I live with a three-year-old who can say three words. She loves telling people “bye-bye.” And she can answer yes and no questions with a “yeah” or a “nah.” But as far as her vocabulary that’s about all she has. I talk a lot to her during the day. And she ‘talks’ in her own way. Well right now she’s in her screaming phase where she literally screams everything. And telling her to be quiet only makes her louder, so that’s fun. She has a clear “ah” scream and she loves making the “o” noise. See her in the picture below. In the photo shoot she wouldn’t stop saying “o” so we just rolled with it. It’s a new sound, and new sounds are so much fun!
Even though Abigail cannot communicate in words she is very expressive! I tell people a lot that even though she is not able to communicate verbally, she can definitely communicate in her own way. Her nonverbal communication is on point! Yes, she knows a little bit of sign language but that’s still new too. And of course, she can’t do a lot of signs correctly because her little fingers don’t have the coordination they need to do true ASL signs. But Abigail does not have a poker face. What she thinks and feels shows up in those big blue eyes and little lips. Most of the time she is joyful – a smile spread across her face or a laugh to brighten everyone’s day. But when she is tired her poor eyes get red and blue shadows appear under her eyes. When she is sad or hurt her bottom lip puckers out. It is about the cutest thing ever, but she just looks so pathetic. When she is frustrated or impatient she will holler at you to hurry up. When she is scared she reaches up to cling to your neck and she gets a death grip on you. By looking at her face you can see what she is feeling, or if she likes something or not.
As always, Abigail is my normal. I’m used to toddlers not talking. I’m used to wondering what she is thinking or what she wants to play with or even what she wants to eat. Thankfully Abigail is easy-going and not too picky so she is pretty easy to please. We are trying to teach her how to make decisions by choosing between two different options. Making a choice isn’t her strongest point since her whole life other people have done everything for her. So when people ask me how do I know what she needs or what she wants, my best answer is that I have spent every day for the past three years with this girl and I know her better than anyone. I know how to get her to eat and drink when she pushes things away. I know how to distract her before she gets too angry. I know how she works best and what she likes and doesn’t like. Even though she cannot speak, I feel like I know what she needs. Her smile on her face all the time shows me that she seems to be okay with our system.
I do hope she continues to grow in her vocabulary and one day can speak and choose and be more independent. It would be wonderful to hear her little voice, and hear what she is thinking. To hear her say “mama” or to have her ask me a million questions. As she gets older communication will become harder and much more needed. I never know if she is sick or if something hurts. I will never know if she had a good day at school or what happened that day. I will never know her favorite color or what she wants to play with.
But a friend once commented that maybe Abigail is teaching us that words aren’t necessary to express love. I love that! So often I talk too much, and I’m not even a big talker. I’m a very quiet person and I would much rather be by myself or with a couple of people than a crowd of people any day. But we often use unnecessary words to fill holes and gaps. But precious Abigail doesn’t have words to use, and she fills a room with her presence instantly. People are drawn to her. Strangers are always coming to speak to us while we are out and about. When I am crying over something silly on a television show, Abigail will come right over and crawl into my lap to give me a hug. Those precious hugs make me laugh every time. Abigail hugs hold so much love in them! They are my favorite things!! So often we confuse love with a feeling. But love is so much deeper than what you can feel. I love a little girl who cannot even talk to me for no other reason than because she is mine. She has never said “I love you.” She has never given me a gift. She has never done anything for me. But she expresses her love with hugs, with smiles, and with that quiet, strong connection we share. A connection I could never begin to explain, but it is present and it connects me to my daughter in a very strong way.
I am thankful words aren’t necessary. I am thankful Abigail is teaching me how to listen with more than my ears. She has made me better because of it. I notice so much more because of her. I have learned love is more than words and feelings. And while I can’t wait for Abigail’s next words, I am also ready to grow in our connection and keep learning to communicate with her in our own way. I want to learn all I can about her and what she needs. We are entering into new waters as she continues to grow and mature. It is scary and exciting all in one. She is quickly entering sassy toddlerhood. There will be things that will have to change and so much learning as this new chapter begins. But I know we have made it this far and together we will figure this out too. Because while words aren’t always necessary, community and partnership are very, very necessary! And I have the best little partner in crime any girl could ask for!!!