Most of my readers know that not too long ago I was struggling with the fact that Ali was two years old and didn’t have much interest in talking. Thankfully these days I haven’t been able to shut her up but it was a long arduous journey from silence to constant chatter.
Long before I moved to Hoboken I had been going back and froth with the idea of making an appointment with NJ Early Intervention. It’s a free service that evaluates children 3 and under to see if they need developmental help before they begin school. I wasn’t sure if it was the right move. Finally when we moved I made an appointment with Ali’s new pediatrician, a large, stern Russian man and I asked his opinion. He quickly began an impromptu evaluation of Ali’s skills, which I wasn’t emotionally or mentally prepared for. He subjected Ali to a series of questions to which Ali had absolutely no interest in. His expression didn’t change an inch while he asked Ali to “put your shoes under the table” as he watched Ali try to put her shoes on her feet. Then he started having me ask her questions he said, “tell her to show me the green frog” In my head I’m screaming, “No! Not the frog, we don’t know frogs!! Why not the squirrel”? Ali was so over this exam she didn’t say a word. Finally she pointed at a picture on the wall and said “doggy”. My eyes darted to the doctor in anticipation. I was convinced he was going to tell me Ali was helpless when he said, “ I think she’s fine.” I finally exhaled then he told me I could go to Early Intervention if I wanted to. As I left the doctors office I decided it was time to give them a call after I taught Ali about amphibians.
Our appointment was made and two middle-aged women who reminded me of my first grade teacher greeted us in our home. They were both named Mary. We had just moved in and I hadn’t figured out the schematics of 4 adults fitting into my 10x15 living room. Mary 1 set herself up at the table while Mary 2 sat on the floor with Ali. My mother would be appalled at the fact that I entertained guests on the floor but we had no choice. Mary 2 began playing strategic games with Ali while Mary 1 watched and typed notes on her computer. Ali was tested on games like stacking blocks, matching colors, and figuring out big and little. She wasn’t doing great and at the rate Mary 1 was typing I felt like a failure. No one told me we should be doing big/little! Finally Mary 2 took out the hardest game, a “Where’s Waldo” style seek and find. We had never played this before and after a minute Mary 2 was going to give up explaining it was a bit advanced when Ali pointed to what we were looking for. Everyone in the room lit up it was as if confetti and balloons were falling from the sky. Ali was able to find everything Mary 2 asked her to. In my head I could hear the Rocky theme music as Ali slaughtered “Where’s Waldo”.
The Mary’s revealed that Ali is fine, they told us what everyone has been saying all along, “all kids develop at their own stages no need to worry”. I finally allowed myself to relax, not just because they said Ali was OK but mostly because I had done everything I could to check if she was OK. Now no one can judge me now. My options were exhausted and my only choice was to walk around proudly with my mute daughter.
Dan and I had spent too many hours cramped in the house so we decided to take Ali for a walk. In our travels we ran into an 18-month-old girl. Her nanny was speaking French to her and I asked the nanny is the baby was learning to be bi-lingual. The nanny said yes and she’s learning Italian too. Then this 18 month old looked at Ali’s bike and said “bicicletta!!!!” (Italian for “bike”) Ali wasn’t even saying “bike” yet. If I hadn’t just walked out my Early Intervention meeting I no doubt would have ran away screaming and crying. Cooler heads prevailed because I knew Ali would kick this tri-lingual girls ass in a game of “Where’s Waldo” and that’s all that matters.