My Son Doesn't Speak At School Yet, But I Hope He'll One Day Find His Voice

"We each need to decide when and if it’s time to speak."

I went to this guy's parent teacher conference yesterday with just the slightest bit of trepidation. I know he's in good hands, the best, but also there's this:

He doesn't speak.

He does speak to us — A LOT — but he only speaks to us. Just his family and no one else, which means he is silent from the time he boards the bus at 8 until when he steps back off at 4, at which point he erupts into a cacophony of stories and yells and shrieks and full on belly laughs like a ballon finally untied flying around the room releasing all the air it had been holding in.


So I worry about school. I worry what this means for him socially. I worry, because I'm supposed to. I'm his mama. We worry.

But sitting in the littlest chairs I have ever seen at the littlest table I have ever seen across from two of the kindest women I have ever met, my fears were put to rest. "He likes to chase," they told me, smiling. "He runs after the other kids and they run away and it's all fine. It's OK."

Courtesy of Liz Petrone

Later that night, I tucked him in. "So you like to play chase at school?" I asked.


"Yeah. Your teachers said your favorite game is chase."

"I'm not chasing," he said, instantly shattering my heart into a hundred pieces. "I want to be on their team, but they keep running away from me."

And I died a little.

I knew this was coming, I suppose. I knew his silence would eventually start to hurt. I knew not being able to express what he was or what he wanted would eventually get in the way of where he wanted to go.

And I understand the need to be silent too, I really do. I know how sometimes the need to stay inside ourselves is so much bigger than the need to grow and speak. How sometimes it's simply a matter of survival.

Courtesy of Liz Petrone

But last night I told him the same thing I have been telling you guys, the same thing I tell the other kids, the same thing I tell the people who ask me how I could possibly want to write intimate stories about myself on the internet.

I told him that the silence was going to start having a cost.

And the math is personal, it truly is. Every one of us, him included, needs to decide if the cost is worth it. Maybe for him it is. Maybe for you it is too, and that's OK. We each need to decide when and if it's time to speak.

But for me the cost was too great. I was dying in my safe space of silence, withering away into dust that could have blown away with one more strong exhale of exasperation. It was too risky. So I started to speak, finally letting myself erupt in my own cacophony of stories and yells and shrieks and full on belly laughs.

I tell stories so I can stay alive. So I can breathe freely without worry of blowing away.

Is it risky? God yes.

But sometimes it's simply a matter of survival.

The news right now is full of examples of strong women speaking truth to their stories. It is, I hope, the beginning of an epidemic. I am watching with baited breath in both regards, cheering every time someone else finds their voice, and waiting for this babe to find his.

Speak on, warriors. Lead the way.

This story originally appeared on Liz Petrone's Facebook page. Liz is a writer, blogger, teller of stories, believer in truth, and mama to four. She shares her stories on and all over the Internet, and recently finished a sloppy first draft of her first book. She can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


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