On Tuesday mornings I take Patrick to communist playgroup. We sing The Red Flag and discuss ways in which toddlers can be given better access to the means of Goldfish production. Wow, can you imagine? No, ha ha, it's just run by the school district so they HAVE to let you be a part of the Mom's Club. They have to take everybody. Which is good for me, of course, because otherwise I would already have been given the old heave ho. I suck at suburban mom chitchat and they shun me. I stand around trying to look inconspicuous until I can leave, but I am certain that even so I am merely drawing attention to how gauche I am. Today's hot topic was how rude it is when people do not allow you to bring children to a wedding. The consensus was that exceptions should be made for family. "Fine, no kids," said one woman, "but that shouldn't mean no FAMILY kids." The group bobbled their heads in enthusiastic agreement as the midget wedding guests in question flung handfuls of brown paint around. I have always had a hard time conjuring up suitable wedding-related froth but I probably could have volunteered something. I might have mentioned that Judith Martin tells her gentle readers that the purpose of an invitation is to solicit the company of a desired presence, for example. Instead I slouched around on the outskirts and wondered if my feet could possibly get any wider. I am like a weeble-wobble, all base.
Meanwhile, I apparently have a weird under-performer kid. The teacher pulled me aside when we came in and asked, anxiously, "Does he EVER say ANYTHING? Any words AT ALL?" She then drove a figurative hatpin into my heart, "Like Mama?" Patrick, the little jerk, chose this moment to start making strange, high-pitched grunting noises while pointing wildly at everything.
"It's like he wants to say something," the teacher said, "but he just cannot produce any words." I thought she was going to cry over the pathos of it all. These wolf-boy transitions back to civilization are so hard on everybody.
I was torn. My desire was to say: he knows this word and this word and just yesterday he said Ap-puh clear as a bell when I offered him a Granny Smith and he can identify and say every letter and most of his numbers and colors and a lot of the parts of the body and while I know he is probably behind on speech I am seeing improvements daily and I am sure he is just fine, thank you. Oh, and I think he can recognize a few written words, which isn't bad for being less than two. I knew if I said any of this it would sound defensive and possibly delusional and I would feel like an ass. And, it isn't like I am unaware of the fact that Patrick seems to be a little slow when it comes to speaking. So, I told her we were aware that he might have some delays and were keeping an eye on things. This is when she gave me two books (bath books with one word per page) and told me she wanted me to "work with him " on them. Sigh. We do nothing BUT read books around here. We have more books than Vegas (was that obscure? you know, bookmaking?) Patrick loves books and we read them over and over again dozens of times a day. If reading to him was all he required to become conversant then HE would be talking to the 9/11 panel this week and Condoleeza could just go back to doing whatever it was she had originally on her calendar.
Despite my best intentions, I found myself feeling utterly humiliated by today's little talk. As much as I hate myself for reacting this way, I was unable to rise above someone telling me that my child is not as X as the other children. Maybe I DO need to read to him more. Maybe I am a rotten mother and am subconsciously thwarting his speech development out of fear that he will one day articulate this fact.
As I took Patrick upstairs for his nap he said, “Hi! Hi!” and beamed at me as he lounged in my arms.
“Say Hi Mama,” I urged.
“Hi Ma-ma,” he replied for the first time since the sun was born. I suspect he may be fucking with me.