How Could I Have Missed This?

red flagThere was a time in my past, that time when Fartbuster started making a real effort to be happier.  He got contact lenses.  He started working out.  Bought some new clothes and experimented with hair products.  I found myself saying, “He’s getting better.  He’s taking care of himself.”  Duh!  He exhibited every cliched sign of a cheating man–right down to the lipstick on his collar.  Once the lies came to the surface, I sat all alone in the ruins of my life and said, “How could I have missed this?”  I was so ashamed that someone had fooled me like that.  How could I have been so stupid?

There was a time in my past, that time when Richard couldn’t seem to shake that cold.  He had no energy.  Sometimes, he’d spike a fever.  He finally went to the doctor but the doctor said it was bronchitis.  The antibiotics didn’t clear it up but it was the end of the semester so he was feeling exhausted anyway.  That was probably all it was.  His grandmother died and he felt low.  He had bruises,  but said they were from skiing…back in March?  And now it was May?  Then there was that blood vessel that burst in his eye and didn’t get better during two weeks of vacation.  His vision began to cross so he finally went to an ophthalmologist who thought there was a chance he had a retinal bleed.  When Richard mentioned that he hadn’t been feeling himself for a while, the doctor ordered a CBC.  Within 48 hours, Richard was at Johns Hopkins on the oncology ward.  A few days later, our film from that vacation came back and when I saw the pictures–him resting on a driftwood tree, his legs covered in a solid swath of bruises from yellow to purple–I was so ashamed that I had “let him” walk around like that, so obviously sick. I hid the pictures.  And I asked myself, “How could I have missed this?”  How could I have been so stupid?

Red flags.  Why didn’t I see them?

I know, I know–it was never my job to police a cheater.  And I know, I know–leukemia is easy to miss in an otherwise healthy 37-year-old man who doesn’t like to go to the doctor.  No one blamed me because I didn’t order a CBC right away.  But because I’ve been spun sideways by a couple of doozies like these, I sometimes feel like I am just living in wait, waiting for some shoe to drop.

I thought that shoe had fallen back in December when I took my darling son in for his well visit and left with a handful of red flags.  Filling out those social/verbal/motor skills inventories threw me for a loop.  I thought he was independent, a free spirit….but maybe he doesn’t know how to interact with other people?  I thought he talked when he wanted to talk…but he’s falling behind his peers.  Where’s the line between a hard-headed little boy and a syndrome, a condition, a diagnosis?   When our doctor said, “I don’t think he has autism, but let’s get him screened now that he’s three,” the first thing I asked myself was “How could I have missed this?”  How could I have been so stupid?

Now it turns out that my son has some kind of language issue.  I haven’t wanted to talk about it here (and as soon as I typed that, my stomach knotted up and I thought about deleting the whole thing for the 1000th time) because it’s still hazy.  He’s getting speech therapy and he’s making swift progress.  The doctor is encouraged.  I’m encouraged.  And the fact is that he’s still my baby boy, no matter what.  I write about personal things here, but usually it’s things that are resolved.  Lot of rear view mirror stuff on Baddest Mother Ever.  Not things that are “we’ll see.”

The whole thing got me thinking about this reflex of saying, “How could I have missed this?”  Because when I sat across the table from a speech therapist who says, “Yeah, he’s not making sentences,” I felt like an idiot.  How could strangers be telling me something about my own son?

The same way a doctor knows how to read a CBC.  It’s what they do.

Now I’m looking for red flags EVERYWHERE.  I won’t be fooled again.  I will figure this OUT and by sheer force of will I will……


I will accept whatever comes along.

Because that’s what I learned from the other doozies.  Even if I HAD seen the red flags from Fartbuster and Richard, I couldn’t have changed anything.  I can’t “fix” what happens with other people, even my own kids.

All I can do is love them where they are, how they are, who they are.

