Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Maybe Your Best Friends Really WON'T Tell You

I had N's 4-year-old checkup scheduled for Wednesday. When I mentioned that to my mother, she hesitated for a second, then said, "Do me a favor, will you? Ask her about his speech. I still have a hard time understanding him sometimes."

"Really?" I said, taken aback. "Even in person? I thought he's doing so much better lately."

"He is, he is," she said quickly. "I just thought that at his age you should be able to understand him totally all the time. Anyway, just ask if you get a chance."

No doctor's appointment with N is simple or short. For one thing, I'm deeply in love with his pediatrician, in that "I want to be your best friend forever" transference kind of way, and she and I can chatter away for hours about our kids and about the university we both work for, etc. Not to mention that she now takes her daughter to the gymnastics class that starts right after N's on the weekend, so we have that to talk about, too.

But also, N's health has always been excellent, except for the fact that there are about a million things wrong with him. So we had to discuss his epigastric hernia (still there), his ear tubes (still both in three years later), his height (at 37.5 inches, finally on the chart), his weight (at 29.5 pounds, not on the chart), and his silent PDA. Then we had to look at some new issues. I wanted to make sure his back is straight and his hips even, because I'd seen something suspicious (not a problem, phew). She needed to check on his left testicle, which had descended perfectly when he was a baby, but has been going more and more into hiding as he's gotten older (definitely a problem; it's all the way up in his belly and can't be coaxed into his scrotum, so, yep, another consult on its way to us). And I wanted to ask her about his uber-attachment to WeeyumWise, and his umpteen imaginary friends who all speak through him and who sometimes have to be asked to step aside so I can talk to N (she's going to talk to a few colleagues and see if it's worthy of concern).

Finally, I reluctantly brought up his speech. She broke into an immediate, sympathetic grin.

"I'm glad you brought it up yourself," she said. "Because otherwise I was going to have to."

Uh-oh. "I don't get it," I said. "I don't have any problem understanding him."

"You're his mother," she said. "Of course you don't. Not only that, but you translate for him all the time."

"I do?" I said.

"I'm sure you don't even realize it, but that's why you probably don't realize how hard it can be to understand him. People don't have to ask him to repeat himself, because you tend to echo him or translate for him."

"Hmmm," I said. It's easy to dismiss your mother's concerns with "ugh, she's just so hypercritical." But the beloved pediatrician? Not quite as easy.

So I mentioned it to my sister: "And then Mom said..."

She cut me off. "Yeah, he can be hard to understand."

Uh-oh again. If my SISTER won't jump in to criticize my mother, then I'm really in trouble.

So I mentioned it to my friend whose own daughter has done speech therapy for years, and who knows a lot about the issues. "Do you have a hard time understanding him?" I asked.

"Well, yeah, sometimes I do," she admitted.

So this morning, still bemused, I was chatting with my boss, who's been out of town all week. And after I'd filled her in on the office stuff that had gone on in her absence, I mentioned that I was going to be spending a lot of time down at our affiliated children's hospital, what with all this stuff going on with N. I tacked on the speech thing as an afterthought: "Oh, and on top of all that, can you believe they want me to get him a speech assessment?"

"Oh good!" she said.

"Oh good? What do you mean, 'Oh good?'"

"Well, I knew I'd had a hard time understanding him when he came by the office last time, but I didn't realize how off that was until Mary brought Lucas by the other day," she replied. Lucas is not yet three years old. "I couldn't get over how clearly he spoke, and it made me realize how little I'd understood N. Plus, he was using full sentences, and N still has a lot of that baby grammar."

"Aw, MAN!" I said. And told her the story of the string of people who have admitted the same to me.

"Well, who wants to be the first one to tell a mother that there's something wrong with her kid?" she said.

"Yeah, I know," I admitted. "But DAMN."

Here's the kicker. I'm a hypochondriac. That means not only do *I* have things, but I worry that my children have things. I worried about N's speech development for years, but kept being told that I was overreacting, measuring him by his big sister, whose speech development was so rapid, so advanced, that nobody could keep up with what I was probably using as "normal" milestones. So I backed off. And watched N blossom. Or so I thought.

And so now I wait for the consent form from the school district's 'special education' office to come, and then we schedule an assessment and an IEP meeting. An IEP. At which, possibly, we'll be told that he doesn't qualify for any services, and that will be that. But still. I'm afraid to assume that that's what will happen, since apparently I totally missed this to begin with.

Good health checkup. Bah.

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