We worry (part 2: the ‘still not talking’ edition)


“Is it yummy?” I ask him.

He nods vigorously and rubs his hand along his belly, the not quite ASL sign for ‘yummy’ that he and his sister designed. Milky, creamy chocolate drips down his chin as his tongue escapes his mouth again, aiming for the ice cream cone I’m holding in my hands.

That mouth of his is a source of so much pain. Pain for him from teething which has been incredibly slow and painful. His molars have been tormenting him for months and still aren’t even at the surface of his gums.

And then, pain for us. From that mouth of his comes the shrillest screams, the loudest yells, and the most frustrating whines. But not a single word.

out the window

We’re rounding the corner towards birthday season now. Her fifth and his second. And as she nears the end of her tenure as a four-year-old, she is reading and writing, jumping and dancing, imagining and dreaming, and building quite an impressive vocabulary. She is holding sparklers and catching fireflies all for the first time. She is leaping into new activities and opportunities and doing all that most nearly five-year-olds we know are doing.

And as he works on completing his second year on this earth, he is running and digging, building up and tearing down, developing a deep love for trucks and trains and planes and anything that moves. He is dancing and laughing. He is climbing and getting pretty darn close to jumping. He is leaping into new activities and opportunities and doing almost all that most nearly two-year-olds we know are doing.

feet and chair

But he isn’t talking.

We’ve asked at every doctor’s appointment and each time the doctor assures us that he is just fine. He is communicating. He is frustrated when we can’t sort out what his hand motions mean. He understands every word of every phrase we say and he even follows direction. He babbles like a champ and every so often a well placed “mama!” makes us think he’s uttered his first word. But in the very next breath he’ll direct that mama repeatedly to the cat or a tree or a lego piece and we know we’re still in babble land.

And we worry.

We worry that she was talking. She’d uttered quite a few words by this age and the list grew each and every passing day. We worry he is falling behind. Friends at the park with little ones the same age rattle off a small vocabulary list and I hear the little voices say ‘plane’ with their chubby toddler fingers outstretched toward the sky. We worry that something bigger might be wrong. A late blooming speaker might look and sound like any other kid in a year. Or he might…

And we worry about comparing. Because he is not her. And he is not the son of friends at the park. He is his own little person. Our little person. And he is taking his time.

But we also worry about ourselves. He’s not talking but he has things he wants to communicate and it’s frustrating to us. He screams to get our attention because he doesn’t have the words to turn our heads and his screams tear through my patience.

We worry that we’re not doing enough. That we didn’t do enough and we already missed the boat. We worry that there are things we could or should or would be doing but we’re getting distracted and doing other things and missing this. We worry that it’s our fault.

And we worry that it’s not our fault. That there is something wrong and there’s nothing we could have done and we’re just waiting to learn what it is.

We worry.

fingers and door

And in between the worry, I comfort myself with the smile he gives me when I enter the room. He knows me. It can’t be that bad. I comfort myself with the way he pats his chest after I’ve finishing singing about that spider, a silent plea for an encore. He heard the song and he knows he wants to hear it again. I comfort myself with the way he eagerly dolls out hugs and kisses. With the physical abilities he has that she didn’t have and they don’t have – all indicating that he’s simply just working on other things.

Worry will get us nowhere. He will start talking in his own good time and a year from now he’ll fight with his sister for air time, squeezing his stories and needs and wants in between hers. Or he won’t, and we’ll know and we’ll deal and we’ll work through whatever it is that keeps him silent today. There will be action. And this worry will not have contributed.

But, as with most things parenting, worry is all we have in this time. This quiet (save for the shrill screaming and yelling) time of waiting. There is little we can do but wait.

And try not to worry.

boy and field


Edited to note: Months after this initial worry, I published a reflection on the consuming nature of worry and speech delays and how we worked through it on Brain, Child. The story continues there and we still worry. But we also act. And that’s the important part.


linking up with Shell.


  1. I could have written this post save the older sister. We are heading towards two with a limited vocabulary of only a few words. I have all the same worries.
    Anneliese recently posted..on fireMy Profile

    • I’m sorry to hear you’re right there with me. But good to know neither of us are alone. Keep the faith, words will come.

  2. I could have written this post a year and a half ago. I did write some of it, but my worry made me less brave to share. I know what it is to hope for those words. Hang in there!
    Sarah @This-Here-Now recently posted..They Attach Themselves To PlacesMy Profile

  3. Oh, how I understand this worry. My oldest was a very early talker. And since he was our first, we just thought this was how all kids are, so we were so concerned about our others when they weren’t the same way. Until we did assessments and were told just how little language is considered the norm at that age.

