Oct 25, 2013 0 Share

Becoming Assertive


Headshot of the author's son.
Photo by Michele Langlo

I never thought I would be so happy to hear my child argue with me. I know that sounds odd, and if many parents were to hear me say that they would be looking at me like I may have come from Mars. But they don’t understand what it is like to have raised a child who could not express his likes and dislikes, emotions, physical pain and discomfort, personal opinions and individuality in general through the use of speech. It can be a trying road to travel.

But finally at the age of 27 Cody is making huge strides in overcoming his language barriers.

Last Friday night one of my sisters became gravely ill and had to be taken to the emergency room. It was clear that she had respiratory issues of some sort but tests had to be performed to determine what those issues were. After a CAT Scan was done doctors told her that she had a large mass in the base of her right lung that could quite possibly be lung cancer.

When I learned of the news I told Bill I was going to the hospital to see my sister. He really didn’t want me driving alone so he decided that he and Cody would drop me off at the hospital while they went and did a bit of grocery shopping.

Cody had already showered, was quite comfy in his pajamas and had plans to snuggle under his favorite blanket and watch some TV. When Bill told him to get dressed and that we were all going into the city, he had no trouble verbally expressing his displeasure about the idea.

Cody: “Well I’ll just stay home!”

Bill: “No, you need to go with us.”

Cody: “We’ll just stay home!”

Bill: “No we have to go into town.”

Cody: “I’ll just stay home and stay in my pajamas!”

Bill: (Smirking) “Cody, get dressed and get your shoes on.”

Cody: “I’ll just stay home and watch TV on the sofa.”

Bill: “Do you want to stay home by yourself? Nana will be here but she will be asleep and you’ll be all alone.”

Cody: “Yes!”

Me: (Trying not to laugh.) “Ok. The argument is over. Let’s go get dressed now.” 

Disgruntled, he complied.

We had never heard him be so verbally argumentative in such an appropriate way. There was no guesswork involved in ascertaining what he wanted.

While my sister is still in the hospital, doctors no longer believe she has cancer, but a complicated pneumonia which is much more easily treated, thank God!

It was only a couple of days later when I saw Cody’s new-found assertiveness in action once again.

Sunday, we went to the store to buy a get well gift for my sister. While we were there Cody saw a sweatshirt with a picture of a semi-truck on the front. He made a bee-line over to it and shouted, “That’s a semi-truck shirt!” He made this exclamation several times. He kept looking at me and then back to the shirt as if to say, “Mom! Do you see this?” Numerous times he held it up and ran his hand over the graphic. I sort of just stood and watched in awe for a moment. Finally, I asked, “Cody would you like to have that shirt?” Immediately with no hesitation in his voice he answered, “Yes!” Of course, I bought it for him.

His excitement was undeniably evident in his tone of voice. His actions were clearly demonstrative of his enchantment with this item. His facial expression was one of longing and not the flat affect we were used to seeing. And his verbalization was distinct and concise.

It is such a blessing to see this kind of self-expression coming from Cody. This kind of decisiveness and this kind of assertiveness is an indication to me that those kinds of verbal and non-verbal communication processes are present with him and he is now learning to articulate them in a concise and well-defined way which can be easily identified and understood by others. So don’t be surprised if you see me smiling while my child is arguing with me. I’m just happy to know my son is finally able to make his voice heard.