I'm A Mom. I Worry.
As Mason grows to explore more about the world, my worries grow, too. Here's the main concern right now: Mason's speech development. And while I do repeat to myself that he's going to be okay, that anxious feeling doesn't go away. This feeling was present at his 18-month wellness check-up with the pediatrician, but my level of concern wasn't as raised as it is now. I, myself, am not best at having a conversation about this outside of the doctor's office. It makes me feel sad, upset, and guilty as a parent. Yet, I do feel that it is important to talk about it because I've learned that I am not alone in my feelings when it comes to a child's speech development.
Mason has been babbling. There was no quiet period between those little infant coos to the babbling. Around 15 months, he started making more sounds with letter pronunciation ("Da"/"Ma"/ "Ti"). At 18 months, it was the same sounds and more words associated with people or an action ("Dada," "Mama," "Hi," "Hey"). The pediatrician was not too concerned about his speech development at the 18-month appointment as Mason's non-verbals were on track. He waves Hi/Bye, mimics mommy and daddy, plays pretend (pretends to talk on the phone), will motion towards something of interest, responds to his name, and can sign to us ("more" and "all done"). During this appointment, we also completed the standard screening for autism, where he scored zero; no need for further screening.
A few weeks ago, we had Mason's 21-month wellness check-up. This was his first visit with his new pediatrician in Florida. Towards the end of our appointment, the pediatrician asked me if I had any questions/concerns, and I informed her that we are concerned about his speech development. We discussed everything: the books we read with Mason, our daily activities, his eating/drinking habits, how he is with other kids and people in general, how B and I communicate with Mason, what Mason seems to enjoy playing with - the list goes on and on. She didn't find anything necessarily "missing" or anything we're doing to hinder Mason's speech development.
Since Mason's a new patient, the doctor suggested we complete the standard screening for autism again so that she could have a baseline to work from. He scored zero again. I explained that B and I are completely open to speaking with a speech-language pathologist (SLP). The pediatrician did not see a concern to address this right now as she expressed that some boys start talking more at 2 years old. She did say that we'll discuss where his speech development is at his next wellness visit, which will be when Mason is 2 years old in August. One note that she recommended was to continue having Mason be around kids and be nearby to hear how they either talk amongst each other and to Mason directly.
What's interesting about Mason is that he's very receptive to communication. If I ask him to grab a ball or bring me a book, he'll do it. If I ask him to sit down or open/close a door, he'll do it. He communicates through non-verbals to let us know when he needs something (food, water, or more of something) and even when he needs help with something (reaching for a toy, opening a box, or putting something back together). Mason plays fun little games with us, enjoys coloring, pretends to be a chef or a race car driver, and absolutely loves outdoor activities. He adores being around people, especially kids near his age. He's a happy toddler, I must say.
I'll cut right to it: at times, I feel like I'm failing him, and this burning guilt in the back of my mind hasn't let me sleep in a long time. But that's parenthood, right? #nosleep? I have no anger towards Mason. I'm actually quite surprised at how I am not frustrated with him at all. I've identified that this is all within myself. I'm angry and frustrated with myself. When Mason's sleeping, I'm researching fun and realistic ways to teach him about animals, animal sounds, colors, shapes, etc. Sometimes I'll tune into SLP discussions on Instagram Live and listen to other parents' experiences with their child's speech development. It helps me learn about ways to help Mason and is comforting to know that again, I'm not alone in feeling upset and discouraged at times. I also don't want to overwhelm Mason with all of this, so I'll just introduce one new activity every week to see how he reacts.
Of course, I had a total meltdown with B about it. At first, B didn't understand why I was so upset with myself. I explained that it's because I'm physically with Mason every day, and I feel that I'm responsible for his speech development. Remember, B's the MVP of this family. He grounds me. Amid my breakdown, B took my hand and said, "But mama, it's not only you carrying this responsibility. You and I are a team, and we're Mason's parents. We will figure this out together." B reminded me of when Mason was in the NICU and our constant questioning and worrying - When can we bring our baby boy home? Did he eat enough today? Is he okay - is he okay - is he okay??? He said that when Mason does start full-on speaking, that there will surely be another new thing to worry about. Please don't mistake this as a pessimistic perspective. This is a parent's perspective. And as parents, we worry.
I'm glad to be talking about this situation more aloud. It's uncomfortable to talk about how my child is doing when I'm constantly thinking of ways to help him progress. It's sometimes hard to hear other kids around his age saying whole words and people asking if Mason can say any whole words yet. I know there is no hurt intended behind someone simply asking if Mason can say full words. I'm not angry with people when they ask. Again, this is a feeling that I've created within myself, and I'm working on it. I know that someday Mason will form words into broken sentences into complete statements on why we should have pizza for dinner over chicken and veggies. And if he needs more help, whether from me and B, or professional direction by an SLP, or getting our neighbor's kids to speak with him for a few minutes every day, then that's what we'll do.