I know, I know: I didn’t hand in my bloggy homework. But the dog ate my internet! Thanks probably to our notoriously fault-prone landline, I dropped to 9 (nine!) kbps bandwidth. And when it speeded up a bit, I promptly had a serious, life-threatening bout of ennui; yadda yadda yadda I’m here now, m’kay?
I have re-read my last post. It was not precisely overloaded with narrative sense, and I am pedantic enough to have a need to explain further. Harry tugged his balloon free by accident, watched it fly half-way across the car-park, and said ‘Uh-oh!’ to tell me what had happened. I saw the balloon but didn’t realise it was his balloon, made up some spurious little balloonless boy for the purposes of my life-suckage lecture, realising only at the very end that Harry’s balloon had flown away. It was his balloon all along.
Doh. This is the sort of minor tragedy you get a plethora of when you have a little boy who can’t talk to you.
I no longer lie awake in the pit of the night worrying that Harry will never talk. Since the end of April, when he first blurted out ‘Bye’, and particularly since early June, when he and I triumphed together in his hard-fought-for ‘Mum!’, he has been steadily acquiring more spoken language – and every new word is a jewel and a delight to me. I do worry absolutely plenty about the immaturity and clarity of Harry’s speech: when – or even whether - he will pronounce ‘normally’ and not start nearly every sound with a D/T hybrid that ends with an ‘uss’ variant. How long it will take him to speak in sentences. When – or even if – he will cease to struggle to arrange his words.
I do particularly worry about all the sounds (awfully important sounds) that, aged 3 whole years old, Harry hasn’t learned to make at all. K. J. CH. P. F. G. Q. V. EE. (That’s the first time I’ve sat and listed all his vocal ‘can’ts’, and I’m now chewing my lip. Didn’t realise there were quite that many.) And the words I have completely failed to teach him, even when he already uses the constituent syllables often. The word ‘No’ is a good example of this last: he can say ‘Nan’ and ‘Oh’ perfectly well, but when gently encouraged to copy my ‘No’, he can only say ‘Nan’.
But these are merely anxieties. Elephant-sized anxieties, admittedly, concealing plenty of misgivings underneath them, but they are, importantly, not the cold clouds of panic and out-and-out fear that parked themselves overhead for so long. I no longer worry he will be utterly voiceless.
Harry’s words, few as they are, make such a very profound difference to us all. For starters, every time I hear a recognisable word from his mouth, there is a gleam of sunshine from somewhere directly above my head; it’s a particularly warm beam of light when the word is ‘Mum’.
He has, this last couple of weeks, began to sing a tune that is a very recognisable excerpt from ‘Wheels on the Bus’. It only has one (varies day to day) syllable in the lyrics, but do we have a proper melody with several notes. He has now officially outstripped his father in musical vocal accomplishment.
Harry is touchingly proud of, and pleased with, his words. I can’t really discern to what extent Harry realises that he has a problem with speech – the chatter and questions that give an insight into the Dr Seuss-like world of a child’s mind are, of course, absent in the enigma that is Harry - but I think the issue in general doesn’t concern him overly. He is simply delighted with the fact that he can express himself in this exciting new fashion, and as his words become more entrenched in his vocab, he stops using the corresponding Makaton sign.
Unfamiliar children - and occasionally adults - can be quite perturbed by the lack of speech in Harry’s social interactions, and we have the odd encounter and subsequent explanation that upsets me when we are out and about, but by and large his 2nd-centile 88cm height and unsteady run has worked in our favour, as the overall effect is for him to appear rather younger than he actually is.
Harry’s vague and excitable Makaton (his core communication language) can often be frustratingly hard to interpret, which lends his spoken words even more critical importance. The status quo is in daily flux – he learnt ‘Yes’ two days ago, and it is now in hourly, useful use; just as nodding was when he learnt the trick of that back in January. Hence I’ve compiled a list – I like lists – to remind me in later years just where we were today.
Mum – ‘Murm’
Dad – ‘Dairt’
Nan – ‘Nnan’
There – ‘Dere’
There it is – ‘Dere E tis’
Yes – ‘Yesss’
Bye – ‘Burr-bai’
Hello – ‘Aiirrow’
‘Bugger! Broke it!’ – ‘Uh-oh!’
WE know what he means
Two – ‘Terr’
Green – ‘Deeen’
Red – ‘Rare’
Juice – ‘Deuuce’
Geese – ‘Diesss’
Bus – ‘Dus’
Please – ‘Deease’
Cow – ‘Muurmm’
Sheep – ‘Baaare’
Train – ‘Tsu-tsoo’
Ambulance/Fire/Police – ‘Eee-ah-Eee-ah’
Horse - Clip-clop noise
Clock - Tick-tock noise
Sleeping – Snoring noise. It’s awesome.
Colours - Green, Orange, Blue, Yellow, Brown, Black, Orange, White.
Animals - Dog, rabbit, crocodile, bird, tortoise, fish, butterfly, (Lion/Tiger/Dinosaur – identical roar & pounce!)
Transport – Tractor, combine, crane, digger, train, helicopter, aeroplane, bike, (car/bus/truck – identical).
Food – Apple, chocolate, bread, sweeties, cake, biscuit, ice cream, drink, juice.
Outside - Tree, flower, wind, rain, grass, waves, snow.
I am - hungry, cold, hot, sad, scared, angry, naughty, excited, hurt, all done.
People - Dad, Mum, Nan, Grandad, ‘J’, ‘T’, ‘R’, Mr Tumble, ‘self’, Harry, baby.
Things I do - shower, bath, tooth-brushing, telephone, storybook, painting, kite.
Misc – Please, Thank-you, bye, help, bad, good, love, sleep, hear, yes, no.