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This past week, Kezia accidentally fell down a set of stairs. It was a short fall, thankfully. No harm done. I think she {we} were more alarmed than anything. This summer, Kezia fell off a sidewalk and rolled her ankle. A little scuff here, a tiny bit of bloodied knee there, a limp that lasted a few minutes and within a short period of time, all was well. Such is life.

But. I wanted to yell OUT, to cry in frustration. To vent some of the angst I sometimes feel toward the limitations we experience. The problem is not that we have accidents. We all do. Often. Probably more than we’d like :).  Our kind pastor came upon the situation at the stairs and put his arm around me while Jonanthan was giving Kezia the “check over,” and I just felt weary. Later I said to him, “The problem is not that Kezia fell down the stairs. She’s fine. The problem is that Kezia cannot even tell us what is wrong. She still cannot tell us if she’s had a bad day at school, if she has hurt herself, or if someone has hurt her physically or emotionally. If she doesn’t feel safe. And when things like this happen, it’s a reminder and it is hard.” So often, as parents, when our little ones reach a toddler, vocal stage, we breathe a little sigh of relief. I have often heard the words, “at least now he can tell me what is going on” or “now she can tell me that she’s not feeling well.” With speech delays, that guessing game continues for a very long time. In some cases, a lifetime.

It brought to mind these words that I wrote a few years ago….

We shared a lovely late-afternoon visit with friends the other day. Enjoying the great outdoors, with all it’s warm sunshine and springtime wonder. When I looked around for Kezia, she was nowhere to be found.

Hmmm, better go investigate.

I soon discovered she’d gone inside and was sitting on the step in the foyer. I asked if she wanted to join us; she just darted back inside.

Hmmmm, perhaps she’s hot…

A few minutes later I checked on her again. Again, I asked if she wanted to join us; again she quickly turned back inside.

Hmmmm, maybe she’s just not feeling socialable…

Sometimes she takes a few minutes to herself here and there, even with favorite company. Our friends soon left and we were cleaning up and I looked inside.

Here Kezia had been trying to get her shoes on all by herself.

When she couldn’t, she simply sat. And waited. And she was quite distressed when she learned that our friends had left without a hug goodbye.

Why didn’t you tell me!? I ask her. I lament to myself.

It’s not like she physically can’t tell me, but I know and I try to remember, there are times when so many building blocks of communication (even though they seem extremely simple to the rest of us) are hard to form into action. She could’ve put on her boots (she knows how, for the most part). She could’ve opened the door and said “help you.” But when she gets overwhelmed, she gets stalled. And so she waits.

It’s in times like these my heart simply aches to hear the words:

Mama, please help me.

Mama, this hurts.

Mama, I am happy or sad or mad or tired or hungry or WHATEVER!

I call her name – she doesn’t usually answer me.

It’s not like she’s being rude or purposefully difficult – she simply doesn’t realize that it is her turn for a response. We are teaching her, slowly but intentionally, and it takes time.

I repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat. And repeat. Annnnnd repeat.

And. Repeat.

And it’s hard not to get frustrated or discouraged, and sometimes it’s hard not to get short and snappy.

Sometimes it is clear she’s fallen down or bumped something — but again, it’s a guessing game. I go to the room where she’s been in last to see if I can see a situation that has caused the stress. See if I can put the pieces together so that I know what has happened and what owie needs mending. Often times we can figure it out – other times I never know what hurts or why.

I see other kids, far younger than she is, conversing with their mamas, talking about their day, their experiences, their wants and needs. Speaking with great ease. And I am blown away. It never ceases to amaze me, this gift of communication. We don’t always use it wisely :), but when we do – wow.

So many aspects of this life seem normal already, and we don’t even think twice about it.

Other times – it still hurts.