Thursday, December 19, 2013

Little Man Turns Three

Every once in a while I still find myself counting words. "Can you put my window down so the fwy can go out?" Twelve. "An' den it will be CWISMAS! An' I'm gonna JUMP outta my chair 'cause I'm EXCITED!" Sixteen.


You see, throughout the process of evaluating Elijah's language delays and getting therapy, I frequently had to fill out surveys that assessed his "mean length of utterance"--How long are his sentences, on average? What is the longest sentence he spontaneously says? List three examples.

I'd listen carefully for a couple of days and scribble down the most impressive ones I could come up with, encouraged as the number grew with each successive evaluation. Meanwhile, friends of mine would recount the conversations they were having with their two-year-olds, and part of me didn't actually believe them. Your child is Elijah's age (or younger!), and she says all that? 


I never knew it was possible to have an actual conversation with a two-year-old--until a certain adorable blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy came into my world. Week after week over the last year I have marveled at the difference it makes to have a verbal child.

I don't want to spend my life comparing my boys to each other. I know they will each have their own strengths, each be their own selves. And as I've shared before, Elijah has more than overcome his early struggles (sometimes at the dinner table, when we're struggling to get a word in edgewise, Steve will glance at me with a look that says, "Remember when you wanted him to talk?"). Still, unless you have dealt with a language delay, you can't fathom how incredible it is to talk extensively with a toddler, to feel like you can interact and *know* him.

Jude is articulate, interesting, funny, mischievous, exuberant. He turned three last week almost two months ago, so I'm overdue for a photo-heavy blog post reflecting on my littlest man.


He is a delightful (or at times patience-testing) mix of "I can do it! I don't need help!" and "I want you to cawwy me. I can't! Mama help pwease?" The word "can't," by the way, has two syllables. Jude has picked up more of a Southern drawl than his big brother so far.

Jude is definitely still obsessed with school buses and the garbage truck--well, trucks of all kinds, actually. He also loves to help Mama bake...

...or help Daddy fix things...

Really, he just loves to be considered a helper in general. He is joyful and energetic, sensitive and imaginative and always, always thinking. And talking. Did I mention this kid would talk to a brick wall?

Jude is my social butterfly--the one who's eager to have friends over or go to their houses, who barely says goodbye to me when I drop him off at "Jude's preschool" (a Mom's Day Out program at a local church) once a week. He loves other kids, but in the end, when I asked him a while back, the answer was, "Lijah is my best fwend."

His other best friend is a certain Big Red Dog.

Our stuffed Clifford was actually a gift from my parents to Elijah, years ago, but somewhere along the way Jude co-opted the dog and now Clifford rarely leaves Jude's side. He has his own chair at the dining room table; he sleeps in Jude's arms every night. We get away with not taking Clifford everywhere we go by explaining that he needs to stay home and be our watchdog.

Jude has already mastered the art of the Sunday school answer; it's not uncommon to hear him shout proudly, "Jesus died on the cwoss to forgive our sin!" (We won't talk about the time he listened carefully to a Bible story and then shouted, "Jesus is a bad guy!") But however superficial his current understanding, a few weeks ago he blew me away with his quiet spiritual insight. I was looking everywhere for my keys, with no luck. Jude sat patiently in his stroller, watching me, and then remarked, "God knows where your keys are."

On the other hand, Jude can also be my little Pharisee, self-righteously declaring in response to his brother (or other children) being corrected: "I'M not cwying!" "I didn't whine!" "I didn't touch it!" "I'm not throwing it!"


Like his big brother, he does remarkably well with entertaining himself--but his solitary play is so much more verbal than Elijah's was. He's *really* into cars and trucks and trains, and they have endless conversations. Occasionally I'll hear him saying, "You need to be kind," or, "Do you understand me?" "Good job! That makes me so happy!"

When Elijah is around, Jude happily submits to his brother's dictating the toys' conversations. It is ridiculously comical (and sometimes irritating when it continues on and on) how compliant Jude is as Elijah scripts the entire interaction. "Say, 'Wow, that's amazing!'" Elijah orders, and Jude cheerfully parrots, "Wow, that's amazing!" "Now say, 'I didn't know you could fly!'" and Jude doesn't miss a beat: "I didn't know you could fwy!"


On any given day you might find him imitating anything and everything his big brother does...sliding his arm around Mama...jumping from the second-to-last step...singing a rousing rendition of "Hakuna Matata" or "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"--or singing "Na, na na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, Hey Jude!" Or hearing the Beatles' rendition, and exclaiming, "Dat's my song!"...pretending his toy vacuum (or a pair of sticks, or any other random prop he can find) is a cello, and playing along with the Piano Guys...or parked in a chair with a giant pile of books.


At the end of the day, before I put him to bed, we usually sing Randall Goodgame's little lullaby "Sweet Baby Boy." A really sweet moment to share with him, though lately it's been more silly than mushy, because Jude recently decided it was absolutely hilarious to sing *with* me. Only he sings (in between giggles) "Sweet Baby Mom."


I love this kid. And wow, parenting the second time around is so much different. I can see how things I freaked out about with Elijah, fearing his misbehavior meant I was a hopeless mother whose child would turn out to be a sociopath, actually were normal developmental phases he would simply outgrow. I realize how challenges that were all-consuming (hello potty-training) faded into a distant blur.

The delight of having a preschooler/kindergartner in the house, combined with the fun of Jude's verbal skills, have made parenting a two year old much more enjoyable this time around. I have been *present* for Jude's early years in a way I was not with Elijah, and for that I am grateful. The days are still long; I am still too easily irritated and impatient. But our Jude indeed gives me many reasons to praise the Father who has given me such a sweet gift.



Danielle said...

What a cutie he is! I'm so glad the last two years were easier for you. I can relate a bit, about the verbal thing. Although my guys didn't have speech therapy, they were tested for it and I was amazed they didn't have to have it.

Sophia is WAAAAY more verbal than either of them were. It has amounted to less tantrums (she can still have them, but they're quicker and we can talk through them) and I can totally sit with her and have a conversation. So fun.

Like you, I remember my friends talking about what their kid-who was the same age as my boys-was saying and singing and I was like, "Really?" But totally different this time around.

Anonymous said...

I found this post so encouraging! My two year old is in speech therapy right now, and I wish he could tell me so much more. Plus, when we are at church and small group I of course notice how much everyone else talks. I know we'll get there! He's already made so much progress.