My toddler will be four in November, and for the last ten months, we have gone to speech therapy weekly at our local hospital. He has always been a quieter kiddo, communicating primarily by pointing and grunting, which triggered a referral for speech at his two-year well visit by our pediatrician, followed up with another visit at two and a half. I felt like a complete failure. It was as if I had missed something, some sort of indication that he was speech delayed and needed therapy. How did I, his mom, miss this? We began weekly speech therapy and never looked back.
A few months ago, our speech pathologist recommended he be evaluated for occupational therapy. My toddler is a pandemic toddler, and I had basically chalked all his sensory and regulatory issues up to that. We hadn’t socialized much with peers his age. We didn’t really go out because we were -and still are- in the midst of a pandemic, and his age group still cannot get vaccinated. So when he was evaluated by occupational therapy, and we discovered not only an emotion regulation concern, sensory issues and that his picky eating was an occupational therapy concern as well, the #momguilt washed over me again. He was recommended to have weekly sessions. I distinctly remember crying home that day after our evaluation. Did I fail him again? Did I not introduce enough sensory play, or did I not do baby food correctly? Was his emotion regulation my fault because we believe that big emotions and all emotions are valid in our house? Were all of these so-called issues just my son being a toddler?
So, here we are- ten months into speech therapy (and graduating from that next week), two months into occupational therapy. We visit our hospital twice a week, and the greeters have come to recognize us. I’ve let go of the guilt around my son needing help, and as I sit in the waiting room, I can’t help but to think of the lessons my almost-four-year-old has taught me without him even realizing it.
- It is okay not to be fine/we all need help. I find myself falling to the standard “I’m fine” when asked how I am. I don’t want any attention brought to my problems because I tend to minimize them. As a mom, I pour from my cup until there is nothing left, and then I refill just to give more to others until I run myself ragged and am exhausted. My son has shown that we all need help, even if it is uncomfortable to ask for it.
- You may not like it, but you have to keep trying. My toddler HATED speech at first. I’m talking full-on meltdown, tears while yelling “NO” in the waiting room. I would have such anxiety on Tuesdays because that was speech day, and it killed me seeing my toddler going through something he didn’t like. Now, therapy is fun for him. He runs to the elevator, runs to the office door, and doesn’t look back when his therapist comes to meet him.
- Laughter is the best medicine. Belly laughs have been instrumental in accepting things we cannot change. Hard days get a little brighter when we can giggle at something, even if that something is a silly cartoon or silly faces while we wait.
- Change happens in the slowness, not all at once. In our experience, pediatric therapy has been a marathon instead of a sprint. Our growth, in the beginning, wasn’t measured in full sentences but rather in my toddler saying “Mommy” and “Daddy” again. It was measured in his verbalizing single words, and as much as I wanted him to use two-word sentences, I learned to appreciate the single words. As he graduates from speech, my toddler is constantly talking, and it is something I don’t take for granted. Because of occupational therapy, my toddler wore jeans for the first time in forever and is doing better with emotions and sensory things.
- You are resilient, and you are brave. Life throws things at us when we least expect it. Every child has a battle that people outside your circle don’t know about. You may be a medical momma or have a foster child working through trauma, or your child may just be struggling with something. Bravery comes in all shapes and sizes.
Let go of the #MomGuilt. Embrace the suck, as some would say. You’ve got this, and your kiddo does too.