I used to sit there, while admiring her long eye lashes and perfectly curved lips, wonder what sweet sound would come out of them and what energy she would bring into this world. What experiences would we share together? Yes, when she was a baby and would sit still in one spot, I would already think to the days when I would have to be her mom, not her friend, and hope that she would love me for it in the long run. I think those thoughts run rampant within every mom’s head. But first and foremost, I couldn’t wait until the day when I spoke, she spoke back.
It doesn’t take but five minutes with me to know that I’m a talker. Put me in a crowded room, and I’ll make new friends in no time. Even stick me in a solitary space, and I’ll start talking to the wall. Many times my mouth just won’t stay closed; it just makes me uncomfortable to sit in silence and not express what I’m thinking.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing when I see an injustice and stand up for it. Or when I don’t get nervous in front of crowds presenting. A blessing because it allows me to take risks. But a curse for sure, too. When I see that injustice, sometimes I don’t know when to back down. Or I’ll take a risk before I think through if the benefits outweigh it, and there are definitely times that they don’t and it’s too late. So my verbal expressions are definitely both my ammo and my crutch.
My oldest son, Eli, has the same issue. The nearly 5 year-old loves to talk and it gets him in trouble, a lot. At bedtime, there are many nights I just want to scream for him to zip it, and some nights I do. At school, he can’t help but answer literally every question he teacher asks. He’s learning but can’t hold back his excitement. And when I’m playing with his other siblings, he’s the first to answer any question I propose when I ask that he lets Lyndi answer some of them first. He forgets, like me, how the muscles work to close our traps. I can’t be mad at him… it’s in the genes.
So, you can expect my amazement a year ago when my 18 month-old baby girl didn’t say a peep.
From the day she was born, Lyndi was an observer. I remember taking her to church on Sunday, and while with Eli I needed to bring a slew of toys to occupy him, Lyndi would sit on my lap for an hour and look around contently, smiling at everyone she made eye contact with. She was my cuddle bug; my relaxed princess. I loved every second of her at that age, grateful for her ability to not overwhelm us or be overwhelmed by anything. She even went to bed easy and was sleeping through the night after just a few weeks of being born. Nothing riled her. I so don’t relate!
I thought it was just her disposition, that it was how she took the world in. That she was an introvert and that she would talk when she was ready and had something brilliant to say. But I refused to be the mom that didn’t take action when something needed to be addressed, so at 9 months pregnant with her baby brother, Luke, I accepted the fact that while her sweetness was off the charts, her verbal development could use some work. I took her for a hearing screening literally the day that my contractions with Luke began and I delivered him the next. This kicked off a multitude of tests that proved, yes, Lyndi needed speech therapy, and 9 months of it.
She started to repeat sounds, animal noises, and we got her to say more than the three or four words in her initial vocabulary. She started to articulate her wants and needs, in conjunction with key sign language words. During my maternity leave with Luke, I was dedicated to helping Lyndi become the little girl she was meant to, with the focused help of her speech therapist. That whole motto “it takes a village” is right, especially when it comes to helping kids reach their full potential! I felt like our speech therapist became an added member of our family – and Lyndi felt so too. Especially when therapy transitioned to taking place at her school, and her unwillingness to share her speech therapist with any of her school friends.
Lyndi is almost 3 now. It’s been over six months since we all agreed that Lyndi met the milestones we felt she needed to be in line with that of her peers. She still has work to do; well let me clarify…we still have work to do. While we still work with her on articulation, we also work as a family to close our mouths and try to listen, especially Eli and me. It’s easier for me than him, but I do get to observe him play school with her and those moments melt my heart. He will get out letter books and, while reading them to her, he will have her repeat his words. If what she says isn’t perfect, he goes slower and tries to help her the second time. Her growth is a family dedication. And because of it, I’ve got to hear her sweet voice and all that comes with it… the “no’s” and the “mine’s”. The “he hurt me” and the “but I want it”… and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
When I was pregnant with Luke, the youngest in our family, I wasn’t able to be the mom to Lyndi that I wanted to be. Gaining 75 pounds in that pregnancy put a big block – literally – between me and her, and she gravitated to be a daddy’s girl, which I am thrilled that she loves him so. I knew that there would be the day that I would get the mother/daughter time back, but I sure didn’t know how much it would melt me when I did. A few months ago, I was taking Lyndi to bed following our normal evening routine of bath, brushing teeth, getting a drink of water, and saying our prayers. I propped her up on the side of her bed and I talked for her, about her day and who we needed to pray for that night. I laid her down, turned on her bedtime stars, and covered her up in her polka dot blanket. I blew her a kiss, and said “I love you sweet girl”. As I started to walk out of the room, that voice, the one that I prayed months before to hear, whispered back, “I love you too, Momma”.
I about fell to the floor in tears. I always knew she loved me. She gives me plenty of hugs and eskimo kisses. We play together, and she likes to scoot her little body back until her bottom falls perfectly in my lap with a book to read. There is no question that love overflows here in our household… but that was the first time I heard her say it. I knew how long of a journey it was for us to get her to this point. And the fact that she chose those words at that moment, to articulate what she was feeling, made me overjoyed, and I still am each time that she chooses to say that to me, sometimes without me even prompting.
This one sweet soul, who struggles to say some words, put energy forth to tell me that she loves me. How many times in life do we actually put energy against something as simple as that? When we don’t hug our family or hold on to grudges for years? Or when we don’t say hi to a co-worker that we walk by in the hallway, just because we’re tired or don’t feel like it? What about visiting someone who needs us? Our lives are too hectic, we have too many demands, we don’t make time. I’m guilty of all of this too. I have the same excuses. I 100 percent acknowledge I am very far from sainthood.
But when I heard Lyndi’s affirmation of her love for me, I realize that showing love to others doesn’t have to be so challenging. It’s a smile. It’s a simple phone call. And it’s saying those three words – I love you – even when they are the hardest to say, not because you can’t articulate it, but because of the barriers you are putting up for yourself. Lyndi’s barriers were real and hard. Her tongue didn’t want to curl just right to be able to say what all along she was feeling. But for us… it’s easy to say, but we chose not to. Don’t stand in your own way. Be joyous that we live in a world that we can express our feelings outwardly, and do it. Today, reach out and touch someone’s life. Be the love that they need. You never know how those three words will change them, and you, in the process.