Dear Miss Erin
I didn’t know it back then, but you were my number one cheerleader. When it felt like everyone was bringing me down, you were there to hold me back up. As I was lectured about how my daughter wasn’t progressing, and while I shamefully compared her to kids her age, you helped me see her good. I don’t know how to thank you enough for the little time we spent together, but I hope you know how much I appreciate not only what you did for my daughter, but how you made me stronger.
You saw my daughter and knew she had a voice somewhere hidden in her quiet demeanor. She prefers to conceal her thoughts and finds comfort being hidden away. I always made the excuse that she is shy around strangers and doesn’t want to talk. I’d say that the pandemic worked against her by not having the opportunity to socialize with kids her age. I’d convince myself that it was my fault I wasn’t doing enough for her, that I was failing her as her mother. You didn’t think any of that was true. Just like you believed in my daughter, you believed in me too.
You saw her as a seed waiting to be watered. I felt helpless as her mother and didn’t know how to help her. You took your tools and nurtured the soil around her, and you gave me a watering can to help her grow. Some flowers take time to bloom, and you helped me see that in Isla.
You saw the potential in her and knew exactly how to encourage her to speak up. When I felt defeated, you stepped in and gave me the tools to prompt her to speak. We kept playing the same games and singing the same songs, and even though she wouldn’t sing in front of you, she was singing in front of me.
You knew my daughter had a lot to say but didn’t want to speak up. You would play the games to make her belly laugh and encourage her to yell her responses. After weeks of sessions with you, any car that would pull up to our house would cause Isla to ask “Is Miss Erin here?” It made me so happy that she could trust someone like you but I also felt validated that she was making connections in her head.
It wasn’t just the weekly sessions but the encouragement you brought in your bag of toys. You never once doubted my daughter, and you never doubted my role as a mother. Every week you introduced something new to inspire Isla and included my youngest daughter in all the activities. You motivated her, but you always motivated me to keep working with her. You always reminded me that I know her better than anyone else, and the work I will do with her will benefit her in the long run.
So, yes, you saw the potential in Isla, but you saw the potential in me too. You played an important part in my mom village whether you knew it or not. When I was blaming myself, you made me see that I was being too hard on myself. When I was embarrassed to admit that she needed some help, you comforted me that I wasn’t alone. When I was frustrated and exhausted, you encouraged me to understand that I had all the tools to help my daughter. Just as Isla was learning, I was learning as well.
It’s been a few months since we last saw you, so I thought you’d like to know that Isla is constantly talking. Isla loves to be read to, but she also makes up her own stories. She uses her outside voice more than her inside voice. She loves to sing while she plays, sits in the car, or while she is “napping.” She loves to participate in class and is helping her new classmate come out of her shell. She is asking A LOT of questions and mostly plays nicely with Ellie. Isla proudly wears her big smile, and her laugh is more contagious than before. She is so smart, and I can’t believe how much she’s grown since that timid girl you met. Every now and then, she’ll hear your name and ask, “Where is Miss Erin?” It warms my heart that she still remembers you, and I hope she’ll remember you in the years to come. Like you made a lasting impression on Isla, you made a permanent one on me.
May 18th is a day to celebrate the field of speech pathology, but I choose to celebrate you every day I hear my daughter speak. Here’s to you, Miss Erin, and all Speech-Language Pathologists: You do so much for what may seem small to others, but to us parents, it means the world.