I am hopeful for Carlos.  On the first day he started getting speech therapy, I picked him up and decided to spend some car time working on his conversation skills.  The therapist said he needs to learn to express “Yes” and “No” and I could help him with that by asking simple questions.  We also want to increase his “mean length of utterance” to an average of 3.  So I asked him, “Is your name Carlos?”

His reply?  “That’s funny, Mommy.”

Then he started saying his colors in Spanish–he LOVES Spanish.  I pointed to my shirt and asked, “Que color?”  He said, “Wojo!”  I said, “Si!  Mi camisa es roja!”  Then he said a few more color words.  I was at a stop light, so I picked up my knee and pointed to my black pants.  “Que color, Carlos?”  I lifted my knee higher and waggled the fabric.

He caught my eye in the rear view mirror and said, “Drive car, Mommy.”

21 thoughts on “How Could I Have Missed This?

  1. Miss K

    Once again you have hit the nail on the head and explored something or some things that I also experienced. I also missed the reasons behind a more cheerful husband, and when he stopped kissing me I thought I must have bad breath. Sheesh. When my son was in 2nd grade he brought home a paper saying he had been referred to the speech therapist at school. I was livid. This was a gifted kid with an impressive vocabulary. I called the teacher to rant and she apologized for not letting me know first (she of course assumed I had noticed what everyone else was noticing). She said she had been quietly observing but when the other kids in class started correcting him, she figured we had better address it before that became teasing. Seriously? Second-graders noticed something I hadn’t about my own precious, first-born? Thanks again for sharing. You make me feel like a normal person so many mornings.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Thanks for telling me that! We keep each other normal. Maybe communication is something we notice LESS with our kids because it is innate between mother and child. I can look at Carlos sideways and tell pretty well what he’s needing, so it never dawned on me that he needs to learn to express that!

  2. Julie kimbrell

    You are an awesome Mom! You didn’t miss anything, you embraced who and where (developmentally) your child was. He is getting early intervention from the right person. As the mom of an 8th grader with an IEP (dyslexia) since kindergarten, this too shall pass.

    So many parents just ignore the pediatrician or aren’t honest in the first place, so the doc can’t make the suggestion for an evaluation. Getting the evaluation and starting the therapy is HUGE. Carlos benefits from a family that isn’t burying their heads in the sand and saying “He’ll grow out of it”. Pat yourself on the back and encourage others to do that screening and find out what therapy or intervention will make a difference for their child. You can (and already are) spreading awareness that early intervention is best! Thank you for the awesome choice to share your story here.

      1. mariner2mother

        I completely echo Julie’s comment. My son was 2 and wasn’t really talking yet when his pediatrician became concerned. As my son is my one and only, I had no one to compare him to, and I was completely oblivious. Starting speech therapy was huge for my son. And when the lightbulb came on in my son about language and words, it was great to see. For us, it was just the tip of the iceberg, but there are so many parents out there who don’t seek help for their kids because the parents take it as a sign that they, the parents are defective or deficient in some way- when it’s not about the parents, but rather about the child.

      2. Baddest Mother Ever

        That’s so good to hear! Carlos is ALREADY talking more, using longer expressions, making requests. I do feel like “it’s my fault” but I feel like it’s my fault when it rains.

  3. Virginia Wilcox

    Yeah…he’s gonna be just fine and as for those red flags…I’m guessing that’s how everyone feels in hindsight…it’s always 20/20…I had a similar situation happen to me last year and beat myself up for a month or two that I hadn’t ‘seen’ the signs…On Georgia and Teresa’s softball team I was the head coach…one of the team member’s dad’s volunteered to be my ‘dugout dad’ to stay in the dugout and manage the girls for batting order. Turns out at the end of the season he’d been fondling the girls and making sexually inappropriate innuendoes and jokes with them all season…right under my nose…not one girl said anything until charges came out against him with another girl in another setting and then when they came to investigate him to see if there was a pattern of this behavior in his other duties…BOOM…almost every girl on the team had something offensive to report (even my own two!)…still even they never even mentioned any of it to me during the regular season…but in hindsight…I should have seen all the many red flags and signs and blindly did not. SO easy to beat ourselves up…and I did…still do…but someone like that is really good at hiding the signs…and in your situations other more positive thoughts and logic tends to outweigh the negative…I’d think that falls under human nature. I love you girl!

