten. To be honest I wasn't expecting it. I cringed when I saw his report card in his backpack. I pulled it out, taking deep breaths.

Don't cry if it shows that he hasn't moved on to first grade..

I pulled the papers from the envelope and flipped through the back. Where it showed the grade that he'd attend next year.

First Grade it said in bold dark letters.

He passed.

I looked through the other pages. He was average in almost everything except for speech obviously. And following directions. And managing feelings.

So far, Tommy is doing well in first grade. Though he tells me that it's hard and sometimes he can't get his brain to work right.

I ask him sometimes what it was like when he was little and he couldn't talk.

And Tommy told me, "Remember when I needed to say more? MOOOREEEE!!," Tommy said, stretching his mouth out like the speech therapist had done years before.

I remember when he finally had said the word.

I think it was a few months after the speech therapist started coming?

He just all of a sudden came over to me and signed more.

"MORE!" I shrieked. "MORE! You DID it!" And I gathered him in my arms while he laughed and muttered, "Moreeeee.."

Tommy is still behind in his speech. But he's getting there. He'll probably always be awkward and it worries me because children are cruel. He struggles to catch a ball--just the other day some kids were outside playing basketball and allowed him to join. But when someone tossed him the ball he dropped it and it went thunking down the street.

"I can't DO it!" I heard him shriek.

So I tell him every day that he CAN do anything that he wants. That he just has to try.

And what about Natalie?

Well, she started saying the word more when she turned a year old.

It made me smile because I remember how hard we tried to get Tommy to say the word.

And here was this one-year-old who said it effortlessly while pointing to the chocolate I was eating.

"MOREEE! MORE!" she said firmly.

Do I think Natalie will have a speech delay? She could.

But right now she seems to be right on schedule.

And just this morning she told me, "Ball? Ball? Come.." because she wanted me to follow her and get her ball which she had tossed in the catbox.

(Eww. Thank goodness I had just cleaned it.)

In a way I'm glad that Tommy struggled. As silly as it sounds. Because it helped me appreciate things more.

If Tommy had talked on schedule then I doubt I'd have marveled over the fact that Natalie said more so easily.

Or I don't think I'd have teared up when Natalie instructs me to do things.

So I'm grateful that I have two very different children.

I have a boy who can follow instructions on how to build a Lego car. While I still can't comprehend how to do it:

And I have a girl, who isn't afraid to tell me what she wants:


I do have the Puppy Chow recipe. I've no idea why it's called Puppy Chow. Jennifer introduced me to it and called it Puppy Chow so that's what I call it.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 (17.5 ounce) package crispy corn or rice cereal
1 pound powdered sugar


1. Melt peanut butter with butter and chocolate chips over stovetop. Lay out cereal on cookie sheet. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and mix. (You will get dirty.)

2. Place coated cereal in a large plastic bag and add the powdered sugar. Close bag and then shake to coat.

Delicious! But warning, it's addicting.


  1. Hi, I just found your blog while searching for speech delay info on google. I have a 33 month old who is just like your son. All I hear about from daycare is that his speech is delayed and he will not sit during cirle time. I hate picking him up from school because I am sick of hearing bad reports about him. I have never been so frustrated in my life.

    Come visit my blog :)



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