After yesterday’s abrupt foray into the world of Kids With Problems, I freaked out. Just a little, mind you, but… I did freak out. And then I talked to a friend, applied Cadbury caramel eggs and Elvis Presley songs in judicious quantities, and calmed down.

Michael and I talked the whole lisp thing over this morning and made a few decisions. We’re going to go ahead with the assessments next week, just so we have a clear picture of what we’re dealing with. If it turns out to be just a lisp, we’re going to respectfully decline speech therapy and other interventions. What worries us here is not the lisp itself (or the associated rejection of meat); what worries us is that it could indicate sensory issues or oral development delay. Once those things are ruled out, the lisp itself is… well, to our way of thinking, it’s normal. Connor’s two. Parenting and pediatric studies have come a long way in recent years, but Michael and I are in agreement about one thing — namely, that it’s kind of ridiculous to expect toddlers to pronounce everything perfectly, enunciating and projecting like pint-sized Broadway actors. We know that with a lot of work toddlers can speak perfectly, without lisping or pronouncing Rs as Ws or ever getting their tangs all tungled, but we don’t necessarily think they should. Little two-year-old lisps tend to clear up just fine on their own, for the most part; we don’t feel it’s necessary to intervene in that process.

That said, we are concerned about the chance that this is a sensory issue. It’s unlikely — Connor displays virtually none of the signs of sensory distress — but it is within the realm of possibility. I think that if it is a sensory issue, it’s a very minor and specific one (namely, he doesn’t like the way meat feels in his throat, including the back of his tongue, so he pushes his tongue forward when he speaks and doesn’t swallow hamburgers or pork chops), and if that’s the case we’ll probably still refuse organized intervention. We’ll ask for instruction on how to work with him at home and politely decline to set him up with weekly professional appointments, because we prefer to keep his two-year-old nose away from the grindstone as long as possible.

If it’s a larger issue, we’ll find out what we can and make our decisions from there. I am kind of embarrassed by having been so freaked out by this — a lisp, of all things. The words “intervention” and “possible oral-motor delay” just sort of overrode what I know about my kid and kids in general for a while, and I flipped my lid. Things look much better today. It is far too easy to get swept up in professional intervention and immediate correction and needs-further-assessment checkboxes and forget that, you know, kids are kids. Not every deviance is a problem.

Sometimes I wish I could have had Connor sometime in the ’80s — late enough to know about things like autism and fetal alcohol syndrome, early enough that parenting didn’t fall under this kind of intense scrutiny and worry. It’s hard to make the decision to refuse professional assistance for things like this, because it’s seen almost unilaterally as a Bad Mommy Move. These days, if you’re not feeding your kid macrobiotically and preparing his Harvard application by the time he’s a year old, you fail parenting. I don’t want to do that — fail this mommying thing — but I don’t want to problemize and freak out over every behavior on the planet, either. It’s a lisp. I think he’ll be fine.


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