    But I get the worry. It’s so hard not to worry.
    Shell recently posted..Saying No: Pour Your Heart OutMy Profile

    • I keep telling myself that. That I’m overestimating just how much he should be talking. I keep going back and forth between believing we have a problem and believing that he is just working on other things.

  4. Although my worry wasn’t about talking, I rember my earliest, gnawing worries. At first I didn’t verbalize these fears and now I am often consumed by them.
    Mytwicebakedpotato recently posted..Not my TwinMy Profile

    • It’s such a fine line, isn’t it? When I don’t verbalize, sometimes I forget. Which is nice but can lead to inaction too. So tricky, this parenting thing.

  5. Have you considered talking to a speech therapist? I believe they could provide you with more answers/direction than your doctor since communication disorders are their specialty.


  6. I understand the worry all too well. And the comparing. And the impatience with doctors who tell you everything is just fine while you want to scream at them because you feel that they’re wrong. My perspective as an early interventionist fan is that it doesn’t hurt to get an evaluation and go from there if you’re worried. Use your mother instinct. But you’re doing a wonderful job with your little darlings. Reading and singing and all of those language-development things that you’re doing are just wonderful. Rock on!
    Teresa (embracing the spectrum) recently posted..Loneliness: Why Friendship is ImportantMy Profile

    • Thank you, Teresa! Yes, we are now thinking about at least getting an evaluation. It’s so tricky, figuring out who to listen to and when – my gut or the doctors, and then figuring out what my gut is saying. Lots of thinking to do.

  7. I’ll tell you in person, but will do it publicly here too — YOU have done nothing wrong and it is NOT “your fault”. In fact, you are doing it all right. Little one is surrounded by a world full of language and love. He may just be quiet and working on other things instead of language skills for now, or he may need a little extra support from the professionals, but either way I promise you as someone who sees you do this motherhood thing up close that you are doing it right.

  8. Hey, another Tamara above me!
    oh, how I know this all. I had Des’ second year appointment yesterday. In truth, Des talks a up a storm but the sentences sound like gibberish to most. Also around two, a big language explosion happens. For many, it’s not before two. It’s at two.
    Scarlet was very articulate by now. I don’t worry that much because Des is just so… Des.
    I have a strong feeling your worries will wash away soon.
    Tamara recently posted..Over The Top.My Profile

    • 🙂 yes, I am surrounded by Tamara’s these days and it’s awesome!
      I know. My little boy is so much just himself and not like my girl at all. Which is comforting in a way, a good reminder that he is his own person.

  9. Thank you for your raw honesty in this post—many will be touched by your words, for sure. My son is also about to turn two, and while we aren’t facing this exact issue, we have other ones that cause me to worry. You’re so right that all the worrying isn’t productive, but at the same time it feels impossible to stop. The only thing I can do is purposefully redirect my thoughts to what I KNOW to be true—that my son is loved and happy—when those thoughts of worry start to creep up again.
    Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted..How to Get Fit in 30 Minutes a DayMy Profile

    • Thank you, Katie. Yes, our boys are definitely loved and happy. And that’s worth so much more than a handful of words, or whatever thing we’re waiting on to develop. Hope your worries are eased soon too.

  10. My daughter started having speech therapy when she was two due to her complete disinterest in talking. When she was three and still couldn’t put together two word phrases, we took her for a hearing test and found she had a moderate hearing loss. She got hearing aids and language blossomed immediately. I worried constantly about her speech starting when she was 15 months old.

    The only thing I wished I’d done differently was having that hearing test at age 2 instead of 3. She passed her newborn hearing screen and she could obviously hear when we talked to her face to face. The pediatrician and speech language pathologist never recommended a hearing screening, that came from me.

    This post was beautiful and I can really empathize with your worry. I recommend taking your son to a pediatric audiologist. If his hearing is fine that’s one less thing to worry about. I usually link my main blog, Big Teeth & Clouds, but the Magic Ear site might be of some use to you. We worked really hard to get speech going for our daughter and the good news is that now she’s hardly ever quiet!

    Good luck!
    Joey recently posted..The Lifetone Safety Bedside Fire AlarmMy Profile

    • Thank you so much, Joey. I really appreciate your honesty and sharing your story and I’m looking at your Magic Ear site! I am so happy to hear your girl is almost never quiet now 🙂 I look forward to that day so much!

