It’s What is Not Said

“Though he probably says about 50 to 70 words now, your child may understand as many as 200 words, many of which are nouns. Between 18 and 20 months, he’ll learn words at the rate of 10 or more a day.” (

He dances and runs and jumps.

He holds a pencil correctly and inquires about letters on everything.

He will bring us book after book after book–especially My Truck is Stuck and Where is the Green Sheep?

He has recently discovered lying on his tummy in the bathtub in order to “swim”.

He runs at me with his full speed to hug me.

He blows sweet kisses and waves to me at bedtime.

He wants me when he has an owie or is super sleepy or has a nightmare.

His first word was “octagon” while playing with a talking puzzle.

Now he says “up” and “moo” and “aw bye” and “bawl”.

Other words are just one syllable or sound of the whole: “bon” for (banana), “juuuu” (juice), and “onnn” (one)

And every single night, he asks, “da ee”?  (daddy)

He is an amazing, loving, sweet, vivacious….20 month old.

My 20 month old.

The boy who turned me into a mother, but has never uttered a word to prove that.

Yes, his actions show his love for me.  I do not doubt his love.

This isn’t about his love.

I know he will say it.  I know.  I know he will say it to the point that I am sick of it.  I have been told that over and over.

But I still long for it. I fixate on it.  I beg him to say it.

Not just because I want to hear, “mommy,” but because he is 20 months old.

I have already heard what you so many people have to say:

“He is a boy; he is naturally slower.”

“My nephew/my friend’s son/all my kids/husband/I/aunt’s cousin’s nephew’s daughter didn’t talk until they were well over two.”

“As longs as he is interactive…”

“just keep talking to him; he’ll come around…”


I know that it’s technically not that out of the ordinary, and it’s not something to be truly concerned about.  I know this.

But as he babbles and “talks” and says words, I can’t help but think about how he doesn’t have close to 50 words, like says he should have…and I am mostly ok with that because his babble says he is on his way.

What I hate?  Is that he says “octagon” and not “momma”.

I have struggled for everything with this little boy.

It was a challenge (and many MANY blood draws and pills taken) to keep him in my tummy.

It was a painful battle to like him when he was my tiny miracle through all the crying–both his and mine.

I had to claw my way out of a deep, ugly hole to enjoy the little things like the way he turns into me when he is sleepy.

We are so similar in temperaments that when there is frustration between us?  It is a challenge to not kill each other.

And yet?

There is no word in his vocabulary for me.

Does he have one in his head?

Does a small voice in his brain shout it into the echoes of his heart when he sees me or scream it desperately in his soul when he is afraid?

What does that word sound like on his lips?  In my ear?

I am a mother.  HIS mother.

But no one in this world calls me that.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. He is being sly and keeping you on edge my friend! He is going to say it when you are not expecting to hear it or coaxing him to say that magical word, that will bring tears to your eyes the first time you hear it uttered with his sweet little voice. He is keeping this one word a secret from you and the world. Hang in there, he will come to say mommy! ((HUGS))

  2. Oh. My. It’s like you are reading my blog before it’s published. Tomorrow’s post is about almost the same thing.

    It’s frustrating. It’s upsetting. I wish I could say “it’s okay,” but I can’t because my own experiences with it. But I can offer a hug.

  3. But everything you say about him, everything you do for him,
    Yours hopes and dreams for him, your obvious love of every little thing he does,
    just screams out ‘Mother’ – he knows who you are, and one day in one of those snuggles,
    he’ll let you in on that secret! xxxx Love to you xxxx

  4. He has your nose, only you could give him that. He has your eyes, that’s all you too. He has so much exuberance for life, again you. The words will come. I won’t say any of the things you mentioned above. Except he knows your his mother, he’s the only one who felt your heartbeat from the inside.

  5. So sorry you’re hurting. He knows you like no one else knows you, but you know that. He knows you’re his mother and loves you so much, but you know that, too. The knowing doesn’t take away the hurting. Eventually, he will say what you need to hear him say. Until then, I wish you lots of love and patience. Go easy on you. Hugs.

