I Miss Your Speech Impediment

Photo: Jeffrey Pillow. "Speech Homework." Licensed under CC-BY-SA

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A love letter to my daughter and her passing speech impediment

Dear Annabelle,

Albeit a selfish thought in ways, a little part of me misses your speech impediment.

Chronic ear infections had created a barrier in your speech development and your mom and I took the initiative to address this before you began kindergarten. Even though the two of us could understand most of what you were saying, sometimes other kids and grown ups could not, and we sensed it frustrated you at times if you had to repeat yourself, and even more, if then, after repeating yourself, the other person still could not understand you; and, too, that we wanted you to know that we were listening, always, to what you said to us, and not just nodding our head feigning we knew what you were expressing verbally.

For two years around noon, I left my desk at work and drove over to LaLa’s the first year, then pre-school the second, to pick you up and take you to speech therapy at the local elementary school. The first year I found myself perpetually in a rush. Such is the mad dash and impeding anxiety of juggling work with family responsibilities.

Even as I told myself it was not an inconvenience, mentally I still treated it as one, even though I enjoyed our precious time together. With certain demands in my profession, I found myself running through thoughts of work as I buckled you in your car seat, as we drove to the elementary school, as I waited in the lobby for speech therapy to end—any and every little thing I had to do as soon as I returned to my desk at work.

If we were running behind because of a late start in therapy or traffic congestion, I found myself routinely anxious: what if someone had called a conference meeting and I wasn’t able to join in time, how was I ever going to finish this (or that) project by x time, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

This is how I used to live my life, and at times, still do, if I don’t catch myself before the trickle of anxiety and disquietude turns into a near uncontrollable flood of incessant worries. At your young age of five, it is very clear that your mind operates in much the same way. Life is often learning as you go. If I could offer one bit of advice to speed along a particular lesson, it is this: slow down and breathe. To the outside world, you may not appear influx, but inside, up here, I know what you are going through. Ask yourself, then, what is water.

***

The second year of speech therapy, about a month in, is when I slowed down to see it for what it was, our time together, just you and me, even if brief, only an hour in the middle of the day, two days a week, in my car to and from speech.

I wished I had slowed down sooner—to be more present, to be more mindful. Regardless, I’m glad I did when I did, even if prolonged.

On our rides to and from speech, whenever you’d ask me “what are you looking at” as I glanced at you in the rearview mirror, I was looking at my beautiful, intelligent, little girl grow even more beautiful and intelligent (and silly) and bigger before my very eyes.

***

The last day as we drove from speech back to pre-school, my heart began to grow tender. I knew this time together, ours, was coming to an end. As I looked back at you in the rearview mirror to the backseat where you sat, you didn’t know what I was thinking. I’d like to share that with you now:

I will miss our special time together, in the middle of the day, two days a week, just you and me, daughter and dad. I will miss our secret pit stops to Dunkin Donuts on the return trip to pre-school to get frosted strawberry dream donuts with sprinkles—and, I’ll miss our special song we made up just for the occasion:

Gonna get a donut, donut, donut
Gonna get a donut, donut, donut
Gonna get a donut, donut, donut
Do-do-do-do nut!

Also, my apologies if this caused your two cavities.

I love you and I am proud of you for working so hard on your speech, though I’d be fibbing if I said I don’t miss the youthful mispronunciations you once had. And, I still can’t bring myself to correct your mispronouncing the dog’s name.

Love,
Daddy

This post is part of Love Letters to My Children, which you can read more of by selecting the aforementioned hyperlink.

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Photo: Jeffrey Pillow. “Speech Homework.” Licensed under CC-BY-SA

2 Comments

  1. Beautiful, yet sad, reminder to me of the moments you have with your children. Mine are now 14, 16, and 18. I enjoy your posts. Take care

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