When I carried my two year-old out of his room last Saturday morning, his greeting, like every morning, was a grunt.
It was a combination of consonants, all slurred together, and finished off with an unfriendly exclamation point.
Then he waved his fuzzy blue bunny and smiled. “Nana nana!”
Our son has never looked me in the face and called me by name, yet he can clearly identify the fruit at the forefront of Dole’s revenue stream.
Once downstairs, I peel a nana nana.
My husband, Matt, starts unloading the dishwasher (by the way, don’t think I didn’t notice that he had opened it up after I went to bed and rearranged the plates the way he prefers them to be).
I hand my son his banana while I address Matt.
“All I want is my ears to enjoy the sound of him calling me Mama. Before he’s 15 years old, with a squeaky man voice and a few weird hairs sitting on his upper lip.
Our son has global delays.
He has been in language therapy for six months.
We both trust our speech pathologist a great deal. She says he can form basic sounds, mimic words, and respond to requests.
There is no Autism Spectrum diagnosis or speech disorder that is actually preventing him from saying Mama. It’s behavioral.
For his own reasons, he simply doesn’t want to express himself in many words right now.
He chooses banana, bus, even ‘help’.
But not Mama.
Matt hands me the silverware basket from the dishwasher. I separate the forks and spoons.
I don’t want them to see how foolish I feel for being upset that a two year-old doesn’t prioritize my needs, doesn’t show me love in the very, very specific way I want to feel it from him.
Just then, my son turns his plate upside down, crawls off to the living room, shirtless.
As he swaggers away, I see banana smeared down his back. (How do these things happen?)
Matt puts his hand on my shoulder. I jump.
“He knows who you are,” he says.
“Of course. You know that.”
“I know, I know.”
I try to make my voice sound strong, like Hilary Clinton or a WNBA basketball coach.
I’m all whiny and broken on the inside.
“You know everything there is to know about that boy.
You were his coach when he finally rolled over, you make sure you’re there for every needle poke, you’ve taught him all his farm animal noises.
All that time you spend together, all those nights falling asleep together.
I wipe the tears from my eyes.
His breath smells like coffee.
There was only one left.
“So it’s behavioral. He’s not doing it yet. But he wouldn’t say it if he loved you more – because that’s impossible."
"He gives you everything he has, every day."
"And that’s the best thing about him.”
Some things you can research until your eyes dry up from staring at Google.
You can theorize, write emails to therapists, record videos on your cell phone, use flashcards and picture boards.
But there are sometimes, as a Mom or Dad, you just have to let go.
No matter how much it doesn’t feel like what you imagined, no matter how much you want it another way.
I kiss my husband’s cheek. “You’re right. Should we give him a few moments alone while we split that last pastry?”
“Sorry. All we have left are nana nanas.”
“Very funny, dear.”
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