It was not easy. Beren had complex thoughts but was articulating at his own pace.
"He understands everything," Jared and I would hear from my parents, my in-laws. Implied was, "So why doesn't he say anything?"
At 2 years and a month, he's a late talker. Our doctor wasn't worried, so I wasn't worried, except when I worried. "He's a Calc carb," she'd say in homeopathic lingo. "He's stubborn. You can't push him, but when a Calc carb does something, he'll do it perfectly."Or, "Remember, the first step of language acquisition is listening."
Perhaps this sounds odd to those who don't use homeopathy. Your child is a what? A Calc carb? Calcarea carbonica? Calcarate of lime? Well, yes. While I wouldn't put my son's character in an inflexible box, I use this to help me understand him.
Better yet, I can tell a short story that perfectly describe his personality:
When Beren was an infant, he woke when we put him down. Others suggested using a pacifier. We balked. We hesitated. I nursed and nursed. I was game, mostly, but we were exhausted and were finally receptive to the suggestion. Soon, we could not be without the pacifier at nap time. I worried (no doubt, if I were to do an analysis of my writings about mothering, "I worried" would be the most commonly paired words - ten to one).
One afternoon Beren laid in his crib. "Pah." He expelled the pacifier like a pea shooter and never took it again.
"Good for you, Beren," my husband said. "I never liked that thing either."
My mother worried that Beren wasn't talking. She related advice from her friend who ran a daycare at her home, "Once he's around other children, he'll begin talking."
Conveniently my husband found a story hour at a local library. Both Beren and Jared enjoyed it. Did Beren begin to talk? No.
My mother-in-law inquired, "Have you considered a play group?" or "Have you considered a parent and child group?" each time I saw her. I tried getting a play group going, but they fell apart repeatedly. I won't bother getting into a discourse on the modern condition, but it's not easy starting a play group. People are busy. People have schedules, appointments, cars, cell phones, and social media.
Bluntly she asked during one visit, "When will he talk?" I felt like a guillotine sliced me in half diagonally.
"I don't know... soon? He says some words. Momma. Moon. Bear. Balloon he said a couple times," I said.
"Words that he repeats after you say them?" my father-in-law asked. Guillotine slice number two. I was in four parts on the floor.
The idea of a parent and child group did not appeal to me. We already attended story times, sing-alongs, dropped in at the library, or visited with friends with children. As keeper of the checking account and payer of the bills, this appealed to me even less.
"Would you really prioritize money and your personal lack of interest in more toddler-oriented activities over the well-being of your child?" my nettlesome conscience asked.
"Autism?" my adrenalin-led Reader's Digest human interest story reading conscience asked.
"Hearing loss? What about a hearing test? No health insurance? So you really would prioritize money over the well-being of your child. Disappointing."
I tried once or twice more to put together a play group. I failed.
I conducted a day-long poor man's hearing test. Whenever my son turned away from me, I whispered his name from increasingly farther distances. He looked at me nearly every time, except he must have begun to think I was going crazy. He stopped glancing back at me.
In fact, I was going crazy. I confessed to my husband that night. He sighed, "You know, Rachel, I really think he's fine."
"OK, you're right."
I avoided delving into developmental issues simply because my son seemed, well, fine. While reading books, he pointed to the correct colors, animals, and objects when prompted. He pointed to the right body parts and foods on his plate when prompted. He stroked the face of a crying child in a book. He grabbed toys from other children and occasionally offered some up. He disliked sing-alongs.
He just wasn't talking. But, he wasn't talking. And so on went my internal and mostly unspoken monologue.
One afternoon a couple weeks ago, I asked him to hand me a spool of thread.
"White," he said, handing me a spool of white thread.
Since then, the words have spilled from my son's mouth - Up high, gloves, hat, sun, milk, flower, salve, toadstool, hide, edge, bag, ice, clunk, ant, bed... on and on.
Making a bet with myself, I asked Beren, "What do squirrels like to eat?"
"NUTS!" he shouted.