This morning Sam brought us the Toy Story 2 VHS and asked to watch it. Feeling insecure because of some comments someone made to us recently, we tried to get him to actually say “Toy Story,” or “Buzz and Woody,” or something other than “Uh-huh!” and “Video?” I don’t know why we were so insistent other than the previously-mentioned insecurity. He IS communicating. He told us EXACTLY what he wanted. When we asked him what the movie is called, he pointed to the title (I swear, I will not be at all surprised if it turns out that he is already reading). He has never, ever repeated anything we have asked him to repeat, and I don’t know why we thought he would start now. I don’t think there is anything wrong with him. And yet, this morning I let myself worry.

Just now, Sam went to the pantry (which, fine, is a shelf on the microwave cart) and brought me the box of blueberry bars. I asked if he wanted one and he said yes. He took one out of the box and handed it to me. I asked him to put the box away and he did. When he came back I opened the packaging and asked him to throw it away. He did so, after checking to make absolutely certain I had not accidentally left the blueberry bar in the wrapping. Then he came back, took the bar, and went to sit down and eat it.

I am so mad that I allowed myself to become so full of doubt and wonder if he actually understands anything we are saying. I know he does. If he chooses to refuse to repeat things, who am I to argue? He communicates just fine, no matter what other people may think. I just wish I could convince those other people to keep their opinions to themselves.

27 thoughts on “Enigma

  1. BlowJob

    August 27, 2009 at 10:28am

    He sounds like he is right on track, some kids are more verbal (like mine, who refuses to shut up EVER) than others, who probably grasps a lot more words than he lets on. And honestly, if he doesnt see the need to say more than a few words at a time, then he doesnt see the need. My aunt was like nearly 3 before she ever said a word, because she didnt see a reason to, her first words were, “Hang on Pop! I go with you!”

    Some kids are just not that verbal.

    And I had to use this name since you seemed so sad to have to delete a spam comment of the same name

  2. Laurie Ann

    August 27, 2009 at 11:02am

    My niece, Lisi, never uttered a word until well after she turned 3. She hummed instead. We kind of worried because no other child in our family had done this. We are a family of early talkers–I know, shocking. But speak she did, and she’s just fine. Nothing to worry about with Sam.

  3. Amanda

    August 27, 2009 at 11:03am

    Charles Wallace didn’t speak until he was four, but then started speaking in full sentences, plus he ended up being a genius.

    Of course, Charles Wallace is a ficitional character, but I’ve never let that kind of thing bother me.

  4. Cazzle

    August 27, 2009 at 11:12am

    Like the commenter above me said… kid will talk when he wants to. If he can understand two-part sentences (and it sounds like he can) then I wouldn’t worry too much. You know, “Please will you take your socks and put them in the washbasket”, that sort of thing.

    I know I still don’t have any kids of my own to base this on, just fuzzy memories of my undergrad degree, but one of the key things we had impressed upon us was that a lot of parents get really hung up on stages, but every kid is different, even within the same family, and kids are generally all roundabout the same stage by the time they’re 6.

  5. Jeanmarie

    August 27, 2009 at 12:25pm

    Long-time lurker here, with very different views on child-rearing than yours, but the way I see it, someone who obviously devotes as much time, love and attention as you do to Sam should never feel insecure about parenting. Unfortunately people are often free with their opinions, maybe not even realizing that a casual (and often ill-informed) remark may resonate deeper than they ever intended. Your kid has the most important element he needs, lots of love.

  6. Katherine

    August 27, 2009 at 12:36pm

    MY issue with other people is that they don’t recognize that Sam talks – he just doesn’t use a very large vocabulary himself, but he listens when people are talking to him (a 3 year old who listens? WTF?!) and he understands a lot!

    I have noticed something (just an observation!): You guys ask a lot of yes/no questions with Sam, whether that’s part of why he limits his vocab or it’s your adaptation to his vocab, I have no idea.

    That reminds me…

    My brother didn’t say much more than “Me, too!” until I went to pre-school and he was forced to ask for things on his own, and when he did, my mom was surprised by how many words he knew.

    In conclusion, unless Sam starts blowing smoke out of his ears, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.

  7. B

    August 27, 2009 at 12:54pm

    see and I wouldn’t even worry about the smoke out of his ears because that just means you’d finally get a chance to tour with a circus or at the very least, you’d get to go on some TLC reality show and make some dough from it.


    I hate having moments when I question my own confidence as a parent. I’m sorry you felt badly by someone else’s insanely intrusive remark.
    My mantra is “I know my own kid. I know my own kid.” And there are many days I have to repeat it ad nauseum to get through whatever “advice” i’m being given.

  8. KS

    August 27, 2009 at 1:37pm

    I think I’d be less concerned about a three year old not talking or having few words than whether or not communication was frustrating for any of us. So that’s one thing to consider.

