“Have you talked to the doctor about him?”
It was the first time I had ever heard the question from someone not an immediate family member. And it was only the second time I heard it at all.
It was Halloween and our family had just finished trick-or-treating. KDB had just turned 3 years old at the end of August and he was developing into a handsome, smart and silly little boy who had a strong love of music, outdoor play, and reading. Although he was prevented from eating any of the candy he collected that evening, except for dum-dum lollipops due to his food allergies, he still thoroughly enjoyed dressing up as Disney’s most beloved character and walking around the neighborhood with his friends and family.
There were many signs that KDB was “different” at an early age, but none that we had given negative attention to. He enjoyed putting his toys in a specific order, lining up cars and trucks for example. Any disruption would send him into a hissy, not to be confused for a tantrum, because before age 3 he had never really had one. He was a very well behaved and mild mannered child who I could take anywhere. I made sure to read books to him every day, even if it was a passage from my law school texts, as I was finishing law school when he was 21 months old. I was always excited to buy a new book whenever we were at the store because he was never interested in having me buy a new toy. He began recognizing letters and numbers before age 2. Alphabet recitation was all too boring because he had done it so easily and counting to 100 was a thing of his past. These milestones were unbelievable but it wasn’t until he started spelling words with his wooden letters and reading books independent of our story-time sessions that I believed him to be gifted.
Between ages 2 and 3, his interest in book selection took him from baby books to those intended for children aged 5-6, maybe even older. To be honest, he was reading better than his 6-year-old sister. He could spell words like “hilarious,” “sunshine,” and “underneath” without assistance and enjoyed spelling his first and last name. Brought quickly to a smile whenever his family acknowledged his accomplishments, KDB was exceeding every expectation I had ever imagined for my first-born. I believed him to be extraordinary.
When my husband and I learned we were going to become parents to fraternal twins just after KDB’s 3rd birthday, we were thrilled to add them to our family. But a common topic of conversation between us was what are they supposed to be like? Now, excuse us for sounding uncommonly ignorant for parents of a toddler, but the truth was we found KDB to be so unlike children his age that we weren’t sure what to expect for the newbies. Would they love letters and numbers at an early age too? Read multitudes of books and spell big words they understood? Maybe it was pretentious of us to even ask, but we wouldn’t be the first parents to wonder what the next child, (or in our case children), would be like.
KDB’s journey from age 2 to 3 became even more entertaining when we noticed he was memorizing nearly every commercial he saw on television. We went to Arby’s once to get cheese sticks and after seeing the sign he shouted, “We have the meats,” which just so happened to be their tag line at the time. He could recite episodes of Henry Hugglemonster during playtime and could listen to a song a handful of times and know the melody, title, and lyrics when finished. He could hear the same song from a distance and name it and state the artist without hesitation. And we aren’t just talking about radio songs, but Zumba songs and Spanish music from his Nana’s playlist and oldies but goodies including the Temptations from Poppy’s playlist. But he also required the same song be played every day before his nap and before bed—John Denver became his best friend and would serenade him to “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” It was the only song that could get him to stop crying as an infant so naturally, he wanted it played during car rides even as a toddler, but I finally had to start telling him no because let’s face it, my husband and I needed a break to maintain our sanity.
So what about all of this behavior prompted me to even question his development as abnormal? It was that one single question at the start of this story and the activity that prompted the questioner to ask it. Our family friend is a teacher of young children and is the wonderful mother of two boys, ages 4 and 2. She said she tried talking to KDB and having conversation and couldn’t seem to figure out why he would avoid eye contact with her. Maybe it was premature for her to ask, or maybe she had other reasons for questioning his communication deficits but she was afraid to talk to me about them because I was 2 months post-partum with twins and still battling being a new mom again with three children under age 4. Whatever her reasoning, by asking me why KDB avoids eye contact and by asking me if an inquiry had been made to his pediatrician, I couldn’t help but tell her, “I didn’t know something was wrong.”
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