Love. You. Daddy. Three small words that are taken for granted by most fathers across the world, indeed they were three words that combined I too took for granted with my daughters as they grew up through their toddler years, though now they are more likely to say, “You’re embarrassing Daddy!” Though I will forgive them for that as when they are teenagers I will do my best to be super cringeworthy!
These three small words that I took for granted are now a monumental milestone that I maintain hope I will one day hear, yet with a brutal irony accept that in all reality I may never get to.
Each morning, sometimes far too early for me, the sounds of Matthew stirring in his cot transmits through the baby monitor.
Sometimes, a deliriously happy little Matthew who is smiling ear to ear and can’t wait to be picked up from his cot, others a seriously angry little chap, annoyed and affronted that something should have stirred him from is slumber. Sometimes he stands in silence, reaching out to open his bedroom door from the cot and flicking his bedroom light on and up and down with the dimmer switch.
Each morning he is freed from his cot and his cosy sleeping bag, each morning he gladly accepts our arms and wraps his arms lovingly around either my or Debbie’s neck as he is greeted with hugs, kisses and a greeting of, “good morning”, each morning that hope remains eternal he will reply with “love you Daddy”.
Instead we are met with silence, the smell of dummy spit and are covered with dribble, but a cuddle that warms the heart and makes it all better before he wants to get down, charge around every room, banging doors and pulling their handles, opening toilets and exploring the upstairs of the house with an enthusiasm like it is an undiscovered corner of the Amazon, all the while silent except for the occasional shriek of delight or frustration.
As part of the acceptance of his IDIC15 diagnosis, I would say that the likelihood that Matthew will be non-verbal has been one of the most conflicting and difficult to come to terms with.
In conversation about Matthew, through blissful ignorance or naivety, some have told me that must we stay positive and in his own time he will talk and those words will come. Some fail to understand how freely I accept the situation, confused that I have given up on what is the most basic of childhood skills, I have been told I am being negative for giving up on speech and that I must hope and one day it will happen.
Sometimes I will explain the logic, that by accepting the likelihood of Matthew being non-verbal it allows another part of the grieving process to be fulfilled, by accepting it doesn’t mean I do not hold hope, bloody hell, that remains constant and will never fade but a bizarre irony means I accept, yet hope, and will do everything possible to make the “impossible” happen!
If it doesn’t, I am comfortable as I have hopefully already conditioned myself and reached acceptance, if does, well at that moment I will probably explode with pride, joy and a few tears too.
Yet not speaking does not mean he does not communicate, in the relatively short time since diagnosis I feel that we as parents have become attuned to non-verbal communication in a way I never before understood possible, being led by the hand to the general area of something Matthew wants, he doesn’t point at objects so the guessing game starts there, left too long and the frustrations can so quickly take over him.
Shrieks, grunts and squeals, incoherent noise to an untrained ear yet somehow so quickly can be understood and help to decipher his complex needs and wants, preventing an inevitable melt down.
So, back to those 3 small words! Love. You. Daddy! He cannot utter those precious words, that phrase that I long for yet I accept he may never speak, so does he? The hugs and cuddles tell me de does, and that for me is worth a thousand words or more.
Too often kids are told, to “Be quiet”, to “Shut up”, “Silence” with that old adage of children should be seen and not heard, well b***cks to that! Let’s let them be kids, to use their voice and let’s cherish every word.