  6. My boyfriend’s sister-in-law is going through this exact same thing. Ian is just about 2 and has a vocabulary of only about 15 words (at least that’s what it was when we last saw him over Thanksgiving). Of all of his words and “Ianisms”, he has nothing for “Mommy”, yet. It worries Hilliary, even more-so because she’s a speech therapist, but she knows he will say it eventually.

    Keep your chin up. He knows who you are. He loves you an insane amount. Your word will come.

  7. I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how hard that must be. But he knows you’re his Mommy, whether he says it or not. I know that doesn’t help and that’s what everyone will tell you. One day it will just click and you’ll hear Mommy ALL the time!

  8. i’m sorry. i really am. S doesn’t talk half as much as his buddies do and it’s hard. No matter what people say, it’s hard. As mommas we naturally worry. I know my worrying doesn’t do any good, but nevertheless it’s there.
    thinking of you today.

  9. I’ve heard it said that early in a child’s life, they have a hard time even distinguishing themselves from their mother. Maybe he doesn’t have a word for you because he doesn’t NEED to. You are there for him. In his mind, you are part of him and he is part of you. He doesn’t have to refer to himself because he knows “he” is a given. He doesn’t need to convince himself to care for himself, because that’s the most important thing to him. He doesn’t need to convince YOU to care for him, because he knows that’s the most important thing to you too…it will come naturally to you to love him. He says daddy and octagon because those things are outside of himself. But you are so wrapped up in who he is, that he doesn’t need to distinguish you from what he just assumes exists about himself. My little guy doesn’t often say “Mommy” either…but no one can make him laugh like I can. No one can make him snuggle into their shoulder like he does with me. I know he loves me. But no words for it. Hmm. Just a thought.

    Also, on a more technical and trite note, it sounds like he makes tons of different sounds and vowels, etc. So it certainly is not that he CAN’T say more than he does. Sounds to me like his vocal equipment works just fine. I hope you can find a way not to worry about it…(for whatever that’s worth…)

  10. It totally sucked that Joshua said “niineee” (Cindy, his teacher at school) before he said “Mama.”

    Broke my facking heart.

    But you know what? Before he said “mama” verbally? He said it with his eyes. When I walked into a room, the light in his eyes said that he and I had a connection that is unlike any connection between two other people on this earth. It is a connection borne of shared LIFE. Literally. And shared love. And shared struggles and triumphs.

    You and Eddie? You share that, too. Look in his eyes and you’ll see your own heart.

  11. My son calls both my husband and I Dada, and he turned 2 today. He doesn’t say many words, only a handful but I’m not worried. Yet. I do get where you’re coming from though, I so get it. I want to be mommy. I want to hear it from the time he wakes till he passes out at night. It would be music to my ears.

  12. You are mistaken, my friend. ALL the words in his vocabulary are for you. He doesn’t need a word to represent you because he sees you a part of himself.

    Love you!

  13. Oh babe, of course it bothers you.

    It would upset me too.

    I wish for you a speedy growth spurt in vocabulary.

    He’ll get there, but you already know that.

    Lots of love

    that is all

  14. Oh Katie, I could have written this exact post. Belle is a couple months younger then Eddie, but says maybe 5 words and signs two. None of those are mommy, mama, mom, nothing. Never anything close either. When asked where mommy is she can point to me and go to me but has never called me anything. I long for it as well. I know eventually I will hear it but it still breaks my heart that she can say dada, now da and I have nothing. They will get there in their own time. He knows you are his mommy and loves you. Hang in there. (Hugs!)

  15. I am completely with you. Aric says next to nothing coherent. We hear Dada and uh-oh. When he babbles, a mama slips out, but it’s not on purpose and it’s not directed at me. It’s SO FRUSTRATING! I get raelly jealous readon other blogs with people talking about their hildren who are Aric’s age saying 2-3 word sentences. It makes me feel like Aric is behind. I know for a fact he isn’t. He understands and can follow through on complex requests, he just. won’t. speak.

    I feel ya, Mama, I do. But before we know it, our boys will be mouthy teenagers telling us to bring them more pizza rolls and we’ll be wishing they were back to the “no talking” phase 🙂

  16. OMG. I did not edit that comment before posting. WHOOPS!!

  17. He may not be calling you by name, but all of those other words he says, he’s speaking them for you!

  18. Erika @ MommyBurgh says

    Of course we as mothers, we as WOMEN, need validation and confirmation with everything. My husband didn’t even give me a card, or cook me dinner on Valentine’s Day and I sulked around the house for a week. I needed that physical sign of love from him to know that he stills cares. Does he? Of course! He doesn’t have to do anything for me to know, but as a female, I need to see it every so often to feel good about myself.

