When a Sweet Little Boy in Target Reminded Me of My Son’s Delays

Yesterday, my son, Leo, and I were in Target looking for fruit to take to a friend’s house. (Note to self: never go to Target for fruit). As I was searching for something halfway edible to bring, a little boy standing next to his mom struck up a conversation with me. He observed me inspecting the strawberries and informed me that he himself loved strawberries — that he loved blueberries, too, but not bananas. His mom didn’t seem fazed by his endless chatter but rather quite accustomed to her son, who looked younger than Leo, carrying on a conversation with a random woman in the middle of Target.

I, on the other hand, politely listening to this sweet little boy describe his love of strawberries and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was a little taken aback. I looked over to my own sweet boy, sitting content in the cart with his cookie, staring at the lights above and lost in his own delightful world. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness.

As Leo gets older, the delays become more apparent. Family members, younger than him have far surpassed him in many developmental milestones. They’re well on their way to being fully potty-trained. They can tell you their names and ask and answer questions with ease. It’s difficult to watch my little boy have to spend hours in therapy each day acquiring language and skills that come so naturally for typically developing children.

Yes, it made me sad that this random little boy in the middle of Target — in the span of about two minutes — spoke more to me about his life than my own son has in his whole four and a half years on earth.

I wonder why it has to be this way. Why does Leo have to struggle? Why do I have to watch him struggle?

But then I think of all the ways Leo has spoken to me without words. The way he’s opened up a whole new world to me, how he speaks to me every day with his beautiful gestures, the most incredible hugs, his mischievous smile, his infectious laugh, his tears, the way he tries to give me (and all of his teachers and therapists) kisses when he’s trying to get out of work or knows he’s in trouble. The way his eyes light up when he sees something or somebody he loves.

And the words are coming. I know one day, I too will have a conversation with my son about strawberries and his favorite action figure in the middle of Target. Until then, I will continue to look for the beauty and meaning in more than just words.

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