Show and Tell


When Archer started school back in January, he was barely able to say his name. He spoke mainly in gibberish. The odd word thrown sporadically in the mix, the odd peanut in his linguistic box of Cracker Jack. He had about twenty-words, then. Maybe less than that, which at two and a half was considered abnormal, worrisome.

We started him at school two days a week. And then three. After about a month, Archer started attending school full-time, the youngest in his class of three-year olds and boy, was it obvious. The other children had established friendships in the months before Archer started school so Archer had a hard time finding his place for those first few months, acting as a sort of little sibling to his older, more well-spoken classmates.

Show and Tell happened on Thursdays. I knew this because every Thursday all of the children in Archer's class would arrive with their hands full of favorite toys or homemade swords made of wrapping paper dispensers. No one had told me about Show and Tell for obvious reasons. Archer was unable to "tell."

So for seven months, Archer sat on the rug as the other children introduced their objects with pride. Gleeful in their descriptions of such treasure. Archer listened to the children share and when they were finished, he clapped.

"He loves Show and Tell," his teachers told me. "He's always the first to sit down on the rug, waiting for it to begin."


Archer was the class spectator, the "little brother" of the school, one who was mostly an outsider because of his inability to communicate. He needed and received special attention because of his speech delay, and although the kids were kind to him, he never quite found his place and it broke my heart to see him sitting all alone. Smiling but alone.

"I'm afraid he's going to be that kid," I said to Hal one day after dropping Archer off, earlier this year. I had watched too many times him wandering alone in the back of the playground, too shy to join the other children in play.

I recognized in him, myself when I was his age. Soft spoken and sensitive, unsure of how to participate in peer-activity without feeling like I was interrupting. Uninvited. I was always so envious of the children who so easily approached each other, confidently asking, "can I play?"

Archer's speech improved dramatically over the months. From two-word phrases to complete sentences to literally hundreds of words and seemingly overnight.

When the new year started, back in July, Archer was the only child not to move on to the other class. Archer was at least a full year younger than his classmates and so, had no choice but to stay behind in the "threes" class which would mean all new children for him to meet. I was upset at first. I loved the kids in his class and was afraid that their leaving would make Archer feel left out, held back: alone. I was afraid that him being the only child behind, he would feel isolated. Different.

But something happened I did not expect. The new year of school started and when it did, Archer embraced his new status. He was the local. Fearless and confident and excited to flex his big-brother muscle. He got to be the one who knew first where to line up and where the peg-boards were kept and where to sit and when to be quiet. He knew how to work the dump-trucks in the sandbox outside and everything else the new children did not.

I watched from the window as the other boys and girls went to him with questions, scooting over so he could sit down next to them, when it was time to line up on the wall.

"Here, you can sit here, Archer."

"No sit with me!"

"I want Archer to sit on my side!"

Later that day, when I went to pick Archer up from school, his friend, a little girl, started to cry.

"I don't want Archer to leave," she said, whimpering.

Without hesitation Archer handed me his lunchbox and went to hug her.

"It's okay," he said, pulling away slowly. "I'll see you in the morning, kay bye!"

I don't think I said a word to him the entire car-ride home. I was too busy examining his face in the rear-view mirror like I would a stranger. Who is this little boy and when did he become someone else?
Somehow my son had transformed from silent, dependent outsider to communicative, dependable leader in a matter of days.

I was trying to explain Archer's speech developments to my mother recently and came up with a pretty spot-on analogy. "It's like if one day your dog decided to talk in complete sentences after doing nothing but bark for three years."

And it's true. For parents of children with developmental delays, it can at times seem highly unlikely that our children will ever catch up. So when they do catch up it feels surreal. Relieving of course but also strange. Maybe because when we wait long enough for something it becomes easy to forget what it is we are waiting for.

Oh, yeah. This. I was waiting for this.

Last week, Archer's teacher told me to "please remember to bring Archer's Show and Tell next Thursday."

"First Show and Tell of the year!" she said. "And every Thursday from now on, if you could have Archer bring something to school to share, that would be great."

"Really? Are you sure?"

I felt like crying. She might has well have said, "now your kid can do everything the other kids his age can do" after I'd been told so many times "your kid is pretty far behind. Way behind. Two years behind..."

