Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Art of a One-Sided Conversation

I have been monopolizing conversations with my daughter for years. I'm not rude. It is done out of necessity. At age 13, Jaycee is saying more and more words. Still, we can't have full conversations that most mothers and daughters do.

For a good 8 years, Jaycee was nonverbal. During those years, Jaycee communicated with a few words, sign language, and a communication device. During that time of her life, our conversations after school were something like:

Me: Did you like school today?

Jaycee signs: School

Me: Was it fun?

Jaycee: Grunts happily (I interpret as yes.)

Me: I missed you while you were at school. Mommy had to work.

Jaycee signs: Work

Me: We're going to go home and make dinner.

Jaycee signs: Home. Eat.

Jaycee signs: Pizza

Me: No, we aren't having pizza tonight.

There were few questions Jaycee could answer back then. There were no stories she could offer on her own. Getting information from her was next to impossible. Jaycee often repeated back words she heard me say. She wasn't able to express many things out of the blue. If she did, I struggled to understand what she was talking about.

There is an art to having conversations with a child who doesn't respond with many words. You have to know ways to keep the conversation going when words are few from your communication partner. It is possible to converse, but there's not much depth. 

Progress is a wonderful thing. Now, I can have better conversations with Jaycee though they are still mainly one-sided. A typical after school conversation is now:

Me: Was school good or bad today?

Jaycee says: Good (She also gives a thumbs up.)

Me: Who did you play with at school?

Jaycee says: Hope, Mikayla

Me: I'm glad you got to see your friends.

Jaycee says and signs: School. Friends.

Jaycee says: Bubba?

Me: We're going to the pharmacy first. Then, we'll pick your brother up from school.

Jaycee says: Uh-uh (as in no). Bubba!

Me: He's still in school. We have time to go to the pharmacy first.

Jaycee says and signs: Bubba. Home.

Me: First, we'll go to the pharmacy. Then we will get bubby. Then we'll go home. (I hold up a finger as I say each item, so she knows we are doing 3 things.)

Jaycee: Imitates holding up three fingers and babbles in an attempt to repeat what I said.

This is how we converse now. It's not the typical exchange for most teens with their moms, but it's our way. I am happy she can speak more now and not be so reliant on gestures or sign language. I'm thrilled she contributes her own thoughts to our conversations. Our talks aren't completely one-sided now.

When Jaycee was little, I wanted nothing more than to talk with her. I wanted to know what she is thinking and what happened during her day. Even now, I still want these things. However, I am grateful for the progress she's made. I'm happy to get glimpses into her thoughts.

I am also extremely grateful that there are several people in her life that know how to speak to her too. Grandma, cousin Gabby, Aunt Steph, and a host of other people have also mastered the art of the one-sided conversation. Jaycee has opportunities to converse with other people besides me. I'm grateful these people have figured out what questions to ask her and know how to pull information from Jaycee.

After all, Jaycee does have something to say. She doesn't need 30 minutes of non-stop talking like so many of us do. Sometimes, a short sentence and a big, firm hug can speak volumes.

Maybe one day Jaycee will be monopolizing our conversations. I would be thrilled to have that experience!

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