When Joshua was a year old, plus a few months, Jen and I got worried because not only was he not talking, but he’d stopped using the handful of words he’d already learned. We talked to his pediatrician who suspected it wasn’t anything to worry about, but referred us to a neurologist for further testing, almost certainly to assuage our fears, if not our insurance company.
The test was a sleep test of sorts, or at least a test administered to Joshua whilst he was sleeping. Since most one-year olds don’t always sleep on command, the neurologist gave us some instructions in order to, basically, deprive Joshua of sleep to the point that he’d conk out almost immediately in the doctor’s office. We weren’t supposed to let him nap the day before, or at least not very much. We were also supposed to keep him up late and wake him up early so he’d be as
cranky sleepy as possible. And so, with our child zombified, we took him to the neurologist’s office.
Joshua, at that time, occupied the bottom fifth percentile for height and weight, so he was pretty small, relatively speaking. But when he was strapped into a huge bed with electrodes all over his noggin, and only his tiny, twiggy arm sticking out of the blanket, he looked even smaller. It was in this sad state that we had to leave him as they did whatever doctoring they did.
A little while later, we got him back, took him home for a For Serious Nap, and waited for the neurologist to send the test results back to Joshua’s pediatrician. Those results confirmed the pediatrician’s suspicion — nothing was wrong with Joshua, and he’d talk sooner or later.
This is my preface to talking about my eldest son’s inability to Shut The Hell Up. He talks nearly constantly, from the moment he wakes up until the moment we close the door to his bedroom as he still chatters away at his poor stuffed companions who must endure at least another fifteen minutes of verbal vomit before Joshua passes out, presumably from the exhaustion at having spoken, mostly without interruption, for twelve consecutive hours.*
Joshua has several preferred topics of conversation — the alphabet, numbers, the lives of his aforementioned stuffed friends, and story-telling. The kid is a bit sheltered. It is the latter-most category which gives me the most consternation. His stories meander in the way a Roomba cleans a floor, bouncing in unpredictable, senseless paths from one point to another. Except, a Roomba leaves your floor clean while Joshua… well, Joshua accomplishes the opposite as he absent-mindedly fiddles with anything not bolted to the floor or wall.
On particularly trying days, when Joshua hits the 45-minute mark of telling me A Story, lacking both purpose and plot, I try to remember him strapped into a hospital bed, looking impossibly fragile and minute because we were afraid he wasn’t talking enough. Perspective, man. It’s everything. Today’s story began as I was shaving, and continued for nearly an hour until we had all gotten dressed, into the car, and driven to buy some school supplies at a store about twenty minutes away. I tried, I really did, to pay attention to the story. There was just so much of it. It’d be like trying to digest the Old Testament in one sitting. It’s just a lot. I know that his Cliffords and Murray** were building letters out of Materials, that those letters were to be used on a playground, that inclement weather forced them indoors (apparently they’d been making letters outside), but then there was a flood, but the flood didn’t reach Christopher Robin’s house (he’s been on a Milne kick lately), so everyone got on a boat and sailed down the river, and then…. Well, I just don’t know. That was all before we got in the car. By the time he finished his story, I’d driven in traffic and lost the tenuous thread of a plot that connected the disparate events of his tale. He didn’t notice.
I love my boy. I truly do. He’s a great kid, even if he can’t stop talking. In the meantime, his brother, Jack, is not talking. Not really, anyway. He’s got a few words, but he hasn’t really had that Ah-Ha! moment when his brain gets everything lined up and more words come out of his mouth than grunts. For Joshua, it was just a waiting game. He talked eventually. Obviously. Endlessly. Jack may never talk. Not because he won’t know how, but because he won’t have a chance. When the airwaves are as congested as they are, there’s just no bandwidth available for an amateur radio enthusiast to make his first broadcast amid 700 stations broadcasting top, middle, and bottom 40s hits from today, yesterday, and, somehow, tomorrow. I feel bad for Jack. He seems like he’s got things he wants to say, but if he’s waiting for his moment, we might not hear him speak until Joshua goes to college.
A kind lady standing on line behind us as the store not long ago overheard Joshua’s ceaseless prattle. She warmly told us that her oldest was the same way, and that her youngest didn’t talk in earnest until he was about four years old. As she put it, “Why talk yourself when you have someone to talk for you?” So it goes for Jack.
And, at this rate, me.
*After reading that sentence, you’re probably starting to wonder if he gets it from me.
**Long-time readers may recall that Murray is Joshua’s stuffed zebra who once had a bit of gender confusion and went by the name, Mary.