There is Nothing Wrong with My Children … Right?

by MamaBSquared

The conversations go like this:

“How old are they?” Two.

“And they are not talking?” No.

Friends: “They’re fine.”

Family: “Oh, they’re just being boys.

Strangers: “That’s common in twins.”

Pediatric nurse at their 2 year check up: “I suggest you get their hearing checked and call early intervention services.”

Wait, what?

My boys don’t talk. They intone, gesture, and communicate in manners other than speech. As a stay-at-home mother, I didn’t find this to be a problem. They are joyful, inquisitive, expressive, and grateful. I thought that we communicated well. I interpreted their lack of speech as a choice, not uncommon in twins. When the nurse suggested that I reach out to early intervention services, I was beyond wary. I was insulted, alarmed, and defiant.

There is nothing wrong with my children.

I am still processing my feelings. Without recounting the litany of cuss words that ran through my head, I will report that I questioned the authority of the pediatrician to be so critical of my children’s development without knowing their profile or story. She literally used one indicator and made a recommendation. Was it her bias speaking? Or was she following a checklist? I was quick to protect them from the milestone watch and developmental scrutiny that I feel derails normal, varied development in children. But the damage was done. My kids were not on “schedule” and I knew I could do one of two things – hope or help.

There is nothing wrong with my children.

As parents, my partner and I have done what we are supposed to do in this situation, and that is try to help our children progress. We had them evaluated by child early intervention services and it was determined that they have sensory integration issues. Not only are they not meeting the speech milestones, but they had other developmental delays as well. Therapy was available if we were interested. It would even be partially subsidized if we allowed for data collection.

My fears went to battle. I worried that the data collected on my boys would be used to create programs to pathologize black boys in early childhood. I worried that their highly developed emotions and willfulness would read as aggression, even though they are all of two years old. That their joie-de-vivre and energy would come across as imbalanced; when in fact they are simply secure, self-possessed, territorial, non-verbal toddlers. I worried that letting occupational therapists into my home would cause them detriment, such that I could not predict the outcome or protect them.

We decided to pursue the therapy and take the risks because I feared doing nothing.

What if they really need help?

I still believe that “everything will catch up.” But, I am not the only decision maker in the situation, and certainly not the greatest stakeholder. The most important people in this situation are my kids. Not the elders in my family that, like me, think that an industry has been made out of alarming parents. (We’re still right on that in some respects.) Not the friends and family that think that “they are just boys,” “will grow out of it,” and “are acting like twins.” Regardless of the cause, they need help and their well-being is paramount.

Everything has gone well thus far. The occupational therapists are positive about their progress. They have also discussed all of my concerns with candor, citing data they have reviewed and their own experience. My friends in early childhood education have assured me that it’s the best thing we could have done. It feels like a good decision was made.

I have been a friend to many parents during their journeys with their children. This battle between hope and help is constant. Whenever we tackle a ‘difference’ in our child’s performance, behavior, or health, we have to carefully measure the intentions of those involved. As a parent of color in a mixed ethnicity environment, I cannot ignore history. At this very moment, knowing that the boys’ therapy has helped them learn and develop, I STILL cannot shake the fear that they might feel like less – that they sense that someone has found fault in them and that that angst will be the foundation of an emerging “otherness.” It’s a stretch, I know, but I wrestle with the guilt of even that possibility. Every day I pray that the help we have sought will be effective, edifying, and not damaging in any way. It has to be better to seek help than to rely on hope.

There is nothing wrong with my children.

Right?

MamaBSquare is an old head mother of twin boys residing in the Philly metropolitan area.

Cocoa Mary Poppins?

My mother is Mary Poppins. Instead of the wholesome, semi-Technicolor British version in the form of Julie Andrews, think of a five foot, shrill-voiced, 50-something East African native with more energy than the Energizer bunny, more sass than Madea, and more financial savviness than a working stiff on Wall Street. All these things are ok because my life as an estranged wife, disorganized mother, harried grad student, and disgruntled teacher needs fine-tuning and my mommy is the woman—has been the woman—who has worked wonders in getting my life in check.

In May 2008, after getting my master’s, my kids and I moved back to New Orleans, Louisiana where I was born and raised so that I could complete my graduate education. I made a conscious decision to apply to only one of two schools (the one closest to my town) that offered a PhD in English literature because I wanted my children to be with their grandmother, my mom, who still lived in the orange-shuttered home we moved into when I was 13, while I toiled the hours away teaching and researching and becoming an academic tool. My mom, who retired post-Katrina, has been a godsend not only to me but also to my children. She’s right there waiting to pick up my daughter at 2:15 when I have an afternoon seminar twice a week. She’s right there taking the clippers from my hand because I’m worried I will hurt my son’s scalp when I give him a haircut and proceeds to cut his hair with nick-free precision. She’s right there in the backyard tending to her plants while the kids are next to her blowing bubbles, and I’m peeking from behind curtains watching them as I write a 20-pager. There is no better assurance than to know that my children are in great hands. And this does not mean that their father is a complete absentee. Our divorce and child custody proceedings have made things less than amicable between us (yeah, that’s an understatement), and he travels a lot. But we are absolutely committed to working as co-parents—that’s our joint New Year’s resolution for 2010.

Going through a divorce while attending grad school and teaching, in addition to trying to be the best mother I can be, has been the most difficult thing I have ever done (and I have gone through two C-sections, ladies and gents), and there are plenty of days where I swear I cannot do it, and on these days, I think about my children, and how healthy, happy, and brilliant my rugrats are, and I push forward. And I absolutely could not do it without my best friend, my rock, and my mommy—my very own Mary Poppins—in my corner.