The Uncharted Wilderness of 'Typical' Development

I was filing some school paperwork this week (which is more like "shoving papers into a massively overstuffed binder") and noticed that when Noah first started speech therapy three years ago, he was exactly the same age as Ezra is today: one month shy of his second birthday.



At the time, Noah had a verrrry small handful of words, none of which he used very often, other than "aball." He added that "uh" sound to almost all of them, a little verbal tic he's expertly refined and expanded on over the years that helps buy him just a tiny bit of extra time to retrieve and process what he wants to say. (Now he uses strings of words -- almost like canned extraneous phrases he's picked up along the way -- before actually getting on with the spontaneous language he really wants to use.)

He would only say very basic nouns, and only if said noun was right in front of him. He didn't use any sign language or even basic gestures to communicate his wants or needs -- I look back and am unsure of just how we possibly made it through the day together, other than a complicated process of me either reading his mind and constantly trying to guess and anticipate ... or a LOT of freaking tantrums.

But he was firstborn -- because OF COURSE I got hit with all these developmental question marks with my firstborn, when I had NO frame of reference as to what was typical language development. Were we overreacting? Expecting too much? Ignoring something deeper?

And now, exactly three years later, I have Ezra, my fearless chatterbox. He never stops talking. He never quits with the new words. He strings multiple words together and adds in signs and gestures just to make triply sure we understand what he wants or sees or is thinking about.

Of course, I still have no idea if Ezra is like, above-average-y verbal or just where he should be. All I know is that compared to his older brother, maaaaaan, is he doing JUST FINE.

I wonder if there will always be such drastic differences between my worries about my two boys. Ezra's needs seem so ... straightforward, almost refreshingly easy. It's all the stuff I EXPECTED to worry about as a mom.

He's a daredevil, so I worry about him getting hurt way more than I ever did with Noah. But still: I can baby-proof, I can impose limits, I can strap a tiny helmet to his head when he takes his ride-on toys outside, because I KNOW he loves to push them up the hill and ride them all the way down as fast as he can. (I already see discussions about tackle football and the importance of mouth-guards.) I feed him food and he eats it. I give him directions and he follows them. I ask him questions and he answers them. When he is sad I can comfort him. When I pick a book in the "general childcare" section, I can usually find some advice or trick that works for whatever behavior quirk or problem we're dealing with.

He's a kid who -- at this stage, anyway -- makes it pretty easy to feel like I'm a good mom, that I'm okay, I'VE GOT THIS.

Noah, at 2, refused to get on a ride-on toy. He still mostly prefers to ride his bike around our living room. He runs out to play with the bigger kids in the neighborhood and I hang back, chewing on my hands because I hear how disorganized his language gets around them and I worry they'll think he's "weird" because he simply cannot grasp the rules of simple playground games or that he's the only one still talking about Star Wars. What fears I was spared over injury to his little body I now have about his little heart. He doesn't eat anything, he has fits of anxiety and extreme rigidity that I can't talk him through, and a lot of times he's just plain "difficult" to figure out. No matter how many books I've picked up from the "special needs parenting" shelf, I've yet to read anything that describes Noah perfectly to a T. The best I can do is piece together bits from all over the place, engage every resource I can think of, and make up the rest as we go along.

And yet, when I see him succeed at even the littlest thing, or watch him helpfully push his little brother up to the top of the hill before commandeering the vehicle for his own ride down, or listen to the hundreds upon hundreds of words he can say now, I still feel like ... yeah, I'm a good mom, I'm okay, I'VE GOT THIS TOO.


Photo by Amy Storch

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