    The other thing is that sometimes these comments (the ones that feel critical) that we get can be good because it makes us examine and process how we are doing things, and often we come out on the other side feeling more confident than we did before. It’s okay to have moments of doubt. You’ll either work through them to feel more confident, or they’ll alert you to something you want to change. (Which doesn’t make being in the moment of doubt or criticism any easier!)

  9. Holly

    August 27, 2009 at 1:54pm

    Speaking from experience (3/4 of my kids were in speech therapy for yrs), it’s mostly a waste of time. My 14 yr old dd was in speech for a year, and I doubt it did much good other than making me aware that I needed to make her use the correct sounds (“Bite your lip for saying ‘v.'” She previously would say “w” for “v” as in “walentine.”) Her speech caught up w/her w/in a couple mos of us reminding her.
    My oldest ds, who is 11.5, didn’t say words till he was 2 but was very communicative, similiar to Sam, except he invented his own language, which was sound-based (as in a car was a put-put and a truck was a how because of the sound their airbrakes made going by our home). He began speech @ age 3 and his teacher confided in me that she’d never seen anything like this before. Boosted my confidence in her let me tell you. But, as w/Abby, his improvement had more to do w/us making him ask us what he wanted or answering our questions beyond the yes-and-no (like a previous commentor mentioned on here about Sam). He still has a way of sort of slightly rolling his r’s, that’s about it. He used to sound like the young Obi-Wan Kenobi till the last few mos (it’s mostly disappeared). I kinda miss it.
    And my youngest ds, how’s 7.5, had speech from age 2-5, simply because he rarely spoke and when he did it wasn’t very close to what he meant. We could understand or at least interpret what he wanted because we were around him, but outside of the family most people had no clue. I think that speech therapist helped some, just to get him to talk more and to use his tongue. To be honest, I think that he just had to grow into his tongue–it protruded past his teeth and lips when he made certain sounds, and as his mouth grew and deepened he could keep his tongue tucked back there better, manipulate it better. Now he just says “d” for “th” @ times, and that is even disappearing. He graduated from speech @ age 5 because his sounds were w/in the normal range. I’m pretty sure he would have acheived that w/out any intervention.
    My youngest child, Samantha, is 5.5 and has normal speech.
    Something all of my children have done is to speak too quickly, so words get jumbled up, especially between the ages of 3-5. We just have to remind them to slow down.
    Sooo, my long-winded advice is to encourage him to come up w/longer answers (instead of “Do you want blueberry bars?” ask him if he wants bars or graham crackers, and don’t give it to him till he says the word, not just pointing. Yes, it can be frustrating for both of you and might seem mean but actually forcing him to use the word will help encourage him to become more verbal. If he’s not using his tongue and lips to make the sounds, then he won’t learn how. I wouldn’t worry at all if he was speaking gibberish @ this age, what concerns me a little is that it doesn’t sound like he’s making noises @ all. My oldest ds didn’t utter many English words, but he had a whole range of “words” in his ownn language…when he was really mad he’d furrow his brow, beller a stream of what sounded like cuss-words in a foreign language, then stomp off to his room and slam the door. Made perfect sense to him, just not to anyone else. So he was getting sounds in but not stringing them into English words.

  10. Annika

    August 27, 2009 at 1:59pm

    Holly–thanks so much for sharing your experiences with your children! Sam is definitely talking, just not the way some people want or expect him to be. He only speaks when he wants to or finds it necessary, preferring a hybrid form of communication most often, with gestures and words combined. When he speaks, it is often quiet or even unintelligible, but he also makes perfect sense a good portion of the time. I really am not worried, except about the repercussions of parenting such a stubborn person, but it bothers me when other people (not you) force their concerns on us.

  11. amie

    August 27, 2009 at 2:18pm

    I think this is a byproduct of the industry that has grown around childhood development. Everything has a name or diagnosis. There are all these expectations and what I think used to be just normal quirks and differences are now cause for concern and a trip to a specialist. It really bugs me. Sounds like Sam is a quiet observer. It means that he is smart. That’s just my opinion.

  12. Megan

    August 27, 2009 at 2:54pm

    New commenter here. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. According to my inlaws my brother-in-law didn’t speak much until he was 3. When he did it was full sentences. The joke is that he was waiting to be able to make what he said count. He just earned a phd.

    I spoke really early and wouldn’t shut up. However, I walked really late. There was nothing wrong with me, I just didn’t see the point when my preferred activity was colouring.

  13. Katherine

    August 27, 2009 at 2:55pm

    Annika, I think it will be fun, too, to see how Sam adapts as an older brother. SQUEEE!

  14. K

    August 27, 2009 at 4:06pm

    “with gestures and words combined”

    Wait, is he part Sicilian or something??

  15. Laurie

    August 27, 2009 at 4:34pm

    Some kids speak later than others. You know that he’s capable of speaking. You know that he understands you. You know that he’s communicating. You know you don’t need to worry.

    But you really can’t control what other people do (or say). The best you can do is try to change how you react to it (I know, it’s easier said than done).