  11. Wow. This whole post could have come from my lips eight years ago. I feel your pain and struggle, and I admire you for your attempts to not worry. I know worry is an every day thing for parents, but we push on, and I know you will too. Hopefully in a year this worry will be a memory and he will, as you said, compete with his sister for air time. And really, that could be why he isn’t talking yet, his sister is happy to do all the talking, and he’s happy to let her. 🙂 (I’ve seen it happen. :D)

    • 🙂 yes! She talks for him and over him and around him. It’s such a challenge! She only wants to be helpful but… ahh siblings.

  12. The amount of worry and concern shows how much you love him. Boys typically talk later than girls, but it is so hard not to compare. So hard. Take comfort in the doctor’s reassurance and keep trying not to worry.
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted..Things I Like and Dislike About Summer {TuesdayTen Linkup}My Profile

  13. Being worried is a huge part of our mommy job description & your honesty is to be admired. As an early childhood educator I am a huge supporter of early intervention. My youngest screeched and threw fits and was very frustrated with his inability to communicate. He understood but couldn’t communicate. He was finally “behind enough” to qualify for EI and his language skills were that of a 9 month old. I knew he was delayed but I was devastated to learn the exact diagnosis of profound expressive speech delay. I had done EVERYTHING right..songs, fingerplays, reading, talking, labeling objects etc. It wasn’t until we were able to be approved for private speech therapy through another agency that we saw any improvements. He is 7 now and talks up a storm.
    Robbie recently posted..LitteredMy Profile

    • So happy to hear he talks so much now! It is worrying but also frustrating. I just want for him to be able to communicate for his own happiness.

  14. Dads don’t worry like this. That’s not to say it’s wrong to worry. Worry means concern. We worry about what we care about right? Well, moms do. OK, dads worry too. But there will come a day when the boy will not be quiet.

    And you will go back and read this and smile.
    Eli@coachdaddy recently posted..Guest Post: Amber from Airing My Dirty Laundry, on Should I Play or Should I Go?My Profile

  15. Such a beautiful and tender hearted post. Thank you for sharing your worries. I hope everything works out wonderfully, however that is meant to be. He and your family will be in my prayers. Best wishes.

    Happy Sharefest. I hope you have a lovely weekend.
    misssrobin recently posted..My HysterectomyMy Profile

  16. I love this post. So much. It also resonates with me too much. I worried and didn’t know, and still don’t know but know more now. If you want to talk, please let me know. This feels too familiar to me to not say that I think you should talk to early intervention. My doctors told me the same thing at your son’s age. And my son is okay but he’s got language things. I don’t want to assume anything about your son or family but I swear, I could have written this post if I were blogging when my son was this age. Maybe not as well as you did because it’s a beautiful post, but please talk to me or somebody.
    Kristi Campbell recently posted..My Listen to Your Mother Video: Being a Special Needs MomMy Profile

  17. This is so very beautiful and so very true. I have shared every feeling you describe here. I think it must be especially difficult to watch this with a comparison to your daughter’s advanced development. It just adds to the worry.

    Have you considered calling the Infants and Toddlers program? Getting him speech services may help you manage some of that worry that you are not doing enough. I know it comforts me to think that at least I am doing SOMETHING. They may tell you there’s not a significant enough gap for services or they might get him a speech therapist. And, I have to say, the MD ones have been very impressive.
    Sarah recently posted..TToT34: QuickieMy Profile

  18. oh Tricia… how I know this worry!! In so many ways…

    Hold on mama. Worry IS wasted time===> that leads to answers. Always the very best of the best answers- whether they are the preferred answers doesn’t matter really. because that sweet boy of yours? He was ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and God already has a plan for him. Already set. Trust it.

    He is healthy, responding, communicating, and bonding. Every child develops on their own path…

    Praying you find peace in knowing that!!

    Beautifully written- as always. Oh, how you speak every parent’s heart at some time in this mission of ours… we worry. And for us mamas? We worry ALL, THE, TIME.
    Chris Carter recently posted..Hope for the Hopeless…My Profile

  19. Tricia, my 4.5 year old has been in speech therapy for over a year. When he was 2, he was just as you describe your boy. Now, I’m not saying that they are the same (they are SO not), but if you are concerned, there is no harm in talking to a speech pathologist, and ask questions re: what is typical development, what to look out for, what you can do to help him towards his words.

    No words, no talking, affects the parents, definitely, because of the frustration from both parties. Stay strong, there is help if help is required. If you want to talk about this in private, please, please, please, feel free to talk to me. xo
    Alison recently posted..My StoryMy Profile

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