This weekend, I replaced the broken faucet in our bathtub, and I felt really proud of myself. I am a fixer by nature. I like to repair small stuff around the house (although I usually don't mess with plumbing). I like to fix up writing, why I became an editor. I like to help friends fix their problems.
After we had Max, I had to accept that his progress was largely out of my control, although I made sure he had as much therapy as possible and the best specialists we could find. Occasionally, frustration at not being able to better help him flares up. Especially recently because Max so wants to talk, because I don't always understand what he is saying and because I cannot make his consonants, vowels, words or sentences more intelligible.
I wondered if my surge of pride over repairing the faucet related to the speech issues I can't fix.
At the plumbing supply store, the guy behind the counter convinced me that replacing the faucet was as easy as undoing a screw beneath the old one, pulling it off and popping on the new one.
One unforeseen challenge: Squatting down to get close enough to the screw, thank you preggo belly. Plus it was rusted. But I finally dislodged the faucet, revealing the end of a copper pipe sticking out of the wall. The new faucet went on after considerable pushing and grunting. I fastened the screw. I turned on the knob and water poured out of the spout—and gushed from the faucet's base. Uh-oh. I took off the faucet. I looked inside. I noticed the new faucet was missing a washer the old one had.
Of course, I discovered all this after the plumbing supply store was closed. So then I had to trek 15 minutes away to get a new faucet. But, victory! It slid right on. I tightened the screw like a pro. Water came only out of the spout and showerhead.
"Wow, I'm impressed!" Dave said, and of course for the next few days I kept reminding him how awesome my accomplishment was.
This weekend, I also had a heart to heart with my awesome friend Wendy. (Hi, Wendy!) We were talking about Max's speech, and how much he'd progressed. She got to spend some quality time with him when I had to drop off Sabrina at a sleepover, and she told me she was so impressed with his reading and that she'd understood most of what he said. This was quite the feat, given that I don't always understand stuff he's saying.
I told her how Max really wants me and Dave to understand his speech and that lately, he refuses to use his speech app around us. I mentioned an app in development, the TalkItt, that will translate unintelligible pronunciation into understandable speech. She asked about what else could be done to help his speech along, beyond the therapy he's already getting.
"Nothing, really," I said. "The progress will come on Max's timeline, like all his other progress." I said this pretty matter-of-factly, because it's the truth. And yet, grappling with the realities of Max's speech is one of the hardest parts of parenting him lately.
Although the phrases he likes to repeat ("I love fire trucks!" and "My favorite sport is bowling!" and "I want to sleep in a hotel in New York City!") are easy to discern, he tends to pronounce certain words differently every time (like "school" and "fireman" and "baby") and I don't get them at first, or at all.
When I'm not sure what Max is saying, he will repeat the words again and again and again, insisting that I understand him without the help of the speech app. Only when he gets frustrated will he at least peck out words on his iPad, my iPhone or whatever keyboard is handy.
It is a natural instinct to want to communicate with your child. While I am beyond grateful for technology and that Max is able to use it to express himself, oh, how I wish talking didn't have to be this hard.
I cannot fix it.
And so, I take satisfaction in what I am capable of fixing in my life. Although, sorry, I am not available to do your plumbing work.