  4. Holly Parker

    As a kindergarten teacher, it often fell to me to break the news to parents about a possible speech problem. I began to really dread that task because many times they directed their anger at me for suggesting that their child ” had a problem”. Denial is a coping mechanism and sometimes we’re just not ready to face certain issues. But the good news is that, of all the things I had to go through with my students/parents, speech was the easiest to solve. Speech therapy had noticeable and fast results. Carlos will be fine and you did catch it at an early age. You’re a good mom, Ashley.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Thanks, Holly! I’ve certainly discovered my own denial in this process, but as his doctor said, “We don’t hide from this.” I keep that mantra in mind whenever I want to stick my head in the sand.

      1. Leigh

        I’m a speech/language pathologist and have worked in the public schools for over 15 years now. But I missed it in my very own child. His speech is fine (he mumbles sometimes and I have to ask him to repeat it) and language is good. Those mumbles…I should have paid attention to though. He had been living with his father for a couple of years after our separation and ultimate divorce and he came to live with me this past summer. He’s 18 and a great kid. We joke and play. We’re sarcastic as all get out with each other. We have fun. He’s maturing into a wonderful young man. But one night when we were cutting up I stuck my tongue out at him. In turn, he stuck his right back out at me. AND THERE IT WAS! The tale tale sign that I had missed for 18 years!!! When he stuck his tongue out, it didn’t form that normal point that we see. It pulled back in the middle, like a heart. His frenum (that little piece of skin that helps anchor your tongue to the bottom of your mouth) was/is too short/too tight. He needed his tongue clipped! That is why he has been mumbling all these years! I thought he was just being lazy! I, being the wonderful mom that I am, just blurted it out…YOU NEED YOUR TONGUE CLIPPED! He looked at me and nobody is clipping my tongue. I said well you wouldn’t mumble so much. I got the glare…the teenage glare. Then I looked at him and said, “Well, it would make you a better kisser as well. Just saying” That got his attention. Have I taken him to the doctor to get him checked out to see if they will even clip an 18 year old boy’s tongue? Nope. He’s still not too keen on the idea. So instead we came up with some oral motor exercises that focus on stretching that little thingy.
        I share this to say, we all miss things that are right in front of our face (even if it is what we do for a living). You have not ignored it once it came to your attention and you are getting that sweet, precious boy the help that he needs. That is a big pat on the back and a shine your halo moment girly!

        P.S. From what you wrote, it sounds like he’s coming along well. And should you ever have any questions or what not. Well you know where to find me! 🙂

  5. mysocalledglamorouslife

    When my son was in Kindergarten the school called to tell me that he was color blind. I scoffed and said that they couldn’t possibly be correct because my son knew his colors – all of them. His teacher said yes, but he failed the color blindness test. He had been in day care and pre-school his entire life and could distinguish between different shades of any color (Spruce green and Fir green) in the crayon box so I just knew that there was no way that it could be true. Well, not only was it true (as confirmed by an ophthalmologist), but it was EXTREMELY true. He is completely color blind seeing in shades of gray. Since that’s all he’s ever known, he has learned his colors and named them according to what shade of gray he sees. I felt like a complete failure. How could I not have known this? I’m a good mother, right?! Yes, I am, and so are you. Ashley, you caught it early and it can be dealt with. My son and I survived his colorblindness and I was not labeled the worst mother in the world….and neither are you. 🙂

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  7. DeeAnn Cox

    “I could not have changed anything, I can’t fix what happens with other people, even my own kids. All I can do is love them where they are, how they are, who they are.”

    My prayer this morning is to learn this and live this. Thank You.

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