Speech Delay and Second Child Guilt

DS went for an evaluation at the speech therapy centre this past Thursday. The therapist asked me a list of questions relating to what he can/cannot do or say, then she spent some time playing with him. Her findings were that he is “severely speech delayed” since he will be 2 next week and is at the level of a 6 – 9 month old. The good news is that he shows no signs of any cognitive disabilities, no autism, no defecit in social skills. Basically, for whatever reason he just doesn’t feel the need to talk.

One of the things that made me feel bad is when she would ask me questions that I didn’t know the answer to, but felt that any parent should. For example, she asked if he did hand motions to familiar songs, like wiggling his fingers to Itsy Bitsy Spider, or making rolling motions to The Wheels on the Bus. It struck me that he doesn’t hear songs like that. I mean, when DD was his age (and younger) we regularly attended story time at the library. I only went twice with DS, who preferred to wander off and try to steal toys from other peoples’ strollers. We don’t sing songs with him at home. There were other questions regarding behaviour during play, and some of these I couldn’t answer because I hadn’t played with him in that particular way. The net result was that I ended up rather shocked at how little interaction DS gets with me relative to what his sister got.

Mums of more than one child are familiar with “second child guilt”. Your second (and subsequent, I’m sure) child never gets your undivided attention the way the first did. Having gone through all the “firsts” with your older child, the next child’s accomplishments can pale beside the new things that the older child is doing. It’s hard to find the time and energy to focus on the younger child, especially if the older child is not as independent and still requires a good deal of energy and focus. The eldest child only did things that were age-appropriate and designed for his/her particular needs and abilities. The next child often gets dragged around to stuff the older child wants to do (and Mum resents that she is running around after younger child, for which the environment is not well-suited). Mostly it’s just the feeling that the second child got ripped off, and never got the attention and focus that the older one did. It’s sort of hard to explain without experiencing it. But it’s real. And I have it. And not being able to answer some of her questions made me feel it even more deeply.

So I resolved to make an effort to spend some time one-on-one just playing with my son. We do have nursing that brings us together regularly throughout the day (reason #561 to extend the breastfeeding relationship into toddlerhood). And lately he’s taken an interest in a couple of books and I do enjoy reading to him, but don’t do it often enough! I want to just play with him more, show him things more. He and his sister play together almost the whole time we are home, and it’s easy to forget that I have things to teach him that she can’t. I’m not going to dwell on the speech therapists questions and how they made me feel, instead I’m going to be grateful for the wakeup call, the reminder that my son needs and wants to interact with me more often. I’m glad I realized this before it was too late – he still very much wants his mama. And with DD fast becoming more independent I see a time not far in the future when I will be able to enroll DS in some classes and attend with him while DD does her own class, or sits in a corner reading her beloved library books. So I’m not feeling down, I’m feeling inspired, and I’ll give myself a pat on the back simply for resisting the urge to throw a pity party for myself. 🙂

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