Don't speak

3 years ago

Don't speak
I know just what you're saying
So please stop explaining
Don't tell me cause it hurts

-No Doubt

Milk became a four-letter-word in our house.

It's Philip’s favorite beverage. He consumes so much that I was certain it would be his first word. That’s why I modeled the word at every opportunity.

Here’s your milk, Philip.
Do you want milk, Philip?
Mmm, milk is yummy.
Uh-oh! It looks like your milk is all gone.

Nothing in Philip's behavior indicated that my constant repetition was having any effect. I came to realize that Philip will say milk when he is ready. I’ve been pleased when he uses pictures to request the drink, but I’ll have to be patient to hear the word from his lips. I'm learning to accept that being able to talk isn't as important as being able to communicate.

This new-found acceptance isn't what prompted me to lay off the modeling though. No, something else caused me to spell out the word "milk" rather than uttering it aloud.

A few months ago, I was in the living room with Philip. I don’t remember if I was talking to him or to Peter. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but the word “milk” was included.

After I finished speaking, Philip ran crying from the room.

"What's wrong with him?" Peter asked me.

"I don't know," I replied in confusion. I noticed Philip was standing beside the refrigerator.

I guess he's thirsty, I thought. Since it was close to his bed time, I chalked it up to toddler crankiness.

Several days later, Philip had only been out of bed for a few minutes when it happened again. He had gone to the refrigerator to get his milk and was now sitting on the couch with it.

Peter asked me, "What's Philip doing?"

"Drinking his milk," I answered.

As soon as the word was out of my mouth, Philip responded.

"Waa-AAA-aaa-AAA-aaa!" Philip's wail oscillated with each step as he ran from the living room to the kitchen. I watched him open the refrigerator. Even though he already had his milk in his hand, he was looking for it on the now-empty shelf.

"Philip," I tried to soothe him, "you already have your milk."

Philip cried once again, slamming the refrigerator door shut for emphasis.

Suddenly, a light bulb went on in my head. Philip understood me. He was reacting to the word "milk." Despite this "Aha!" moment, I would forget and continue to say the word.

"Hey, Peter-are we out of milk?"

Cue the crying.

This happened enough times that I started spelling it, but I forgot to warn my mom. We were eating dinner at my parents' house, when Grandma asked, "Philip, do you want some milk?"

She was taken aback by the shrill cry Philip let out. I tried to be helpful.

"You can't say the word 'milk,'" I explained.

Another cry.


"Um, see what I mean," I said. Peter gave me a dirty look.

For the next few weeks, I remembered to spell m-i-l-k.

Then, one day, I accidentally said milk again.

And nothing happened.

Well, not nothing. Philip went and got his milk from the fridge. Without crying, without drama. He understood me and wasn't upset.

Soon, we were at my parents’ again for supper. Philip wasn't eating.

"He's probably just thirsty," I told them. "Philip, do you want some milk?"

You would have thought I had just dropped the F-bomb from the look on my mother's face. My dad froze. Peter tensed. Philip calmly climbed off his chair and went to the refrigerator to get a drink.

“We can say milk again,” I said. I picked up my fork and ate.

That's water in his sippy cup. That's w-a-t-e-r in his sippy cup.
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