Friday, August 16, 2013

Awful mother


I have felt for a few months that AJ's speech is not where it should be.  He has been saying the same three words ("Mama," "Dada", and "Mum-Mum") since around 14 or 15 months, and unlike MJ--who has had an explosion of speech over the past couple of months and now says at least twenty words and parrots many of the things we say to him--he has not added any new words to his vocabulary.  So I have been planning for a while to bring this up with his pediatrician at his 18-month well-check which, because of scheduling, was today, even though the boys are now nearly 19 months old.

Our pediatrician agreed that it sounds like AJ has an expressive speech delay and that it makes sense to have him evaluated by a speech and language pathologist.  I made an appointment for him this morning and then proceeded to begin filling out a lengthy questionnaire that needs to be completed in advance of his appointment.

This process is when I began to feel like an awful mother.  Because I realized I didn't know the answers to questions like. . .

What does your child do when he needs help?  (I think he cries or whines. . . but is that always the case?)

What happens if you can't figure out what your child is asking for?  What does he do?

Does your child ever seem to be frustrated when communicating?

I realized that I could *guess* at the answers to these questions (and others), but that I did not feel confident that I truly *know* the answers to all the questions on this form.  And that realization made me feel sad.  How can I not know these things about my own child?

Is it because I don't spend enough time with him?  Or because I don't pay enough attention to him when I *am* with him?  Or because I don't notice the things he does or his attempts to communicate with me?

And these thoughts made me think that maybe part of the reason AJ doesn't talk the way he should at his age is because of things I should be doing for him, and with him, that I'm not doing.  It's a terrible feeling to think that I am in any way responsible for a problem or delay that one of my children has.  As their mother, I want to do everything I can to help AJ and MJ get the best possible start in life.

I feel like maybe part of the reason that AJ is struggling in this area is because I have been so caught up in my own struggles of just trying to get through each day that I haven't given him the attention and the interaction he needs.  And that makes me feel like an awful mother.


  1. I am sorry that you feel like an awful mother and that the situation with any possible expressive speech delay has added to that.

    It also could just be possible that you are adept at meeting his needs in a way that prevents him from having to express himself OR that he gives subtle cues that you jump on so that his behaviors don't escalate.

    Try not to judge yourself too harshly. You are doing what you can for your son now and that is what matters.

  2. I feel this way about my babies' motor development ... like I am not providing them opportunities to learn new skills, or something like that. But intellectually I know that this is not the case.

    Most likely, in this situation, you don't realize that you know all of his signals and cues. You probably intuitively meet his demands. I bet if you observed him for a day, and observed your reactions to him, you would see you actually are communicating a lot more than you think. The other day I was hanging out with the babies and my husband, and one of them was whining but I didn't notice, I just kept subconsciously changing things to help him stop whining. I had no memory of doing any of the things I did, I just did them without thinking about them. My husband pointed it out to me later after I complained about the other baby being so whiny (he was like, both babies are being whiny! you just aren't noticing the other one's whining for some reason!)

  3. I agree with the above, you're probably just meeting his needs without thinking about it, so when you try to think about it you draw a blank.

    But also - twins. It's not uncommon, at all, to have one twin be the outgoing and expressive one who is less expressive. Also not uncommon for twins to be language delayed because they communicate with each other in their own way.

    Don't worry about it. Get him evaluated for peace of mind, but if his receptive language is good, it's really likely to just be one of those things that will fix itself in time.

  4. Nope. Uh-uh. I'ma stop you right there.

    This awful-mother thing just isn't true. Even if you can't answer all the questions on the form. Because first of all, like others have said, I'd be willing to bet you're doing what he needs without even thinking about it. But also, I suspect *no one* can answer all of the questions. They probably developed the questionnaire to capture as much information as possible, and ask questions that are each answerable and relevant for a certain segment of responders, knowing that you will answer the ones that make sense in your situation. There may even be data in the ones that you couldn't answer or found difficult -- a non-answer-answer, if you get my meaning.

    You are doing great.

  5. Mommy guilt is hell, huh? I am with my daughter pretty much 24/7. I make and feed her all her meals, yet when the nurse at her doctor's office asked how many servings of fruit, meat, etc. she gets per day I couldn't really give a definite answer. I don't write it down. I don't really keep track. I give her a smorgasbord of all the healthy stuff. It's subconsciously done without much thought. This is likely very much the same as answering the questionnaire for AJ. You know his speech is behind MJ's, but how you interact with him probably isn't at the forefront of your mind. You just "do" without thinking about it.

    Don't beat yourself up over it. Fill out what you can. Hopefully MM has some input too. Maybe in discussing it with him, you will realize you know quite a bit more than you initially thought. Hang in there. You noticed there might be a slight delay and you are addressing the issue head on. That's an in tune and actively involved mama right there. Keep on doing what you are doing.

    I'm guessing his doc checked his ears pretty thoroughly?? I know a couple little ones with speech delays who ended up with tubes in their ears. Problem solved almost instantly.

  6. I'm a speech pathologist and work with children his age. It definitely is not your patenting style and you should t blame yourself. His brother is in the same environment and obviously doing very well. I'm guessing it's more his personality than anything else. I think you are a great mom for advocating for him to the pediatrician.

  7. Well I could have written this post but both my boys are speech delayed and there is a long wait here for a referral. From what I hear it is pretty normal for twins, especially boys to be delayed. I know that I had a long pause thinking about the questions they asked. I feel terrible because sometimes I can't remember who does what. I think we are just in go mode and we aren't always taking not of everything that is going on. I agree with the other ladies Mother's Guilt is terrible!

  8. I agree with Liz - you have two boys and one of them is talking more than the other, so it's far more likely to be to do with personality and the dynamic between the two of them. I have been teaching 4 & 5 years olds for 17 years and have taught many twins (sometimes both in the same class, sometimes they are split) and there does seem to be a tendency for one to be dominant. Like everything else, wee ones' speech develops at different rates - my own son's speech was not as clear or as prolific as that of his friends from our anti-natal group until he was about two and now he has over-taken many of them. It's good to get it checked out - these things can take a while and if you can get in early, that's good - but the chances are he's just not so chatty. Motherhood seems to come with a thread of guilt sewn in, doesn't it?!

  9. I agree with everyone else. Don't beat yourself up! He's obviously getting what he needs from you, so he likely doesn't have to try very hard to communicate! And it sounds like his brother might be doing it for him anyway. And like Liz said; they both get the same parenting from you, so you are not the issue!

  10. Please don't beat yourself over this.

  11. Late to the party here, but I wanted to add to the "don't beat yourself up" pile. Also, questionnaires are the devil's work. I understand the purpose, but damn, a piece of paper can really take you down the rabbit hole.


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