30 January 2011


“Abby! Running! Rabbit! Tree! Fall!”

That, my friends, is a synopsis by one Eamon Wolfe of Abby in Wonderland, a Sesame Street DVD.

“Mimi! Come on! Ceratops! T-Rex!”

That is how he asks to play with dinosaurs.

Yesterday Aaron, Eamon, Nesta, and I piled in the car and headed to Colonial Williamsburg. As we stood outside the Blacksmith talking to our carpenter friend Ayinde (or “Uncle In”) Eamon would run up to any arriving visitors. “Hi!” he would shout at them.

They would greet him with a slightly bemused expression.

“Dog!” he would say, pointing to Nesta. If they did not immediately respond, he would further explain: “Woof!”

At which point, most people would smile politely and nod to confirm that yes, that was indeed a dog, who probably did go, “Woof!”

Realizing that he needed to pull out all the stops, Eamon then pointed to me. “Mimi!” he exclaimed, and by way of elaboration: “My Mimi!” The visitors and I would then awkwardly exchange hellos. Before Eamon could introduce everyone else, however, the visitors always hurriedly decided that they would rather see the blacksmiths than the carpenters and would run into the building, the look in their eyes suggesting that really, they had not spent $58.95 a ticket just for the privilege of meeting our family.

If you haven’t read this blog, you probably don’t realize the enormity of all this chatter. Six months ago, Eamon had stopped all attempts at speaking or even syllabilizing. He relied totally on sign language for any communication. He understood everything we said and signed about 50 words, so we were pretty sure it wasn’t a processing issue.

I finally decided to push for having his tongue frenulum clipped. Aaron and others supported it, but I was the one out there leading the charge. And leading the charge…is kind of lonely. And it’s definitely scary. All you can think is: but what if I’m wrong? What if I’m wrong and it doesn’t work and he still has to have speech therapy and I put my baby through all the trauma of surgery for nothing? What if I just get written off as one of those crazy, interfering mothers who is so dramatic and paranoid? Even worse, what if I actually am one of those mothers?

But we did it, mostly because the potential benefits outweighed the downsides. Even if it didn’t work, and he still had speech issues, at least we would know that it was NOT because of something structurally wrong with his tongue, and that would be major clue to what we needed to do to help him.

Almost immediately after the surgery, Eamon started syllabilizing again. And slowly…he started to talk. At some point, he realized that he could now get his tongue out past his lips, and started sticking his tongue out all the time. We must have looked insane—the only parents in the world excited when their child stuck out his tongue. Eamon and I would walk all around Target sticking our tongues out at one another. We were the recipients of more than one raised eyebrow.

And then, about a month ago, Eamon started really TALKING. He went from one or two words here and there to narrating most of his day. It used to be that you would tell him a word and he would try to say it, and if he didn’t say it perfectly the first time, he wouldn’t try again for weeks. Now, he’ll try it and almost always says it well enough the first time that it immediately becomes part his vocabulary. Moreover, he has started saying words without any prompting at all—words we didn’t even realize he knew.

And he’s starting to say words with more than one syllable, like “Ceratops” for “Triceratops.” When you consider where we started, this is amazing.

But what I think makes me most proud of my baby is that fact that he’s started talking to other people.

You see, Eamon isn’t shy. He would smile at others, make silly faces at them, bring them toys and play with them…but he wouldn’t talk to anyone outside of our immediate family. It’s hard to be sure, but I think he was embarrassed. Eamon is very socially aware, and I have no doubt that he saw how the rest of us talked, and knew how he didn’t talk, and made the decision that it was better to just keep quiet and pretend to be shy when it came to speaking.

It broke my heart just a little.

But now? Now Eamon has figured out how to use his tongue. He can say words. He has more or less caught up with kids his age, and continues to progress at such a rate that I no longer worry about or even consider possible speech therapy. He says most things pretty well, and after this weekend, it seems that he is no longer embarrassed to show off his speech to other people.

And for the first time, I’m glad that I led the charge. I have no doubt that there will be lots of landmark decisions in being a mom, decisions that will cause stress and heartbreak and more than a little sleep loss. But for this one, at least, I can finally rest.

I was right. Chapter closed.

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