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Why I’ll Never Tell My Son to Be Quiet

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Every Monday, I take my 3-year-old niece to pre-school, and hand in hand we chat as we meander slowly down the path from the car to the door.

Well, she chats. I listen.

“Today I stood on a sandwich, and my mommy said I could go to Little Bo Peep Land later.”

“I want Santa to bring me a doll and doors for Christmas.”

“I don’t like dreams about monkeys. I like dreams about chocolate buttons.”

Although my two older children are chatterboxes too, their conversations have become a bit more coherent. But occasionally, you’ve still get an odd malapropism. For example, in a recent discussion about whether my mom should get a dog, my 7-year-old said: “She should get a small dog like a Cockapoo.”

It’s true what they say. Kids say the funniest things. 

That is why having a child who is non-verbal is such a marked contrast.

Gabe is 4 years old, delayed across the board, can’t yet walk or talk and currently has no unifying diagnosis.

The lack of walking is almost easier to get your head around. We are lucky that he bum shuffles, giving him some independent mobility. But the lack of speech can often be hard.

The silence at times can be deafening. Screen shot 2015-05-27 at 1.45.01 PM

There’s no banter about what to have for lunch.

No loud tantrums about choice of TV program.

No excited chatter about the day’s forthcoming events.

No stream of consciousness as you push him through the streets.

No retelling of an incident at school.

No telling tales on a sister who has annoyed him.

When your house full of toddler tears and sibling squabbles, you might think this sounds like a dream. I hear you. Sometimes, I admit, it is nice that there is one less voice filling the noisy airwaves.

But when the shouting or singing is at its loudest, and my ears feel like they are about to pop, that is when I’ll scoop up my littlest man and whisper a promise: 

“One day, my son, you’ll be joining in the fun, and I’ll never, ever tell you to be quiet.”

Friday is my day off, my special day with Gabe, and as the start of school approaches, it is cherished time we have together. We do lovely things (beyond the chores) – swimming, long walks, staying in, sometimes literally throwing the toy boxes over the floors. There are giggles and smiles aplenty, but I know if I let them, these days could go by in a complete hush.

He does have a number of words. We’ve heard him utter: “Mommy,” “Daddy,” “Nana” and my favorite, “Let’s go.” And when the mood takes him, he’ll repeat what you’ve just said – the best being, “I love you.” But the moments of noise are infrequent, and the initial euphoria is replaced all too quickly by the tinge of sadness that comes with knowing how rare of an event it is. 

Maybe this will be as good as it gets, but I hope not. I want, like all parents, to know everything about this child – his thoughts, his hopes and dreams. But more poignant than that, I want to stop having to guess the basics: Do you like this? Are you cold? Thirsty? Hungry? Where do you hurt?

But it’s OK. We’ll get by.

Because while silence is not always golden, a smile says a million words.

A version of this post originally appeared on Complicated Gorgeousness

Originally published: May 27, 2015
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