Christmas fever has swept over our house. Cate and I love Christmas and have always gone to get our tree Thanksgiving weekend. But the fever has reached a new pitch this year because Simone is 3 1/2. Since we put the tree up on Friday, her mind has had but one focus. She wants to take the tree down so we can decorate it again. She wants to know all about Santa. She wants to “sit on the blue couch so we can snuggle and look at the Christmas tree.” She wants to read Christmas books. She falls asleep beneath the colored Christmas lights we have strung in her room. This morning, she woke up just as I was about to leave for work. The first thing she said was, “Is it Christmas yet?”
Yesterday, when I was looking for something to do with her that involved being still for a minute (her brother was napping), I asked if she wanted to watch movies of last Christmas. She eagerly agreed.
I have written on this blog before that Simone struggled with her speech. In my memory, she really exploded right around last Christmas, so I expected to see a sweet, chattery little girl. I had forgotten.
The video we have of last Christmas morning encompasses her first real reaction to Santa. She is clearly tickled and overwhelmed to have had toys magically delivered to her. She piles them to together and amazement sweeps over her face, but she does not say much of anything. The video is six minutes long and she says three word: Yeah, daddy, and thanks.
That’s it. She was two and a half and that was all she said. Instead, mostly what we get are the hand signals she had invented to communicate with us. I had almost forgotten about them. She makes a big, sweeping circle with both hands to tell us her stuffed polar bear is big and then pinches her fingers together, holds them next to her cheek, and shakes her head to tell us her polar bear is not little (this is to make sure we understand). She is getting across plenty of information and we clearly understand her, but she doesn’t say much of anything.
I wasn’t that wrong about her vocal explosion, though. In a video we took of her a little more than a month later, she uses four to six word sentences. She says more in the first ten seconds of that video than she did on the entire six minutes of the Christmas one.
It breaks my heart to see the little girl struggling to speak. It reminds me of how fragile my children – all children – are. But it also makes me extremely excited, because I will tell you right now, there is no six minute period during the day when Simone says only 30 words, much less 3, except when she is sleeping.
The best part about it is that we’ve reached a point where it is possible to have real conversations with her. To really talk to her about things. She has been struggling with the idea of when things happen (as you might notice from the first paragraph), so yesterday, we sat down for a little bit and looked at a calendar and talked about how a year passes. She still doesn’t exactly get it, but we can talk about it and she can think and tell me what she sees and what she thinks that means.
I know she understands me when I talk to her. I know her mind is working overtime to process all the new information she gets everyday. I know she hears everything because she will repeat things (sometimes things I wish she wouldn’t repeat). And it is so nice to be able to see that. To have an exchange with her. Watching her a year ago made me remember how hard it was to have a child who could think complex thoughts, but struggled to communicate them. I am happy that her life is so much easier now that she can say what she wants to say and I’m happy that my life is so much better because I can understand her.