Why a wave matters, thoughts on parenting a nonverbal child
“I had a dream last night that Evangeline started talking,” Sergei tells me as we tag team through our early morning duties to get our four children off to school.
I smile at the thought … we both seem to dream about Evie speaking to us at different times … and busy myself making peanut butter sandwiches for the girls’ lunches.
About our girl
And so far, she is nonverbal.
For a while after Evangeline came home, I thought it would just take time and therapy for her to start speaking. I assumed that nonverbal meant Evangeline would not be able to communicate with us until she could use words.
It has been a struggle. Evie doesn’t initiate closeness. She tends to stay to herself. She watches the world with her cool blue eyes and I wonder, “oh baby girl, what are you thinking?”
I ache to know.
I dream of her whispering the desires of her heart in my ear.
But that is not happening today.
So I work at learning the language she does speak.
When Polly hugs her too hard and Evie cries, I teach Polly. “That’s Evie’s ‘no.’ She doesn’t like you hugging so hard. Be gentle.” When Evie takes my hand and leads me to the bathroom, I know she wants to take a bath. When she brings us her pecs (pictures exchange communication system) picture of a pudding, I happily give her a snack.
I don’t take these things for granted. They are huge milestones for our girl, and I am thankful her world is opening up a bit more. I am thankful she is starting to understand that she has a voice. I’m thankful she is starting to believe she can trust us with it.
But my mother’s heart craves more. I want to hear Evangeline’s actual, audible voice making words. I want to talk to her. I get angry on her behalf, because she should have more in life, and I get sad … because, honestly, it is hard work for both of us to try to speak the same nonverbal language.
The school bus is almost here.
I zip up Evie’s fuschia spring coat with yellow and light pink swirls on it, smooth her corn silk hair from her forehead, and look my heart-shaped faced daughter in the eye. She allows me a gaze, a prize for the day as eye contact is hit and miss.
“We love you sweet girl. Have a great day at school.” The yellow school bus pulls up to the house, I clap my hands twice, signing ‘school,’ and watch my husband gently lift our girl up into his arms to take her outside.
I sigh, look around, realize there’s still much to be done to get the other girls ready for their day, and call to Polly to get dressed.
“Hey, guess what?” Sergei says to me as he comes back inside, closing the front door behind him.
“Before Evie got on the bus, she turned around and waved at me.”
My husband’s words stop me. Tears well up in my eyes.
“Like a real, intentional wave?”
“Yes, a real, intentional wave.”
“As in, ‘bye?”
“Yes, as in ‘bye.”
We look at one another for a second as our other children buzz around us.
Who knew that an intentional wave could make a mother cry?
I’ll tell you who. A mother to a child who is nonverbal.
Our daughter Evangeline waved ‘bye bye’ to her father before getting on the bus.
That matters …
It matters so much.
And I realize. She is speaking … we just have to slow down enough to hear her.