It sucks being Mom and not being able to make everything better with a wave of my Magic Mommy Wand.
So what happened?
Well, as some of you probably know, my daughter Isabella was born with a cleft lip and palate. We adopted her at age three, and while they fixed her lip in China, they did nothing with her palate. We had it repaired when she was three and a half. (I blogged about the surgery here, if you’re curious as to the process; there’s also a picture of what her palate looked like both before and after the surgery.) As you may or may not know, you can’t really speak without a palate, and those baby noises that babies make are part of the process of learning to talk. If you don’t have the ability to do that as a baby, you’re going to have a battle later in life.
Isabella is an amazing kid. She’s smart. She’s funny. She has more personality than should be allowed. And she has the My Parents Are Weird eye roll down pat. But she’s still struggling with her speech, although she’s come so, so, so far. She’s eight now, and it’s only been in the last year or so that my mother can understand what she’s saying. I understand probably 97% now. In other words, the kid’s worked hard. She’s not 100% there yet, though, and, in fact, she can’t be, as there’s still a gap in her gum line that we’re fixing this summer with a bone graft surgery, in which we’ll take bone from her hip and put it in her gum line. (And by “we” I mean a doctor.) Even after that, she may never be perfect in her articulation. There’s baggage that comes with such a long wait to repair a palate.
It is what it is, and I think she’s perfect.
She, however, is at an age where she’s self-conscious of everything–and as you might expect, her speech is the biggest. And the other day some neighborhood boys didn’t make it any better.
In their defense, these boys are generally good kids. We’re blessed with a fabulous neighborhood filled with really nice people. But even nice people can say hurtful things.
My girls and a friend were playing in the yard and started talking/shouting/teasing/being teased by the older boys (who are, I believe, in junior high now). I’m inside, not really paying attention, but then in bursts the kids, and Isabella’s in tears. After I get her calmed down, I get the story. They’ve started a “war” with the boys, and somewhere in the playing, the boys get annoyed with the younger girls and at some point (I think when the boys were leaving, and I don’t think it was meant for the girls’ ears, but still) one of the boys says, “And the little one can’t even talk.”
Cue the big crocodile tears.
I hug her and hold her and tell her how proud I am of how hard she works at speech (3X/week) and how far she’s come and remind her how well she’s doing and point out that her friends can understand her, and that wasn’t always the case. And, yeah, it gets better. But still. I don’t want her to have to face those moments at all. But I know she will. And I won’t always get to be Mama Bear.
I want my magic wand.
Have y’all faced a Mama or Papa Bear moment? What did you do? I didn’t say anything to the boys, particularly since I didn’t witness the event. What would you have done?