“We need to talk to you about something”.
It’s a phrase that no parent wants to hear from a teacher or daycare provider. But a few weeks ago its exactly what I heard as I sat across the table from a young teacher in my son L’s class.
I braced myself and the attorney in me kicked already working on my rebuttal. Was he biting? Oh H can be rough with him maybe he’s being to rough? Oh he can throw tantrum if he doesn’t get his way…is he screaming? Great, he probably throws his food…but we’re working on that, he has a big brother and sister so he’s used to bigger kids… One by one the thoughts went through my mind and I prepared to defend my baby.
It didn’t make it any easier that I was sitting here regarding L. L is 18 months and is my baby. So I am naturally more protective of him. Plus, he is the sweetest most loving baby in the world so a complaint about him? No way. Not my L.
“He’s really quiet. He doesn’t talk much.”
Wait…what??? Really, that’s it? That’s the exact same news H’s teacher had praised him for about 20 minutes prior. The teacher explained that L didn’t talk as much as the other kids in his class. Wow, if only this girl knew the life L lived. He’s the baby behind two very loud kids. No one can get a word in edge wise with his brother and sister.
Of course being the baby of my family, I knew what the teacher was going to say next… “J and H always talked….he is much quieter than they ever were”. Ahh…the lovely comparisons that all babies of the family must endure. The teacher handed me a paper on working on talking and we left the center.
That conference was a little over a month ago. Since then I have of course had a hyper sensitivity to watching the words L says. It’s like someone that points out a bruise you didn’t know was on your arm…once they say it, you feel it the rest of the day. After the teacher mentioned L’s talking, I made it a point to see what words he does say.
This past month I have noticed a trend… although L is overall fairly quiet, he has figured out the words that he needs to get through his day. He has managed to assemble a “Last Child” Survival Dictionary…
1. “Mine” – the first truly important word that every baby of the family needs to know. This word is repeated at least 1000 times a day!
2. “Uh Oh” – Every little brother needs to know this one, especially when a hot wheel car is launched into a cup of chocolate milk.
3. “No” – Often used when his sister wants to rock him like a baby or dress him up.
4. “Bye Bye” – in this family we are always on the go, so it is no wonder this is his favorite word.
5. “Shoes” – See #1 above. We are always in hurry and in a mad dash to find shoes. The baby never wants to be left behind so he’s the first to look for them!
6. “Chips” – although this health conscious mother hates to admit it, chips are by far L’s favorite food.
7. “Juice” – A milk hater, he always makes sure to tell me to skip the milk and give him his beloved juice.
8. “Zoey” – (Our Dog). For man’s best friend is truly L’s best friend.
9. “Choo Choos” – his favorite toy.
10. “Kitties” – because the animal rights group need to schedule an intervention with L and his obsession with cat tail pulling.
11. “Mama/Dada”- to summon his personal bodyguards.
12. “Thank You” – Although he is a guy of few words – I am proud to say he always remembers to say this.
13. “Hug” – because this kid is a hugger, plain and simple!
14. “Wiggles” because if he has to watch Barbie one more time he may move.
15. “Cheese” – Because L has a camera in his face (thanks to his scrapbooking mother) more times than a Hollywood celebrity.
After about a month of paying extremely close attention to this, I backed off, and chilled out. He’s fine. Okay so he doesn’t talk as much as J did at that age. The first in the family gets tested on the same criteria as the baby even though their situations are completely different. Is that fair? L and I certainly don't think so.
At his 18 month check, I told our doctor about what the teacher had said. My doctor laughed and sighed “I hate those damn tests…he’s only 18 months old!!” She laughed. Then she turned to H and L who were playing on the floor of her office. L was playing happily with his train when his brother ripped the train out of his hand. “No! Mine! Choo Choo!!! Mine!!” L yelled and ripped the train right back. The forcefulness in his voice made his big brother back off. I gave my doctor the typical Mother of boys look of “I’m sorry…Ignore them, we’re working on it…”. But my doctor thought the battle over the choo choo was much more important than brotherly banter. She looked at me: “See, there’s your test. Did you see that?? Problem Communicating?? Umm…in the time he has sat here he just stood up to his 4 year old brother and got what he wanted, if that’s not excelling in communication I don’t know what is!"