“Bobby! Go get your soccer stuff on! We have to leave for practice soon!” I called up the stairs as I looked down at my watch. I was going to make sure of one thing – tonight, we were not going to be late.
I walked from the stairs, down the hall into the kitchen. I heard the bottom drawer being opened, which only meant one thing.
“Declan, do not climb onto the counter!”
I got there just in time to pull my 3-year-old baby off the counter and placed him back on the ground.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
Declan grunted and pointed to the counter.
“Pizza? Do you want some of the pizza that was just delivered?”
His look said it all. The boy wanted some pizza.
“You have to say it. Tell me what you want. Say, PIZZA.”
Declan screamed and shook his hands.
“It’s okay,” I said. “Just say, PIZZA.”
I knew he could get this word out. Pizza was one of his favorite foods. It’s frequency in our house led to quite a familiarity. And he had succeeded in this word drill in the past.
“Take your time… Pizza….” I coaxed.
And with a bit of a slur, Declan declared, “Peeetz.”
“Yeah!” I extolled.
I took a piece of pizza out of the box and placed it on a plate and gave it to Declan.
Declan took the pizza and stopped. Then he screamed. His face scrunched up and turned red. Great big tears formed. He looked up to the ceiling and let out another howl. He took the plate I gave him and threw the pizza face down on the ground.
“What?! What is wrong?!”
And he screamed. And he cried.
And then I started crying.
I picked up the pizza off the ground and put it back on the plate. I reached for a towel and wiped up the sauce on the kitchen floor.
What did he want? He asked for pizza. I was so confused.
How many times had this happened that month? That week? THAT DAY?
The screaming. The crying. He had such few words. I was lost trying to help him.
It broke my heart that I didn’t know what he liked, what he didn’t like. What he needed, what he wanted. I wanted him to tell me things.
I wanted to know his favorite color.
Declan wanted me know, too. He was frustrated. He was sad, mad, angry.
He couldn’t tell me if he dropped his toy when we went for a walk and I didn’t see it roll away. He couldn’t tell me the sound was too loud in the car. He couldn’t tell me if he wanted the pizza or not.
So we cried. We were physically so close together, yet there was a huge communication gap between us.
I gathered my wits and put the plate of pizza on the counter.
Declan took the pizza off the counter. He looked at it again and cried. He started pointing all around the kitchen.
I wiped my cheek and tried to follow his finger, “What?” I asked.
He closed his eyes and out it spewed.
I stood there for a moment with my mouth open. My eyes wide and a smile formed.
“Ah -ha ha! Cook it! Yes, I can cook it! You told me what you wanted! I KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!! You used words!” I got a new slice of pizza and put it in the microwave.
Declan had a smile of relief. I picked him up and hugged him. And knew things were going to change.
Declan has been in speech therapy for almost 3 years now. He can tell me all sorts of things. I love to hear every word he says. But my favorite thing he has told me?
“My favorite color is orange.”