Seated on a mat in the back of the classroom playing alone is a little black boy with short, curly hair. When asked if he is having fun, no words fall from his mouth. As his classmates parade him, they are met with a mysterious expression and an eye roll. And if he was older, perhaps in grade school, this would be OK.
But my son Joah is just shy of his second birthday. And according to the little 22-month-old sheet his teacher gave me, Joah should be interacting with his classmates and talking more.
“Use your words, Joah,” his teacher says.
Joah rolls his eyes once more.
“Does he do this at home?” she asks me.
I assure her that he does not do that at home. Well, yes, he rolls his eyes at home. But he never isolates himself from us and he talks quite often.
But the little boy sitting alone seems withdrawn and nothing like the Joah he is at home.
Every day after that day, for one month, I sat in Joah’s class to monitor his behavior. And each time I felt like I was watching a stranger. I didn’t see Joah’s warm smile or hear his loud laughter. And it worried me. I wondered if I should take him to see a doctor. My husband suggested a family vacation to Chicago would be good for all of us.
We spent four days in Chicago, which included visits to the Shed Aquarium and the Navy Pier. Joah was his rambunctious self. But I couldn’t help but to wonder how he’d be when he returned to school.
Dropping him off at school was always the hardest part. Joah didn’t have the vocabulary to tell me what he was feeling, but his tears said enough. I didn’t know how many more teary-eyed mornings I could take.
“Joah, are you ready to go back to school?” I asked him on his first morning back since our Chicago trip.
“No!” he said.
But Joah said no to everything.
As we walked into his class, I looked down at Joah who was not crying. Instead, he was taking off his hat and coat. He put them in his cubby and went to wash his hands.
“Bye, Joah!” I shouted.
“Bye, mommy,” Joah responded.
Later in the day, his teacher told me Joah seemed different. She said he was talking and playing with the other kids in the room.
“I’m running!” she heard Joah shout out at he ran around the classroom.
Joah hasn’t cried about going to school since then and his teacher can’t believe how much he’s talking. I guess we’ll never really know what triggered Joah, but a trip to Chicago surely helped.
Tunette Powell is married with two children. You can read her every Tuesday on momaha.com
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