More than words

I have realized in the last several weeks just how powerful words can be. It is ironic really. Because for the first 36 months of Grayson’s life his words were so limited. He found ways to fill the spaces where words belonged. He used gestures and screams and emotional expressions to communicate what he could not say with words. And because we wanted to communicate with our son we learned to understand what those things meant. It was Grayson’s language. And because we wanted to, and because we had to, we learned to speak it too. And then this crazy thing happened. One day he just started speaking. And believe me this was not a spontaneous out-of-nowhere occurrence. This took hours upon hours of therapy. This took structured and unstructured peer interactions. It took focus and dedication and patience. And slowly one word at a time Grayson began to speak to us. And it became clear to us almost immediately that he had a lot to say.

As we have watched Grayson progress through speech therapy in our home and in the classroom over the last year we have been blown away. The progress is truly remarkable. And in so many moments we cannot help but stand back and look at him in awe. When we look at where we started and where we are today the difference is just unbelievable. I cannot tell you how many times I have given him too many suckers or an extra 3 cookies just simply because the way he asked for them was so perfectly wonderful that I could not bring myself to say no. Today there are often times that he will say something and we look at him with a stunned expression. It is still difficult to process that our little man is communicating with us in full understandable sentences. Difficult and really super freaking awesome.

And now Grayson is learning that there are so many ways to use words. He understands now that communication is a part of life. And he is figuring out how to use words in his life. Words can get you treats, words can get you into trouble, words can hurt people, words can fix people…words became powerful pretty quickly in our home. And while Grayson was picking up on all of his new words his little brother was right there beside him; learning to speak and advancing his own communication skills. And all at once James and I found ourselves surrounded by two fully communicating little people with a whole lot to say.

I would be lying if I said that over the past month James and I have not marveled at the irony of the moments that we begged and pleased for Grayson to speak. . And now here he is speaking in all of his sassy, smarty pants glory. No matter how many sassy comments he makes and no matter how many times I have to listen to him try to put me in my place; none of that will matter this school year when Grayson can come home from school and tell me about his day. You see, as full-time working parents this has been one of the most difficult parts of our journey. We come home after a full day away and we could not have even the most basic conversations with Grayson about his day. We relied solely on notebooks with his teachers and therapists and nannies. And even though it was always wonderful to have those notes; it was never quite the same as hearing a story through Grayson’s eyes.

And now, his stories still do not contain a lot of detail, but he can give us the basic pieces of the day and he can remember and describe the things that he did. Grayson has a habit of getting so excited about certain things that he brings his voice down to a whisper when he talks about it. As if it is something so special and so wonderful that he just has to keep a lid on it so that it doesn’t escape. And in the moments when he is frustrated he is slowly finding words to help us understand how to help him. Sometimes we feel like we are playing Catch Phrase. Grayson says the words that he knows and we try feverishly to figure out what he needs. When Grayson tells you to “try again” he means that he wants you to start over at the very beginning. When Grayson says the he wants a “garden” he means that he wants his toys spread out all over the floor. The trick is to figure out what he is describing before he has an emotional reaction to your inability to understand him. Yes, Catch Phrase is the perfect comparison. You know that moment when you are holding that disk that is beeping? And with each second the beeping gets louder and faster. And the louder and faster is gets, the harder it is for you to focus. And then before you know it BEEEEEEEEEEP! Shit.

Any honest parent will tell you that words and communication are a game changer for negotiating with a toddler (something I do not recommend…because even when you win, you lose). But communication takes this whole concept to a whole new level. Because now when Grayson asks for a cookie I can tell him that he has to take 5 more bites. Now when he tries to throw rocks into the water I can say that the rules at the restaurant are no throwing rocks. (Side note: any other parents out there who play the “taking advantage of a kid who can’t read” card? I cannot tell you how many times a day I point to a sign and tell Grayson that there is some bogus rule writing on the sign. Sorry Gray, the sign says no climbing. Sorry Gray, the sign said no kids allowed inside. Sorry Gray, the sign says be nice to your brother. Sorry Gray, the sign says the zoo is closing and everyone is going home for a nap. Prime evil or genius parenting….I say the ladder.)

Any who, back to words. They have completely transformed our world. Something so simple. Something that so many people take advantage of every single day. The ability to communicate. To be heard. To have a voice. I never imagined a world in which my child could not communicate his most basic needs to me. And yet for the better part of 4 years this was our reality. Even today, when Grayson is too worked up to use his words or too full of anger to calm down enough to talk, I often say in exasperation “Grayson, please tell mommy what you need.” Because that is what being a mommy is. Understanding what your kids need and walking through fire to get it for them. Now, 97% of the time Grayson “needs” a sucker. Or a cookie. Or PJ Mask. But that 3% of the time when he really truly good and needs something…I am so beyond thrilled that he can tell me about it. What I have learned in the last few months talking to my amazing son Grayson is that he is so much more wonderful and amazing than I had even imagined. And I cannot wait to hear about all of the amazing stories and adventures that life with surely bring his way.

JS

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