I’ve just been told my son is a selective mute. This is the opinion of one of the teachers at his school – and one that I find quite amusing given I am such a loudmouth.
She’s not far off the mark though. Matt tends not to talk at all around new people or in big groups – not a bad thing given all of his sentences these days are peppered with the F-bomb (while I am secretly amused by it, I’m grateful his teacher isn’t privy to his growing vocabulary – rather the mother of a mute than a foul-mouthed two-year-old).
But now we’re in the second term of school and he’s still not talking in class – or on the playground for that matter – so I’m wondering if I should be doing more to help him settle. I don’t think it’s any cause for real concern. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that he is more of a listener than a talker, unlike Mom. My husband always tells me “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order” – a not-so-subtle hint that perhaps I talk more than I listen.
But, being an extrovert, I find myself feeling strangely uncomfortable with my son’s introverted nature. I can’t identify with it. I also find myself questioning whether this is simply a case of being little and needing to gain confidence or a sign that he is, in fact, shy by nature. And, given my tendency to catastrophise everything, his not talking now has me projecting into the future and panicking that he will struggle to socialise later in life, will be picked on at school and will end up a loner.
I know. I sound crazy. But the truth is, my first instinct is always to panic. Like how I was convinced my daughter had internal bleeding when she fell off her bike and grazed her chin – yes, her chin, not her head. Or the time I panicked that my son had contracted listeriosis because he was complaining of a sore tummy and I recalled how he had eaten a salami stick earlier that day. Turns out he was constipated.
While experience has taught me that most of the time my fears are unfounded, I am still plagued by worry. Let’s face it, raising kids can be hair-raising. Little people are accident prone. I’m constantly shouting profanities or blaspheming as a knee-jerk emotional reaction to some crazy things my kids have done or are about to do. I think they must have thought their names were Jesus and Christ for the first few years of their lives. It’s no coincidence my son has discovered the F-word, I guess.
“… in the spirit of worrying less about the little things, I am going to relax about my son’s ‘selective muteness’ and give him the time and space he needs to get comfortable and come out of his shell.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of how irresponsible it is to curse in front of your kids and I have been more conscious not to do it. So much so that I’m riddled with guilt every time a bad word slips out my mouth. Clearly, there is a theme here – guilt and panic. Since I can’t seem to escape either – they are part of the parenting package after all – I need to learn to manage my feelings (and expectations) around motherhood a little better. The fact is I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to worry and I’m going to experience a whirlwind of emotions.
I’ve decided that the secret to surviving parenthood with my sanity intact is to try to worry less about the small things (a good life strategy too) and not beat myself up at every wrong turn. This is not going to be an easy feat given I convince myself daily I am doing irreversible emotional and psychological damage to my children (clearly, I need to take my anxiety levels down a notch).
So, in the spirit of worrying less about the little things, I am going to relax about my son’s “selective muteness” and give him the time and space he needs to get comfortable and come out of his shell. After all, he’s talking the hind leg off a donkey at home so I know he has no trouble with words. Perhaps he just needs to find his place in the world outside of the home. And if it turns out he is the shy guy, well, I can live with that…
Jessica is a writer and editor from Cape Town – and a mum of two toddlers. Suffering from major mom guilt trying to juggle life and motherhood, she recently started a blog, realhometruths.com, to celebrate the mess and the magic of motherhood.