The Gift of “Mommy"
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
As a mom and an SLP, May is a busy month... For SLPs, May is recognized as #betterspeechandhearingmonth and #apraxiaawarenessmonth. As mom to a child with #childhoodapraxiaofspeech, our family celebrates #apraxiaawarenessday on May14th by wearing blue and sharing our story. And of course, there is Mother's Day... one of my personal favourites (for obvious reasons!).
In celebration of all of the above, it seems fitting that I share the story of hearing “mommy” for the first time from my second child...
Meet R. R is my second born son. He is my middle boy. He is kindness and love and thoughtfulness all wrapped up into one (not so little anymore) body. R is a delight. To know him, truly is to love him. R has been blessed with many gifts and wonderful traits. However, R has also been dealt some pretty hefty developmental challenges.
At the age of 2.5, R was officially diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of speech. While R was physically able to talk, his words were unclear and his messages were hard for us to decipher. Lacking the ease with which his peers were able to combine sounds and syllables, R’s speech was mostly unintelligible. R compensated with gestures and pointing. While he would eventually get his message through to us, it was work and it was frustrating. It was the start of a long journey for R.
While R has made immense gains over the past 7 years, I often think back to his early years and the milestones that seemed to come and go, leaving our toddler, preschooler, and now school-aged child working hard to catch up. As any parent knows, milestones are a funny thing – we look ahead with excitement to the next age and stage, but then immediately mourn how quickly our children are growing up. Throw a developmental delay into the mix and milestones become even muddier, bringing with them waves of anticipation, joy, sadness, worry, and often loneliness.
As a speech-language pathologist, it goes without saying that some of my most anticipated milestones for my boys centered around their speech and language development. If I am being completely honest, the emergence of the word “mommy” might have been the one I waited for most. For my oldest and my youngest, this word came easily, uttered right on time and repeated often. With R, the word “mommy” did not come when it should have. I was “baba” for the longest time. Still special, but so many other things were “baba” too. I waited. And waited.
Fast forward to a month after R’s third birthday. Busily cleaning up after a dinner at my parent’s house, I wasn’t entirely focused on my boys and certainly wasn’t anticipating the word “mommy” to come from the living room. But it did. And it was amazing. Fortunately, I had my phone in hand, the moment that R was able to coordinate the sounds and syllables for “mommy”. The word came fast and it came beautifully, as did the tears from this mama. When you are parenting a child with a profound speech and/or language delay, you don’t ever take a word for granted. These words are hard earned, many of them achieved only after intense speech therapy and repeated practice. I waited a really long time to hear the word “mommy” come from R’s lips, a wait that made reaching this milestone that much sweeter.
So, my message to you on this Mother’s Day is to not give up. Whatever word you are waiting to hear or whichever milestone you are waiting for your child to achieve, please don’t give up. Please know that the day is coming. Will it come effortlessly? Likely not. Will it come without work? No. But, if I can share one thing with parents in the same shoes as mine, it is this - Don’t ever count these children out. They know more than they are able to communicate and they often find the most brilliant way to communicate their thoughts. They also find the most perfect moments to shine.
Happy Apraxia Awareness Month. Happy Mother’s Day.