Since Joey is barely verbal, there are some situations in which he isn’t able to use words to get his needs met. Twice now, it has happened that he has pooped at night—but not said anything or cried or rattled the doorknob or anything, so I didn’t know and he just had a dirty diaper until morning. While gross, this wouldn’t be too bad on its own; his skin doesn’t seem to suffer so long as I clean him carefully when I get him up in the morning. But these two times, he has dug around in his diaper and then wiped his findings all over his pajamas and sheets. So I get him up, strip him and clean his bottom, put him in the shower, clean the dried crap off of his hands, scrub it out from under his nails, strip his bed, wash the sheets and pajamas, and get Joey clean clothes and diaper. He’s pretty stoic about all of this—except the nail scrubbing, which tickles, and which he enjoys.
I mean, poop is gross. Granted. But while it’s a lousy way to start your morning, this hasn’t bothered me nearly as much as I would have guessed if you’d asked me a decade ago. My mother told me (before we were concerned about Joey; I can’t remember how it came up) that if a kid smears their feces, it means that the kid is seriously disturbed and probably mentally ill. (She does not know about Joey’s night painting.) But I’ve heard other moms talk about having to deal with poop decorations; I think that the unusual part of Joey’s situation is that he can’t just say “Hey, Mom, I need a diaper change.”
As I was getting to the point of being willing to fire Joey’s speech therapist (with encouragement from his occupational therapist), she abruptly got better; she started being willing to take suggestions from the other therapists and seemed more empathetic with Joey. And the very next week, he abruptly started talking a lot more in speech therapy. Most of the sounds he makes are not recognizable as words outside of this therapeutic context, but he is trying hard and making more sounds than ever. I don’t know whether he’ll ever be fully verbal. I would really like to be able to talk with him. But he talks less than Kit does, and I don’t think that gap is going to close any time soon.
After the most recent poopstravaganza, I was dressing Joey; I put on his diaper and then his shorts. I picked up his T-shirt, and he patted his shorts and said “Sort.” The thing about Joey is that he keeps reaching out to me—even when he hits me, I really think that it is him reaching out, and trying fiercely to talk to me.
“That’s right, sweetie! Those are your shorts! Time for a shirt!” I grinned at him, and he smiled at me. My own sweet doodlebug.