Suddenly, last week, Archer wasn't behind. I had known it for a while, of course, but for some reason it never hit. Not like it did last week. Not like it did this morning when I told Archer to find something special to bring to school for Show and Tell.

"Show and Tell day?"

"Yup!"

"Stay here, Mommy. I'll be right back!"

About a minute later, Archer came running down the hall into the living room, his Brobee and Tutti dolls pressed to his chest.

"Okay! Time to go to school, do show and tell, let's go in da car."

So we did.

And just like every other child in his class, Archer walked through the preschool door this morning with his treasure.


After seven months of sitting cross-legged on the lettered carpet, watching as the other children shared their various items, waiting to catch up, to participate, Archer's name was called. It was his turn. So he stood before his peers with his toys, able as everyone else, and he showed AND told. He told.

And when I picked him up from school, he was still telling. He told me that he had done show and tell and that it was real fun and he did "a good, good job." He told me that he wanted to see his friend Jackson at the park later and that when we got home he wanted to have cookies and milk and went pee-pee on the potty at school and that the music on the radio was fortissimo.

And suddenly it was my turn to sit and say nothing, to marvel at how beautiful the sound.

GGC

69 comments:

Aline | 10:42 PM

lovelovelove

Alysha | 11:20 PM

I cried. Sometimes, the way you write about Archer makes my heart hurt. this is definitely one of those times. its definitely a good thing. Hurray for show AND tell. Go Archer!

Also, I was "that kid". and all the friends I have now as an adult? all former members of the "that kid" club. I think we make for some interesting people though our social skills may be lacking.

Besides, Id rather be the person who always feels that they are intruding or unwanted than be the person who never catches on to the fact that they are indeed unwanted. those people annoy the crap out of me.

Stacy | 12:12 AM

I love this.

Lately I've been feeling something similar. Not so much the speech delay or the peer interaction, but the looking at the little boy and wondering where in the world he came from.

My Avery is 18 months now, and he's starting to use so many words and repeat everything he hears. He wants me to play with him now. He tells me things (even though half of the stories are still gibberish) and I can see his imagination working.

I'm getting glimpses of an actual PERSON behind the eyes and cheeks of my baby boy, and I'm excited to get to know him. It's strange because even though I know him better than anyone else, I'm also beginning to see that there are parts of him that I don't know yet. A personality that is simply innate...not the part that I'm molding but the part that just IS. The person inside the baby.

I'm learning from him. He's always been my son, but now he's becoming my friend. And it's absolutely surreal.

Tia | 12:53 AM

i don't even know you but this post made my heart hurt. first for your little boy because i could just imagine him sitting there on the carpet listening to all of the other kids, and then my heart hurt for you because i can't even imagine how proud you were today.

if i were you, my heart would be bursting.

thanks for sharing this.

Badness Jones | 1:20 AM

That was a beautiful post GGC. I've got tears in my eyes.

kittenpie | 2:50 AM

Oh, so lovely, so poignant, so heart-swelling. This reminds me of how you waited for him to walk, and in his own, sweet time? He DID. I do love watching language happen, it's so fascinating, and it seems like as soon as it starts, it swells from a trickle to a flood in some six months or so, no matter when it comes. It must be so cool to see that happen in him. Glad for both of you that you can share even more together now.

rachel | 5:03 AM

This made me tear up when I read it. I love your blog.

Jennifer | 5:51 AM

I've had that moment, this year in kindergarten. Last year we had pre-K and my daughter was the oldest one in the class, but still behind. This year, she's still one of the oldest, but she fits in so much better. I've had people tell us we should push to move her up with the other six year olds in 1st grade, but I'm glad we waited. The moment you realize that your delayed child is finally getting it after so much frustration is a wonderful feeling. Beautifully written.

A | 6:28 AM

I read faithfully (and also loved your book) but rarely comment. I am so moved by this, though, I just need to say... well, I don't know what. I guess just, how special this is, and what a great kid.

merseydotes | 6:34 AM

What a milestone, Rebecca. Congrats on it.

(Crap, I totally forgot Sharing Day today - ugh.)

JC | 6:43 AM

Beautiful.

Two of our kids have speech issues, Puck is delayed and Will has a stutter. This parenting thing sure is a rocky road, but we have to celebrate each step of the way!

