When my little buddy turned two-years-old, the doctor handed me a packet to fill out for the second time. One with postage already on it, addressed to the “Department of Developmental Delays”.
Nathan has been slow to catch on to the whole talking thing. And when he does speak, it comes out funny. Every word starts with the “g” sound. Except for “momma”, which sounds a whole lot more like “bobba”. I noticed it quite a few months ago, and after talking with a few friends, I mentioned it to the doctor around his 18 month appointment. At that point, he had next to no words, and she handed me the packet for the first time, saying it was probably nothing.
The second time she handed it to me, I didn’t ask for it. She offered and strongly suggested I fill it out and turn it in as quickly as possible.
It was frustrating because I knew he understood me. He’d obey what I said, he’d go pick up a toy or bring me a book. But he wouldn’t speak much. And the words he did know, only Jon and I understood. But he was smart, I knew he was smart. So I wanted to get to the bottom of this speech issue as quickly as we could. The frustration wasn’t only on my side, Nathan was starting to get frustrated at the things he wanted to say, but couldn’t. And it was becoming a problem. And then the doctor handed me this packet, with a knowing look in her eye.
The undercurrent of worry that I had tried to brush aside turned into a full-blown storm. I filled out the paperwork. We made appointments. I googled things. We learned about audiologists and speech therapy and other possible issues. I mentally prepared myself for this mountain we were about to climb.
While we were waiting for our appointments (speech therapy is booked out for months, apparently) I took Nathan back into the doctor for like the fifth time in a month. He had a cough that he just couldn’t shake, and his nose was running constantly. We’d done everything we knew how to do at home, and still he was sick. The doctor could never find anything wrong with him, but I still took him in regularly to make sure his lungs were clear.
This time, the doctor wanted to check for an ear infection, but she couldn’t even see inside his ears. Sorry for the TMI, but my family has a long history of excessive ear wax production. It’s a whole thing. And Nathan’s ears were completely blocked.
To be able to determine whether or not he had an ear infection, the doctor ordered for his ears to be flushed out. I don’t know if you’ve done this before, but IT IS NOT FUN. The nurse comes in with a sheet, wraps Nathan up like a burrito (which doesn’t help a whole lot, because he is strong), and then I have to lean over him on the table and pin his arms and legs down so he doesn’t move while they flush out his ears with warm water. You can imagine how much he enjoys this. The first time we had to do it, we both cried.
This time we got both ears completely cleared out. The times we’ve had it done before, they only cleared out enough wax to be able to see any inflammation. Both times before, he did have an ear infection, so they stopped flushing and just started us on antibiotics. (No use in putting him in more pain if we know what the problem is.) This time, no ear infection. No answers. Nothing but clean ears.
We went home, stressed out even more, because now my kid had speech delays AND a mystery illness. Fabulous.
I noticed Nathan was extremely quiet that night. I figured he was still a little shaken from the traumatic ear flushing incident (I sure was). He seemed as contemplative as a two-year-old can be, and went to bed without any issues.
Turns out, he was just hearing things for the first time.
The next morning, he woke up and said “MOMMA!!”, clear and beautiful, with all of the “m’s” and no “b’s” whatsoever. He’s said it correctly ever since.
That next week, his speech exploded. He picked up a ton of new words, started pronouncing old words correctly, and began talking louder than ever before. (I could have done without that last part, but we’ll take it.)
We finally got in to see the audiologist last week, and his hearing tested perfectly. We are still waiting to see the speech therapist, but after talking with the audiologist and our doctor (again), I’m not so worried anymore. Because do you know what was wrong with my son?
Ear wax. Just a good, old-fashioned case of too much ear wax, people.
The audiologist told us that Nathan’s ear canals are very, very narrow – much smaller than the average person’s. They may grow as he does, but for now? Even a minimal amount of wax can completely seal them off. Which is what happened. He couldn’t hear!! Everything was muffled, which explains why his words came out garbled, and why he started most of his words with the same sound. That’s how he was hearing things, if he heard them at all.
It ended up being an easy fix. Regular ear-flushing until he grows into his ears, or until his body stops making so much wax. But we are ear-flushing experts by now, so this is really not that big of a deal.
I cannot even tell you how relieved I am. That mountain I was preparing to climb? It was really a mole hill. A very small, very silly little mole hill, made out of wax.
The other day, I had the rare opportunity to drive somewhere alone, with no kids in the car. (And all the moms sang “Hallelujah!!!”) Jon and I had just had a “discussion” (if you’re new here, this means WE ARGUED, but it sounds much nicer, doesn’t it?), at the end of which I was still upset over something minimal that he had done, completely unintentionally. In the car, alone with my thoughts, I started praying about it, and God brought this ordeal with Nathan to mind.
I was SO CONCERNED that my child could have something seriously wrong. I have so many friends raising kids with speech issues, and I am constantly amazed at all they do for their children. And I immediately leapt to the conclusion that my baby boy would have a speech issue too. I dove into research and preparation and gearing up for what was sure to be incredibly difficult.
Let’s just call this an overreaction, shall we?
Because that speech issue I was sure Nathan had? IT WAS JUST EAR WAX. The easiest of all possible solutions. The most ridiculous thing in the whole world. NOT A BIG DEAL AT ALL.
And I realized that oh my goodness… there are so many times in my marriage where I take a tiny ball of ear wax and I turn it into a giant mountain.
He didn’t take out the trash again… He must not love me.
He is staying late at work… He must not want to be home with me and the kids.
He left his egg shells on the counter again… He must not listen to a single word I say.
And do you know what? I’m being ridiculous. When I overreact about the little things, and jump to conclusions about the big things, all I’m doing is tearing down our marriage. When I let the irritations become the definition of my husband’s feelings for me, instead of trusting what I know to be true, I am being ridiculous.
Just like the ear wax.
Of course he loves me… but sometimes he forgets to take out the trash. And really, those two things are not related all that closely.
Of course he wants to be home with me and the kids… but he also works hard for our family, and strives to do the very best he can at his job.
Of course he listens to what I have to say… but… well… actually I have no explanation for the egg shell thing. I still think it’s gross.
At this point, I am concerned that I’ve typed the words “ear wax” too many times for anyone to take this post seriously, and I wish that there was some story that was a little bit less “bodily fluids” for me to share with you. But the truth is that this has been one of the best and clearest lessons about my own marriage lately.
I think maybe sometimes we all need a reminder that it’s easy to overreact, especially where our husbands are concerned. And really, some things are just not that big a deal.
Sometimes the big deals happen. Our babies are diagnosed with something scary, our marriages suffer a huge blow, or someone close to us is gone from this earth more quickly than we’d hoped. Big things do happen, and God is most certainly there through all of them.
But that’s not what I’m talking about today. Today, I’m talking about the little things that we turn into big things. The little things that, if properly addressed without overreaction, actually have very simple solutions.
So today, as silly as it is, maybe this story can encourage you too. Maybe you stop for an extra second before blowing up at your husband and ask yourself “Is this an ear wax sort of situation? Can it be resolved easily if I don’t imagine it into a huge deal?” Maybe it helps you see things a different way.
I went home that afternoon and apologized to Jon for taking the situation so personally. I did NOT tell him the way God brought me to repentance using an ear wax story, lest he think I was insane.
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