For a long time we wondered if the Roc understood what we were saying. Two years ago he did not have a lot of original, spontaneous speech. At three years old he could not answer simple questions, let alone ask them. We knew he was hearing just fine as he could repeat whole scenes from books and cartoons verbatim, using the speakers tone of voice and inflection. He spoke in a singsong voice and almost everything he said sounded like a question. We were told he has an expressive language disorder, possibly mixed receptive-expressive language disorder. No one could tell me if he was understanding what we were saying and whether or not he would someday develop the necessary language skills to be able to hold a conversation. I was told it was a part of the autism package.
I wanted to call up the Post Office or FedEx or whoever thought to send me this package and say “take it back, I didn’t order it, and I never signed for this package! I want to hear my baby talk, really talk!” For so long I have been craving to hear him. To hear his voice. Not my voice or a Little Einstein character’s voice or a commercial, but the Roc’s voice. I’ve been waiting to hear his voice lilt at the correct time in a sentence, to hear him express his joy and sorrow through his tone (outrage he has been able to project for a few years), to hear him imply something to the listener by inflection. Simply to hear him express himself with his own voice. Not only that, but I have been waiting to know if he was understanding, not just memorizing, if thing were clicking together behind though beautiful baby blues. And they are. And he is.
I have been astounded at the little conversations I’ve been having with the Roc lately. He has exploded with things I didn’t know where there. Making connections, expressing just how much he has been paying attention all this time.
The other morning we had this exchange when I was getting his breakfast ready:
Me: “Oh dang, I stepped in cat barf. Gross.”
Roc: “Mommy, do you have to take a bath now?”
Me: “No, I just need to change my sock and clean up the barf.” (I’m thinking: OMG! He just asked me a question about ME!)
Roc: “Mommy, help me! The egg burrito is falling apart!”
Me: “Okay, I just have to wash my hands first baby. I just cleaned up cat barf. I don’t want to touch your food until I wash my hands”
Roc: “And I don’t want to bite cat barf.” (Yup, that about sums it up.)
We had this little conversation while I was making dinner a few days later (and yes, we have lots of burritos in this house):
Roc: “Mommy, are you going to have a burrito too?”
Me: “No, I’m actually not feeling very well at the moment.”
Roc: “Does your tummy hurt?”
Me: “Yes, I feel nauseous.”
Roc: “Are you anxious?”
Me: “No, just an upset tummy.”
Roc: “You should eat Mommy.” (I looked around for GC before I remembered he wasn’t home yet. I wanted to lock eyes with him in disbelief and mouth “did you hear that?” to him. We’ve been doing a lot of that lately.)
The Roc and GC had this little conversation while we were eating dinner on Thursday night:
GC: “Hey Roc, how was your field trip today?”
Roc: “We didn’t go on a field trip today.”
GC: “You didn’t? Why not?”
Roc: “It was raining Daddy. There was mud everywhere.” (This was said with a “Duh!” attitude and Roc looked up at GC like he was a moron! I snorted and said “Did you hear the way he said that to you?! It was raining D-a-d-d-y!” causing the Roc to repeat that line over and over.)
Today while I was getting the Roc’s lunch ready he was bouncing around me excitedly:
Roc: “I’m going to have turkey-lurkey for lunch! Yay! I like turkey-lurkey”
Me: “Okay, I’m opening up a new package of turkey just for you. It’s your lucky day.”
Roc: “And I’m not supposed to put it on the table. That table is dirty.” (He has been removing food from his plate and setting it right next to the plate on the table–we had been confused about that–until today.)
Me: “Yes, your food should stay on your plate.”
Roc: “But I don’t like the plate to get wet. I’m weird like that.”
Me: “Okay…(thinking in my head did he just say “I’m weird like that?” and that explains why he keeps putting the food on the table instead of just eating off his plate!) “How about if I put a paper towel down on your plate and put the turkey on top of it?”
Roc: “Yes! Okay!”
After lunch we did one of the Roc’s favorite things – baked brownies. I was greasing the brownie pan and he was sitting at the table eating his turkey-lurkey (on a paper towel, on a plate) when he started the following conversation:
Roc: “Mommy, do we go places?”
Me: “Yes, we go lots of places.”
Roc: “I like to go somewhere.”
Me: “I know. You really like to travel to far away places to.”
Roc: “Mommy, why do we get married?”
Me: …(shocked into silence, mouth hanging open, GFCF butter poised over the brownie pan, did he just ask me a why question?) “What? Why did we get married? Mommy and Daddy?”
Roc: “Mommy and Daddy.”
Me: “Well, we really like each other, we love each other, and wanted to always be together.” (wondering if that was the best way to explain marriage having never thought about it.)
Roc: “We like each other.”
Me: “Yes. Roc, do you think you would like to get married someday?”
Me: “When you are older you could get married like Mommy and Daddy got married. Who do you think you want to marry?”
Roc: “Mommy and Daddy.”
Me: “Mommy and Daddy are already married to each other. You can only marry one person. You could marry a girl you really like to be around. Are there any girls you really like to be around?”
Roc: “I don’t know.”
Me: “How about Miss P (special ed teacher in his kindergarten room) or Mrs. L?” (he cut me off as soon as he heard Miss P’s name)
Roc: “Miss P. I will marry Miss P.”
I feel like a broken record saying again that he is amazing me, that I didn’t know if he would get here, and yet – here he is. I am beyond thrilled.
He is thinking. He is understanding. He is asking questions. He is finding his own voice and expressing himself. We are conversing.
We. Are. Conversing.
I will never tire of talking to this child. That much I know.