Learning in Leaps.

By: Jen Shoop

I was so moved by the messages I received in response to my post on worrying. There was a particularly high density of notes from mothers whose children had also been in speech therapy, and the common chord was: it’s a long road, but stick with it; it works. Thank you for these messages of encouragement and solidarity. There is a scene in one of my favorite books, Circe by Madeline Miller, in which the nymphs are gathered in repose and conversation in a pocket of a watery cave. The imagery was so powerful I subconsciously plucked it right out of the narrative, stripped it of its context (in fact, I think something nefarious is afoot in the scene in the book), and reappropriated as a personal avatar of female belonging and connection. When I wrote that post, and I read the emails and comments and DMs, the nymph mural unfurled in my imagination: women, together, whispering their truths. Thank you for the gift of your warm company.

One comment that jumped out at me:

“My son’s autistic and we struggled through nearly no speech for years (it took several years of preschool early intervention therapy through our school district and private speech therapy.) Now he talks all the time but one of the things I noticed was that we would see no progress for a long time, to the point wondering if he would ever talk or if it would be minimal and then all of a sudden he would have a burst of development, like something suddenly clicked for him. Then it would stagnate for a bit, then another burst. Every kid is obviously very different but hoping this is a little peace-of-mind as he’s going through speech therapy.”

I was stirred for many reasons. First, God bless this woman, and her son — clearly, a hard-working and devoted duo. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but my daughter wore an eye patch for about half of her waking hours between the ages of 2-5 in order to correct an eye condition (she still wears the patch for an hour a day), and the experience forever opened my heart to parents with children with more severe and permanent disabilities, ailments, conditions. Being a parent is hard enough, but then you layer in the special needs, the looks and questions, the unexpected challenges of maneuvering through spaces that are not designed for your child…! These parents are real heroes, all sinew and soothing. So, reading Jennifer’s comment put things into meaningful perspective for me.

Second, I warmed myself around her insight that children sometimes learn in leaps. This in fact happened earlier this week: my son was suddenly able to make a sound that, just one week ago, he could not make without introducing what his therapist calls “a sneaky t.” I was astounded! I could see my son applying himself with determination, too: he would pause, and think, before attempting the sound. His self-awareness and work ethic touched me. I praised him in the car ride home: “I’m so proud of your hard work. I can see how hard you are trying.” We toasted him similarly at dinner that night, with his sister present, and a quiet smile spread across his face. Funny how the sticky, hard parts of life reveal hidden strengths you might not otherwise notice — and give you opportunities to celebrate your loved ones for them.

But more generally, I thought to myself: of course children learn in leaps, and how foolish I was to expect a trimmer timeline. On the practical side, he has spent the first four and half years of his life teaching himself clever little ways to avoid sounds that are challenging for him to pronounce. There is a lot of muscle memory there. It will take time to unlearn them. But, more philosophically: few things that matter happen overnight, right? In fact, I can think of nearly nothing, save winning the lottery. Every good thing in my life has taken many years to come to fruition. As Steve Jobs put it, “overnight success stories take a long time.” What this says to me: There is no need to rush. What is meant for you will arrive at exactly the right time.

And so we put one foot in front of the other, and drive to and from my son’s therapy every Wednesday afternoon, and during those car rides, my son brings me news of his world, and I find it reassuring that the headlines have little to do with his speech and instead look like: “we played Mario at recess” and “I got two lollipops instead of one” and “Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.”

Onward, onward —


+Motherhood is a surfeit.

+Permutations of love.

+More on my unexpected weepiness when my son went off to school.

Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+In photo at top, my boy is sitting in speech therapy with his little 80s sweatshirt on (backwards), hands crossed, snow boots dangling because too-short to reach the floor. Love him so much.

+These Nili Lotan pants have a cult following but are too long if you’re a fellow petite. I’ve heard such good things about these Velvet brand pants as an alternative for us shorties, and they were just restocked here! Ordered.

+If you order my favorite robe (wear daily, one of my prized possessions) this week, you’ll get a complimentary toiletry bag from Weezie! This is your sign to treat yourself.

+Everyone’s favorite Toteme sweater is on sale! You can also find them on The Real Real, FYI. Look for less with this.

+Speaking of TRR — this Celine phone sling is currently in my cart…

+Cute scattered hearts pillow — love this for a baby’s room! $20! More Valentine’s Day finds here.

+During our snow days this week, I pulled out this bag of blank peg dolls and my children and I decorated them with paint, stickers, felt, etc. My son used a pipe cleaner to make a scarf! I tried to model my dolls on these beautiful Disney Princess ones on Etsy (would make a sweet gift). Fun rainy/snowy day project. More indoor activity ideas here, and lots of sensory play ideas here. We did a lot of the latter during the pandemic.

+This platter is gorgeous. I honestly love it just for shelf styling or even stowing letters/mail in a front hall.

+These personalized bead kits would be a cute gift for the little loves in your life.

+I hadn’t thought about Valentino in a minute, but these slingbacks turned my head. Look for less with these.

+I absolutely love these terry shorts for my son — he’s owned a few pairs the past few summers! Soft for him but preppy!

+If you have sensitive skin, you must check out Vetted, a skincare line founded by female dermatologists / experts in dermatitis. They sent me a few of their products and they are ultra-clean, ultra-gentle. I believe many of them are formulated to be pregnancy safe, too, but make sure you check! (All of the products are well priced, but you can get 15% off with code Jen15).

+LOVE a waffle tee. I have one from Everlane from years ago that has seen better days that I wear basically any time it’s clean as a base layer beneath sweater.

+More cute diaper bag pouches.

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4 thoughts on “Learning in Leaps.

  1. Your son’s backward sweatshirt photo instantly made me smile. I’m a substitute teacher and just this morning I noticed a kid in class wearing his sweatshirt backward. Love kids!

    1. Aw 🙂 I always think when I see a backwards sweatshirt/pants that it’s just proof they tried to do it themselves, which is something to celebrate! xx

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