“I have a question,” he said at lunch. I was on a cultural interview with several people that I’d hoped to be working with soon. “Ok,” I replied, thinking “Crap, what else can I tell these people already?” It was my fifth meeting and I was annoyed at having to wear a suit on five different occasions for them. Couldn’t they have merged some of these interviews together?
“If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?” he asked. I laughed, and spurted “I’d want magical healing powers.”
I did want magical healing powers. Back then, my son was three years old and navigating preschool autism classroom, speech therapy, and the new world where my doubts about his unmet milestones had only recently been confirmed as Officially Delayed. I wanted to “fix” my baby. I thought a lot about whether to fix the child or whether to fix the world.
I wanted to possess the magic key – the superpowers that would help him to speak.
Tonight, wondering about superpowers, invisibility, teleportation, and having the ability to make time stop, I planned to talk about how I’d want my son to stay exactly as he is but to have the superpower himself to speak more clearly.
That when he says “girl,” it sounds like “girl” rather than “go-whoa.” That never again would my little boy be bullied by a kid on the bus for “sounding like a baby.” That I’d never again be driving home from playing and hear him say “I need a doctor. My mouth is broken and nobody understands me.”
Being able to fix his words was my wished-upon superpower.
I’m thinking about words and accents and the way that each of us speaks and pronounces. Boston’s “cah” is “car” and Chicago’s “mam” is “mom” and “you guys” from Colorado is “y’all” in the south.
Would having the superpower of helping my son’s speech also mean that I’d be taking away culture, religion, accents, and the power that comes from using words given to us from family for generations? Does wanting to fix my son’s speech patterns also mean that I’d be taking away somebody’s accent?
It seems as if part of the reason that we love accents is because they’re gifted to us, scented with promise of other lands and other cultures. Accents are a reminder that this world is so much bigger than we know while driving to the local grocery for watermelon.
What though, if rather than looking at language and accents, we were to revert back to a place where the only thing that matters is a tiny baby saying his first words, intelligible to only his mother.
That is the power of language.
Me, thinking that I want to possess a superpower that would make my son not feel as if his mouth is broken. What if it weren’t he who should be the one to change?
What if my superpower was to magic-wand the entire planet to grow up with empathy and wonder and appreciation? What if my son not being able to say “r” or “l” and adding syllables to words and not ever saying some of them “correctly” at all were just his unique foreign accent? What if the way that we speak, or don’t speak, is looked at as more of a glimpse into our culture and into our minds?
When I think about it like that, I don’t want to “fix” my son’s language. I want to fix the rest of the world who, when they can’t understand him, dismiss him.
I want the world to know that my little boy’s unique way of speaking is intriguing and amazing and that he finds a way to get his point across no matter what.
I want my superpower to be that I bop the world on the head to remind them that language is here to communicate. That if a little boy on the bus says “go-woah” rather than “girl,” that it’s okay to ask what he means. That judging him takes away his words completely.
I have a friend who hesitates to volunteer in our children’s shared classroom, because of her language barrier. She grew up elsewhere, and often decides to not speak rather than taking a position volunteering when she wants to. I want her to know that it’s not her job to be silent. I want her to know that it’s our job to have the empathy and patience to understand her words. I know that they are important.
I have a six-year-old who hesitates to participate when he wants to because of his language barrier. He grew up here with me, and is delayed. He often decides to not speak rather than taking a position on the playground when he wants to. I want him to know that it’s not his job to be silent. I want him to know that it’s our job to have the empathy and patience to understand his words. I know that they are important.
I want my superpower to be bopping all of us on the head with the reminder that we’re all human. That we’re more alike than different. That communication matters more than pronunciation, accent, or extra syllables given from a little kid with special needs.
Also? Teleportation would be amazing.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. Today’s sentence was “If I could have any superpower, I would want to be able to…”
Hosted by moi, as always, (FindingNinee), and by Amy of A Goode One (and this week’s thinker upper) and Michelle of Crumpets and Bollocks,a regular and an awesome mama who knows all about autism from all the ways. They are both amazing. Give them some love.