The thing about having a child with limited verbal skills is you often find yourself being his voice.
“Hello!” says well-meaning cashier at the grocery. “And what is your name?”
“This is Scott,” I finally say. “Scott, can you tell her your name?”
Scott, who’s 8, ignores both of us. I would say this makes for awkward conversation, but really, it makes for no conversation. Which is also awkward conversation, just without the conversation part. Anyway, it’s awkward.
But there are times when he’ll throw out a “Thank you!” as we walk away. Few things in this world are more charming than being thanked by Scott.
The oldest of my four children, Scott’s language skills are what professional types would call “emerging.” He can express himself here at home, sometimes being downright chatty. But when we’re out of the house, especially in unfamiliar places, he says very little.
We were at my daughter’s school carnival this weekend, and Scott was in one of the inflatable bounce houses. I hate bounce houses because they are sweaty dens of iniquity where children kick each other in the face. But my kids love them, especially Scott.
There was a basketball goal in the inflatable where Scott was jumping, and the other kids in there were easily slam-dunking the ball into the net. Scott rarely got the ball, but when he did, he wanted to dunk, too. He tried, but he lacked the strength to get the ball high enough into the air to make the shot.
The kids decided to find fun somewhere else, clearing out of the bounce house all at once. Scott was left alone, just him and the ball. He was just about to pick it up when an athletic-looking kid of about 10 climbed inside and grabbed the ball. He ignored Scott and started shooting basket after basket.
I just stood there, my eyes narrowed at the blond-headed kid. I wanted to kick him in the teeth, but one doesn’t do that to children at school carnivals. (Or anywhere.) While I stared daggers at the kid, Scott slipped out and went somewhere else to play.
Right. I just stood there. I’m Scott’s voice, his champion, his MOTHER, and I didn’t say a word. And the worst part, I didn’t do it because it made me feel uncomfortable. Because I don’t like fussing at other people’s kids. Because I AM A WEENIE. But I can’t be a weenie anymore, not when we’re talking about my child who can’t stick up for himself.
I’m supposed to be the Mama Bear, right? Mama Bear protects her cubs, but Mama Weenie just stands outside the bounce house and frets over what to say to a 10-year-old punk.
“He was going for that ball, and you know it,” I finally spat out, using the most authoritative Mom Voice I could conjure up. “It was HIS TURN.”
The kid appeared unmoved, in the way kids try to appear unmoved when really they feel embarrassed. I had nothing left to say, so I left to find Scott.
Nice story about being my child’s voice, right? I’ve written about this before, and some of you responded with encouraging words, cheering me on. I hate admitting I still struggle with speaking up for my kid, but it’s true. I’m working on it.
Parenting is hard, especially when you’re kind of a weenie.
Big game this weekend, y’all, and this Rebel fan is nervous as all get-out. I’d shout out a Hotty Toddy, but I’m afraid y’all would get mad and send angry letters to the editor for running blasphemy in the paper.
So I’ll say this: May the best team win. And it better be mine. .
(Betsy Swenson can be reached at email@example.com.)