Sadie | 6:46 AM

Man, Archer sounds like a really cool person. And this was beautiful.

Karen Sugarpants | 6:48 AM

Beautiful Bec, just beautiful. I read all the time but haven't been commenting. Best of luck with the new arrival too...pretty soon Archer will be that big brother! xo

Hilary | 6:49 AM

I can't believe how gorgeous he is- congrats on the Showing and Telling.

EG | 7:01 AM

Hooray for Archer! And "fortissimo"? I need to start using bigger words.

xdm | 7:33 AM

GO Archer! (and Go Bec!) Wait til he has that little sister to "help" and be a big brother to. It will be amazing.

Rhea | 7:33 AM

Oh, this post totally tugged on my heartstrings in a big way. So touching and wonderful. I'm SO happy for Archer. The mother in me wants to pick him up and give him a huge hug.

Thank you for sharing this.

Kristi | 7:51 AM

That was beautiful. It's wonderful and terrible at the same time to see your children grow up. It happens so quickly. I teared up at work reading this.

Tracey | 7:53 AM

Ooohh!!! I'm so happy for you and Archer. That's a fabulous transition!

Dabby | 8:14 AM

I don't even have kids and this made me tear up. That was so beautiful, I'm so happy for you.

Wicked Step Mom | 8:18 AM

That is an amazing story. I am so glad that he never got discouraged and that he can now do what the other kids his age do. I am so glad that you get to hear him talk. Sometimes I just like to sit and listen to the youngest talk. Even when she is annoying her older sisters with her non-stop chatter. I just love to hear her talk.

Erin | 8:32 AM

Hooray for Archer! Aren't these moments amazing? My son has a speech delay also and is finally thriving in his Pre-K class. It's been so much fun to just watch him turn into...himself.

Show and Tell is Colin's favorite day at school also!

Indigo Children | 8:43 AM

tears...

for a boy I don't know.

But a feeling I do.

I want to cheer for him.

Thank God you trust your own instincts and know him so well.

Who knew Show and Tell could be so emotional :)

Jordan | 8:48 AM

I've read your site for a while now and really enjoy your writing. This post really speaks to me and makes me hopeful that this will happen for my 4 year old speech delayed son. At the same time I'm scared it won't happen. My boy is in a special education speech classroom 3 afternoons a week and I just started him in a typical preschool 2 mornings a week. Gone too much for my liking since he's a hoot to have at home, but I think he needs the interaction with other kids without speech delays to help him. I long for the day when I can truely understand him and more so when others can understand this funny, sweet little boy. I'm so happy for Archer!

pamela | 8:53 AM

you make me love being a moma even more than i already do. just knowing that there are other people out there that just love their kids so much! it makes me happy. GO ARCHER!

oh and tuesday's post was also awesome... as usual.

MamaFeelgood | 9:23 AM

Bravo!

rantsalamode | 9:36 AM

What an inspirational story! There are no words to explain how beautiful and touching that is.

Mom101 | 9:55 AM

You made me cry. At work.

Kids are so wonderfully resilient, but perhaps more surprising is that we are too.

Amanda | 10:21 AM

Amazing. It's sad and rewarding to see you little ones grow up. I look at my son everyday and am amazed at how far he has come in 4 short years. Your writing is wonderful & really captures being a mom. Thank you for sharing your world with us.

Beth | 10:23 AM

This post has me in tears! Happy tears, but still, tears!

Deanna | 10:55 AM

A ton of "Hell Yeahs!" headed your way!

mary catherine | 10:59 AM

goosebumps...

thanks for showing and telling.

emilie | 11:02 AM

oh rebecca, you have 'sploded my heart again. thanks!

nancy | 11:16 AM

How awesome that his teachers LET him be exactly the kid he needed to be--that they focused on the positives, like "Archer loves show and tell and is the first one sitting and waiting." What a positive environment for him to be in. Kudos to them!

I really believe that if you love your kids unconditionally, they will be just fine. Clearly, Archer is one loved little boy--so kudos to you too!

marlene | 11:33 AM

just found your blog. love it. going back month by month to 'catch up'.

stljoie | 11:39 AM

How wonderful and fortunate that you found the exact school and teachers who knew what Archer needed. Archer has a special place in my heart. My youngest grandson is 12 and the others adults and I miss having a small child...Archer helps.

