Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Loss For Words

There was a time in Nathan's life where he did not talk. Well...he talked very little. He knew a few words. "NO!" was his favorite which was followed by 30 minutes of crying.

He had speech delay, which we knew, but I wanted to know WHY he had it. At the age of three, I took him to a pediatric neurologist at the urging of my pediatrician. Nathan was running all over the office like an airplane, screeching so high it reverberated like sonar off the walls. A small cave of bats in Maine pinged him back. The neurologist asked Nathan a couple of questions and then said, "He's depressed because he cannot speak." I looked at him with my head tilted and said, "He's depressed?" He said, "Yes, he is depressed and he needs this medication."

Now, Nathan is 3. I need to know what the heck it is they want to put in my child. He gave me the name of it (which I wish I remembered). I pressed, "What KIND of drug is it?" Basically, it was a tranquilizer. I said, "Sir, I don't think doping my child up is going to make Nathan talk more. I don't have my PhD, but my Spidey Sense tells me that this is a bunch of hooey." 

Alright, I wish I had said the second sentence, but I said the first one.

I had wondered what Nathan's voice would sound like when he would finally put sentences together. His method of communicating was always a blend of words like, "Mama", furious hand gestures and the dulcet tones of a velociraptor. Over time, it developed into the sweet yet scary genius that is my child. Now, he'll say, mockingly, because it amuses me, "Mothah, please may I have some milk?" in a British schoolboy accent. Then he'll interpret a demonically possessed windmill, just to make me misty for the old days.

Some of the things he has said have been priceless. He's had a few gems just in the past couple of days.

"MOM, stop making me un-refugee-ish!"

I lovingly refer to Nathan as a "refugee" when he wakes up with some fierce bedhead and some leftovers from last night's dinner still on his face. My mother, Faith, would be so proud I'm carrying on the tradition that she started with her brood. Nathan hates primping and preening, as it gives him sensory overload. I try to grab him and make him unrefugee like quickly, but he's always moving and bouncing, so it never goes as fast as I would like.

"Hi, I'm Thomas the Tank Engine. I've come to steal your soul."

This came from when we went to AC Moore to get art supplies. We walked by this 4 foot high display of talking Thomas the Tank Engine toys and they spontaneously started chattering away. I was terrified by all these cherubic faces talking to me. Nathan felt the same, apparently, and blurted out this winner.

"All cars will be crushed and lemonade-ed"

After leaving Chili's (where he was mad that his food didn't come right after we sat down and he complained, "MAWWWM, I have to wait, like 6 hours for my food!"), I had Nathan read one of the signs. It should have read, "All cars will be crushed and melted."

Then, there are some Mom/Nathan goodies:

Me: "What is a good idea for fire safety?"
Nate: "Um...don't use your flamethrower in the house?"

Nate: "Mom, are you afraid of pickles?"
Me: "Only if they're zombie pickes."

While playing a video game, I ask:

Me: "What's that sound?"
Nate: "It's the sound of gooey death!"

I am amazed at his vocabulary. He uses words like "doldrums", "delectable" and his newest is "hilarious". I'd much rather him have a varied and colorful vocabulary than have him say, "SWEEEEET!" Which he does say, along with "That's SICK!"

All this from a boy who was just howling a few years ago. Howling to be heard without a voice. He would kick inside the womb with an internal morse code when he heard my voice. He'll revert to using wild hand gestures like they do in football if he's stressed. I'll say, "Less drama, more words." I think about Suzanne Vega's song, "Language" when she says, "These words are too solid, They don't move fast enough. To catch the blur in the brain, That flies by and is gone."

There are times when words are too clumsy, too bulky to express what we're feeling. That "loss for words" when the words we wish to speak do not completely convey what we mean.  I think he still struggles with that inner dialog that buzzes in his brain, those thoughts he cannot form into words. Some day they will come, but perhaps not in the method I expect. Maybe in a grand painting, a scathing book about his childhood, a photo essay, or something equally brilliant. And we will all know what he's thinking, even if he can't say it.


  1. This is just the beginning. My son has a fantastic vocabulary. It's funny your quoting lyrics from a song. My son is constantly quoting songs, I accidentally trod on his foot recently and he started howling "why does your love hurt so much" Have you read TV kid? Rafi is ASD and often quotes sentences from TV or songs and books. He uses long words that he has picked up but doesn't really understand the subtlety of language. Often people are amazed at the vocabulary he uses but don't understand why he doesn't understand simple phrases (often accompanied with facial expressions).
    Amir, Lincolnshire UK

  2. I know that he will continue to dazzle me with his brilliant vocabulary. :)