Little Miss Echo
Rory, little Rory, is not so little any more. From being a solemn watcher from the sidelines, he has become far more engaged. Not that he can’t play happily alone for long stretches, but he now knows how to interact — and he enjoys it. His language has taken a ginormous leap forward, too, which undoubtedly assists (or perhaps originates) his social efforts. He has turned from my wide-eyed Silent Boy into Word Boy. He chatters, chatters, chatters. Not a steady, unceasing narration of his life (which, I tell you now, in the hands of the right child, can drive you INSANE), but a cheerful conversation whenever he has your attention. He’s not just talking to make noise, he’s actually seeking the answers.
And, since he has a curious mind, he asks a LOT of questions. I don’t mind. I like answering the questions of a genuinely curious child.
“Mary, where are we going today?”
“We’re going to the park.”
“Is there snack at play group?”
“No. Some playgroups give you snacks, but not this one. That is why I am making a snack for us to bring.”
“Does Daniel have a green jacket?”
“Today Daniel has a black jacket, but you’re right. Yesterday, he had a green jacket, didn’t he?”
It’s not quite incessant, but Rory’s questions provide a steady thread through my day. And as I say, I don’t mind. This week, however, Grace has joined in, and Grace…
now, I want you to understand that I love Grace dearly. She is gentle, she is sweet, she has a nice disposition, and she is growing into a very pretty girl, to boot. (This despite the constant drizzle of drool suspended from her lower lip, even.) But — and I realize it’s early to make this judgment, and I’ve been wrong before (though not often) — but with all those caveats and cautions acknowledged, my gut feeling is that Grace…
isn’t the brightest crayon in the box.
And we can’t all be, can we? In fact, most of us aren’t the brightest.
Besides, I’ve been wrong before! I recall one young man who I was convinced was just a little sluggish, mentally. His dad agreed. Not that we spoke of it directly, but one day, dad was watching his son do something or other, shook his head and ruefully commented with a loving smile, “You’ll never be a rocket scientist, son.”
And you know what? He’s about eleven now, and he’s BRILLIANT. So there. What he isn’t, is verbal. To this day, he’s a quiet child to whom words come slowly. Give him numbers, give him science, give him engineering, and just step back for the brilliance. He’s very, very, very, very bright. He could feasibly be a rocket scientist, this boy. But he’s not brilliant with the words, and so much of our evaluation of very small children is, whether we’re aware of it or not, a judgment of their verbal skill.
So, when I begin to suspect a child isn’t too bright, I keep it to myself for any number of very good reasons, not the least of which is that I could very well be wrong.
But you guys don’t know me, and you guys don’t know Grace, and to you, my little collection of nameless, faceless friendly internet strangers, I will confess my suspicion that Grace is not going to burn up the road intellectually.
And that’s okay. We can’t all be rocket scientists, and the world only needs so many brain surgeons. Even if my gut is right on this one, she’ll have a happy, productive, fulfilled life, doing whatever suits her best.
If she lives that long.
Because lately, when Rory asks his question, Grace will wait quietly and politely — because Grace is generally a quiet and polite girl — she will wait, I say, until Rory has asked, and I have fully answered the question, and then…
she will ask it again. Word for word. Every.Single.Time.
Rory: Where are the muffins, Mary?
Mary: They’re still in the oven. We can take them out when the timer goes “beep!”
Grace: Where are the muffins, Mary?
Rory: Are we going to the park?
Mary: Yes, we are.
Grace: Are we going to the park?
Rory: Daniel is coming today?
Mary: No, he will be here tomorrow. Today his gramma and grampa are visiting.
Grace: Daniel is coming today?
All. Day. Long… Every. Single. Question.
For a while I was answering her, too, thinking she just hadn’t heard, but too often she was right beside Rory when I answered, so that couldn’t be it. Now I’ve taken to saying, “You know whether he’s coming, Grace. I just told Rory. Is Daniel coming today?”
I get the long, steady stare from those beautiful blue eyes, the drop of drool pooling on that pretty pink lower lip.
“Can you tell me? Is Daniel coming today, Grace?”
“Is Daniel coming today, Rory?”
“No, he’s wif his gramma and grampa.”
“That’s right. He’s at home, visiting gramma and grampa. Is Daniel coming today, Grace?”
“He’s at…” I prompt.
Blink. “He’s at…”
Mary: “hooome, visiting…”
Grace: “hooome, visiting…
Grace: Stares. Blinks. “At home, visiting… gramma and grampa!”
Mary: That’s right! Daniel is at home today, visiting gramma and grampa, just like I told Rory.
And that is why sometimes, when Grace mindlessly echoes Rory’s question, instead of getting her to focus on the answer that was given, instead of going through that long, drawn-out process of winkling from her mind the information that’s ALREADY THERE… I totally ignore her. La la la, I didn’t hear that! And now I think I need to be in another room, right now!!
For his part, Rory also totally ignores her. He doesn’t seem to register the echo, not in the slightest. Until…
Rory: Where is my yellow loader truck?
Mary: It is in the bucket of the stroller, so we can take it to the park this morning.
Grace: Where is my yellow loader truck?
Rory: IT’S NOT YOUR LOADER!!! IS MINE!!!
Grace: Stare. Stare. Stare. Drool.
Grace: [face crumpling]