As is typical of my darling daughter, she seems to have come out of being sick a few weeks ago with a burst of energy and excitement. She is currently leaping forward into new abilities, rather than plateauing or regressing is most people would expect of a medically-fragile child after an extended illness.
Ez’s petite body feels stronger, more solid. She has started to inch forward in a tabletop position, her hands moving one after the other, her knees wiggling behind in a way that makes me think of a fish tail on a mermaid…as if her knees were tethered together. Her gaze is more intense, more focused, whether she is looking back at me or watching one of her favorite shows.
But perhaps the most amazing change is her vocalizations. Those of you who have followed our journey here for some time know that we have had a series of leaps forward with vocalizations (like when she said Night Night Maman) followed by long spells of silence or nothing more than “mamamamamamama.”
I never really know whether she has grown bored of practicing sounds or if she has lost the ability to produce these sounds. In some ways I have stopped even asking the question…not because I don’t care or because it doesn’t matter…but because I have faith in Esmé to do what she is going to do when she is good and ready. It is a confusing position to be in, waiting for your four-year-old child to take the lead on the matter of speaking (and eating, and walking)—while the parenting culture I am steeped in seems to see kids as arriving “late” to such things if they aren’t doing talking and walking by 12 months (and, you know, eating like on day one)…and where our culture prides itself in how quickly children move through the various milestones of childhood, rather than how they get there. Had I mothered a different child, I’d have been right there, speaking with pride about the speed with which this imaginary child hit the all the “right” notes of childhood…and from there, moved straight on to planning their college education.
But I am parenting a different child…one who fights each day for these things that come in some kind of painless magical way to the other kids I see around me. And having these steps slowed to an agonizing pace, has made me see the beauty in the path to the milestones I might have just blown by otherwise. It is an amazing thing how our bodies move, how they produce decipherable words. Frankly, it is nothing short of miraculous.
It is hard to explain how fascinating and frustrating it is to listen as my little girl lays in my arms at night trying so desperately to tell me something—something that is worth expending all of the energy that remains in her little body after a long day…It is hard to explain how proud it makes me that she is willing to keep working even with such slow gains. And I cannot tell you how humbling it is to experience.
So, I will just let you hear it…and marvel in her blossoming abilities as well as, in a more general way, in the human capacity for speech, in our desire to understand and be understood…in our need to reach out and claim whatever tenuous connection we might be able to create.