  16. Mary

    August 27, 2009 at 7:35pm

    I think you have read several of my “questioning my parenting skills” and “is my child OKAY?!” blog posts, so I totally know where you are coming from. Sometimes it just takes one offhand comment to make you question yourself.

    Just from the stories of Sam you relate on here my assessment would be that be that he is obviously very bright, curious, and likes to interact with other people. He’s just the strong silent type. I think he’s just fine.

  17. Amy

    August 27, 2009 at 7:36pm

    A few days ago I spent some time with a small child who repeated things I said. At one point, I helped her get her foot unwedged from something she had stuck it into. Then I said, “Yes! We did it!” and I’ll admit that it was pretty freaking adorable when she threw her arms up and agreed, “Yes! We did it!”

    For the most part, though, I found it unsettling.

  18. Mary

    August 27, 2009 at 7:38pm

    “would be that be that he”
    That’s all folks!
    Hahaha, check it out! I stuttered while typing. (Hey, I’m still on medication, okay. Cut me some slack!)

    I’m totally getting a B.U.I. for this.

  19. georgia

    August 27, 2009 at 9:44pm

    i’m sorry someone made you feel insecure. people are dicks.

    he sounds like an excellent communicator to me. he just has his own style. oh, and i was in speech therapy for a few years as a little kid. i lisped. i got a toy or sticker every week at speech therapy. i figured out how to stop lisping pretty fast but i faked it for almost a year to keep getting the toys.

  20. Anna

    August 28, 2009 at 2:04pm

    It is hard to remain true to your own instincts in the face of others who are no doubt well-meaning but possibly clueless. That said, it’s also possible that they are hooking into something real and your vulnerability to being influenced by them is an indication of something that is not quite right. Only you can figure that one out.

    “He only speaks when he wants to or finds it necessary.”

    You might want to consider making (in a gentle and non-verbal way) speaking more “necessary” for him. That is to say, don’t always respond to his non-verbal communications right away. If you always silently and quizzically wait for a verbal cue in addition to his non-verbal cues, he might end up wanting to speak more simply by virtue of it being a way for him to get what he wants more quickly.

    Anyway, just an idea from the cybersphere – take or leave utterly and completely as you please!

  21. Ian

    August 28, 2009 at 6:44pm

    No one can make you feel bad against your will. Have you had him checked out by your pediatrician? Since he’s your first kid, you might be anticipating his requests more. Once you have another child, he might need to start speaking up and will do so.

  22. Lucretia

    August 29, 2009 at 4:41am

    Just because I’m curious, does he speak to other people at all? (His friends / relatives etc). Offering no criticism here!

  23. Annika

    August 29, 2009 at 10:16am

    Sam will talk up a storm at anyone he’s comfortable with. Unfortunately, he usually has a warming-up period with most folks. Which is only unfortunate because it means that people who don’t see him often are more likely to think he doesn’t talk at all, when in fact he is just clammed up so he can observe a bit first.

  24. Lucretia

    August 30, 2009 at 5:43am

    Oh, that makes sense to me. He just likes to sound people out before he chats away. That’s like a lot of children. Some will just come right up to you and babble away about anything, others are more reserved. Sounds likie he just picks and chooses the situations in which he communicates, and how he communicates. That’s quite sophisticated, surely? (Please forgive my intense interest, I’ve started my teacher training course!)

  25. Lucretia

    August 30, 2009 at 5:43am

    Er …. I meant “like”, not “likie”. Writing makes me speaking English good.

  26. Jenn

    August 30, 2009 at 2:17pm

    Well, I didn’t say A WORD until 3.

    Something I try to keep in mind is that sometimes people talk or ask questions about our kids just out of random curiosity or verbal meandering. I mean, I’m sure I’ve been with friends who have older kids and I’ll start asking questions just because I’m trying to figure out where MY kid is at (oh, is kat not really talking yet? what all does she say? She’s 18 months now, how many words do you think she says?) all the while I’m actually thinking about how little Mal says and possibly coming across like a raging asshat to my friend who thinks I’m judging her kid. I *TRY* to remember to then put that out there, that I’m so curious to see the different stages since Mal is a late talker, but very verbal.

    But I’m aware that I could well be the idiot in the scenario if I’m not paying attention to how the other side might be experiencing it all.

    Let alone friends who might just have a strange thing they focus on and talk about in unhelpful ways. I had one who always goes on about crawling, walking, etc.

    And she is really clueless.

  27. courtney

    August 31, 2009 at 7:46am

    I’m late to this and feel terrible. I read a book by a woman (chronicling her son’s life) and she said he didnt’ speak until he was three or four or something like that–not a word. She and her husband were extremely worried whether or not their son could understand what was going on, took him to see professionals (if I’m remembering correctly)–nothing could get him to talk. And then one day they were walking down the street and the son asked a question out of the blue about how a hose in someone’s garden worked. So he was seeing, comprehending, hearing, absorbing. He just didn’t want to speak until he was good and ready/felt he had something to say! Different for every kid. I’m sorry other people left you in doubt/insecure. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re a rockin’ pair of parents.

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