“Remember when I went to my speech lessons, Mommy?” Anya asks. I know instinctively that she means the private speech therapy she was enrolled in at the age of two, not the speech classes she attended in pre-K. Sometimes I understand my daughter perfectly. Other times, not so much. Hence the speech therapy.
“Yeah, baby. I remember.”
“Don’t you think it’s about time Kai went to speech?”
To her, speech class is a normal part of growing up. She’s gone off and on as far back as she can remember. I’ve told her of my (short-lived) stint in speech therapy, as has her grandfather. Her dad never went to speech therapy, but she knows he, too, was a late talker and had speech issues. Kai is talking more and more, and not all of it is intelligible. So he needs speech therapy, right?
Thing is, Kai doesn’t appear to need speech therapy. Sometimes he forgets and calls me Daddy and his father Mommy, but it’s not like his sister’s melding every adult into Daddy — it’s more like how I call him Anya and Anya Kai from time to time. Rather than shying away from books, songs, anything that appears to be intended to teach him, he asks to be read to. He’s absorbed the lessons we’ve worked on with his sister and can continue counting and reciting the alphabet — not just adding “B, C” to “A” anymore, but “T, U” to “Q, R, S.” He has shown that he is not merely reciting numbers by counting my breasts. He sings, though he does not know all of the words just yet. He points to things and names them. He either knows some of his colors (yellow, red, orange, green) or is a damn good guesser. He calls my mother on the phone (for real, not just pretend — and bypasses my PIN in order to do it) and has 5-minute conversations with her. They are mostly gibberish…but not all gibberish.
Anya knows that she and Kai are different. She is grown up (her teen years are going to be fun), and Kai is a baby. She is a girl, and Kai is a boy. Now the delicate work begins: Helping her to see that Kai, like some other kids, has an easier time learning words — and that it doesn’t mean that she’s not as smart as he is, but just that she learns differently. At their age, words are the yardstick by which everyone is measured, but it will not always be that way. I have the same IQ (if not higher) as many scientists and others regularly lauded as highly intelligent. However, society does not value linguistic skills as highly as it does science, so nobody’s basting me with the genius brush anymore.
Having children has been highly educational for me. For starters, it’s made me think deeply about what is truly important in life. I used to value intelligence above all else, but upon further consideration, I have to admit that being intelligent doesn’t make me happy. It makes it easier for me to absorb certain types of knowledge, that’s all. What’s made me happiest is knowing what I want and taking steps to attain it. A secondary key to my happiness is nurturing an inner calm through meditation and simplification. It took me an embarrassingly long time to get to this point, though, so I am taking pains to teach these lessons to my kids early.
And also the alphabet, numbers, colors, and shapes, because otherwise their teachers send me homework. I never did like homework.