Amanda | 11:39 AM

Wonderful post.

Angela | 11:42 AM

Beautiful story! Still crying!

Sonja | 12:03 PM

Ditto to what everybody else is saying - just beautiful! Archer is going to have such a treasure when you are able to give him these stories.

Emery Jo | 12:33 PM

I can SO relate to this. Ever since Ezra was born, I've been saying "I can't wait until we can TALK together." His speech was delayed too, and I felt myself grieving for sooo long. No one seemed to understand this. They'd tell me I'd be sad when he started talking because my 'baby' would be gone and that I'd be frustrated because he'd 'talk my ear off' once he got going.

And now that he CAN talk, I am in heaven. Absolute heaven!! It's the most amazing experience to sit and listen to my son. I love every moment of it.

Julie | 1:05 PM

This is the first post of yours I have read (I came because of the Oh Baby Baby Shower - congrats). It is poignant and beautifully written. As others have said, it made me tear up.

I kept wondering why the teachers didn't ask you about S&T and indicate earlier a way for your son to join in. Having just come from dropping my two year old off with his S&T item, one I had been reminded to bring after two weeks of not knowing, this seemed to be a glaring omission on their part.

My son is slightly ahead in verbal ability, and very engaging most of the time, but I was That Kid, and am still That Adult. I have to push myself out of my watching and smiling self and force myself to engage with others if I am not approached first. My little bundle of joy doesn't seem to have that problem, but it is hard to watch as he approaches older kids and asks to play with them, and they ignore him because he is little. Or, as happened the other day, they growl at him in play, which frightens him, and he comes running to me.

Leah | 1:06 PM

Wow. Way to go Archer, Bec, and Hal. You've all worked hard and waited long for this.

bmcheartsarchersagebrushmcgeniusohandsome | 1:06 PM

holy cheebus, he's channeling hal with that hat on. of *course* all the little girls are gonna want a hug from archer wearing that chapeau.

proud of you guys. all three-point-eight-nine of you. teamwork. you're good at it.

archer, it's lovely of you to share what you know with your classmates. i'd be interested in seeing what else you take to school on future thursdays. don't know if there's any real estate left around here for something of that nature, perhaps in a corner. one picture per thursday? as if you're mother has nothing else to do.

love you.
call me.
(right now)

Kelly | 1:52 PM

Too sweet. Made me cry too. my son just started preschool and he is similar to your son. Shy, passive, etc. I worry so much about him when he is at school, but deep down I know he will blossom. Thank you for the inspiration to know that it will come.

Kelly | 2:02 PM

Delurking to tell you I loved this post. I can relate in so many ways. Congrats to Archer.

Wendy Woolf | 2:13 PM

OK..you made Gooey cry. And cry. I love me some Archer!!! And his mommy and daddy!! :)

Misfit Hausfrau | 2:35 PM

Thank you for writing that. I am happy for Archer that he has discovered his voice. I have two motormouths and I have always taken it for granted--that is until now.

jjlibra | 2:59 PM

boo to the mutha truckin' hoo!! what a post. bravo archer!!!

Kristin | 3:30 PM

As the mother of TWO speech-delayed children, a set of twins, my heart felt your pain and joy while I read this post. Thank you for reminding me of just how far my children have come. Written through tears, lots of tears, and a bursting heart.

Jeanette L. | 4:15 PM

beautiful post.

The Mommy | 4:20 PM

Beautiful. My eyes are filled with tears...

Billie | 5:06 PM

eah for Archer!! My daughter started Montessori in February and while being very advanced verbally, she was very, very shy. She loved being there but would only talk to the teachers and only when no one else was around. As soon as we arrived there each morning she would go sit on a bench and wouldn't move until they went in and as soon as they came out to play later would instantly go back and sit on that bench. My heart broke when one day when I came to pick her up one of the little kids asked me "why does Sage always sit there and never plays?". Her teacher jumped in by saying, "Sage is just like me, she loves to people watch". I was grateful for her positive twist on the situation because I refuse to say that she is shy believing this to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, something must have happened over the summer because now when I arrive, while she may not be in the middle of a large group she will be playing amongst the group and just today one of her "friends" told me when I came to pick her up that "Sage is really fun to play with". Oh, the pride!!!

Congratulations Archer!

ct | 9:03 PM

What a beautiful story. Congrats to your little boy for being the cool kid and still compassionate to others, too. You should be proud, very proud.

Elaine A. | 10:08 PM

This got me all teary-eyed. I find myself always rooting for he "underdog" so to speak, and in this case he triumphed. My heart is so full reading about your son's progress.

And such a beautiful post...

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 12:08 AM

You're all awesome. Thank you so much for your words and your encouragement since the beginning. It means (and meant) so much.

norii_chan | 5:51 AM

I just wanted to say I understand all the secret fears you mentioned because I have them too. My son has a speech delay and is very shy. As I was reading your post I teared up and felt like my heart would burst. Thanks for putting the words out there.

marissa | 5:58 AM

I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face. This touched me beyond what I can express in a comment blurb. However, I am hoping that you might not mind if I print this and put it up in my office at work. I am a speech-language pathologist and work with preschoolers in an urban setting. I think that reading something like this is a must for the people that work with young children in this capacity. It reminded me why I do this,who I am doing it for and why I should be honored to spend my time with other people's beautiful children.I am so happy for you and Archer. I hope the sounds in your home grow more beautiful each day.

iMommy | 11:14 AM

Wow, how amazing! I actually just finished reading your book (loved it, btw!) so this was a great follow up... and I can't really explain but this post touched me. I feel all choked up and proud, like Archer is MY son, which is silly I suppose... I am so happy for you! What a beautiful moment and memory.

Summer | 9:35 PM

This is the first post I've read of yours. I almost cried (but over the years I've perfected the art of holding back). Uhm yeah all I have to say... haha

Stimey | 10:54 AM

This post was a little hard to read because my (autistic) middle son still is that kid.

But the story you tell here is amazing and wonderful, and I am so happy for you and Archer. It's a wonderful thing.

My oldest son was speech delayed at 2 and incredibly shy until 4. I had moments just like you describe here. These days (he's almost 7) he's incredibly social and never stops talking. It's amazing.

Fraulein | 5:56 PM

Totally crying, reading this -- I KNEW he would catch up. It must be such an amazing feeling, watching him blossom like this!

It's amazing about show and tell, isn't it? They all love it. My Peanut takes forever in the morning trying to decide what to bring in for her show and tell!

Two Beautiful Girls Mommy | 6:06 PM

What a beautiful post about a beautiful child.

Anonymous | 7:17 AM

Great news about Archer. I'm a little confused, though. Wasn't he diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum? Maybe I have your blog confused with another but i thought he was. if so, does that mean he was misdiagnosed?
Show and tell time was HUGE when my three were preschoolers. My MIL gave my oldest son a copy of "Little Black Sambo" and he couldn't understand why we wouldn't let him take it to show and tell.
My friend's son once found her vibrator and sneaked it to school for show and tell. The teacher intercepted it before it was shown to the class!

Windy | 2:17 PM

What a wonderful post, and it gives so much hope to others who may be in the same situation as you. You must have been so proud!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 5:25 PM

Archer was never diagnosed with anything other than speech delay, which I knew all along to be the case. We did have to go through Early Intervention, various tests and such but in the end: Archer's diagnosis was "has speech delay." Through EI he was approved for Speech Therapy, which we dropped out of because every speech therapist Archer met with sucked, and early preschool, which has been incredible for him and for all of us. (He started at 2 1/2. EI pays for preschool for approved children until age 3.)

Rachael | 5:20 PM

I cried too because I know that prideful feeling, and it's amazing. My little boy is 28 months and JUST started repeating some words and learning to talk. I can't imagine how I'll feel the day he can do things like show and tell. Amazing.

gwendomama | 6:18 PM

damn you for making me sob sob sob.

and some day, hopefully, i can write the same post.
i don't know if we'll ever jump that shark.

bombaygirl | 6:33 PM

beautiful. We are still waiting for our show-and-tell moment, hopefully soon!

Bobbie | 6:55 AM

Hi there. I'm new to your blog and have been reading bits of it as and when I can. Last night I read your post about the specialist coming to see you for the first time to assess Archer, and then today I read this post and it has put the biggest, fattest smile on my face. Beautifully written.