    This translates so well into the world of children. When they were tiny infants they didn’t have to do a lot for our hearts to melt. “Oh look she sighed! She must be so happy right now!” “I swear she just smiled! I know she did! And its not gas!” Every little coo and poop and a sign to us that we were doing something right. The baby was still alive and relatively happy right? ::pat on back::

    But then the years where we expect them to do something come along and BAM! we require a little more validation. I blame it 100% on the internet. I had to give up message boards because it drove me bonkers to hear about what other kids did and my kid didn’t do. Kirsten never ever says mama. She doesn’t blow kisses. She doesn’t walk. She only sort of hugs. She shows more interest and love towards Dora than to me. But she can say “dada” clear as day. She can say “ball” until her face turns blue (she can say blue too). But nope, not mama.

    Sometimes I just want to grab her and be like “SAY YOU LOVE ME! TELL ME I AM DOING A GOOD JOB! TELL ME!!!!!” I wish they could write reviews on a mommy website. Like, 4 stars for her cooking abilities and 5 stars for how she knows how I like the bubbles in the bathtub.

    I wish I had a solution. Or something better to say. But really, as everyone else managed to say better than I could… his presence in your life every single day is all you really need. <3

  19. Hugs! I can relate to the delayed speech, but thankfully my son’s first word was indeed “MaMa”.

    At almost 3, my son still doesn’t put more then 2 words together. My pediatrician recommended we see a speech therapist so we did when he was 28 months old. The therapist observed my son for less than 5 minutes and realized how he communicated and how he followed commands. She then shut her notebook and asked “why are you here” and proceeded to ease my fears telling me my son was 100% normal, that boys are indeed slower than girls when it comes to vocabulary. He’ll be 3 next month and I am amazed at how many more words he is saying, it’s like it happened overnight.

    Now, at one time he refused to say “NaNa” for his grandma. He would say “Pap Pap” so we tricked him while going through his line-up of words. He was repeating what we’d say and we threw “NaNa” into the mix and he said it as clear as day. Then he became angry with us when he realized we tricked him. He boycotted the word for almost 7 months then one day, just started using it regularly. You may want to try tricking him. 🙂

    Now, if he wasn’t saying my name (he now calls me “mommy”, he recently just started calling me that instead of MaMa) then I would be so sad. Hugs to you. I’m sure one day when you least expect it (and probably need to hear it more than ever), you’ll hear that little voice call for you!

  20. Totally can relate!

  21. I stumbled this post, Katie.

    I understand the PPD part (from Kate’s) and the speech part (from Maddie). But not together and not with a struggle to keep either kid IN my tummy.

    I do feel that he has and knows his word for you. Even if it’s just on his head right now.

  22. Powerful post. Well said. My view? You are his everything and for that he has no words.

  23. Sometimes I think when they don’t say “mama” or similar, it’s because it’s like putting a name on the universe. Why do you need a word for that? Why does he need to say a word when your presence is quite possibly the largest in his entire word? You simply are.

    Not that it feels any less crappy that so many little ones say other words first.

    Also? he holds a pencil correctly? That’s awesome 😉

    • “Sometimes I think when they don’t say “mama” or similar, it’s because it’s like putting a name on the universe.”

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Right on.

      What a powerful post, Katie. Beautifully written. Hang in there. 🙂

  24. I agree with Cameron. They don’t NEED to say our name because we are everything to them, like air.

    But – X did the exact same thing. Finally, when he was E’s age, he called me “Baba.” And now he calls me Mama and I’m sad I’m not baba anymore.

    It was a long wait. But it was worth it.

    Now I just count the minutes for him to say “I love you.”

    But we’re still working on “octagon.”


  25. Oh, Katie…..I can take myself there and imagine how incredibly hard that would be. Every mom wants to HEAR their child call for them! And you know he will, in his own time, but dammit why not now?! What a sweet, honest always when I come over here, I am touched.

  26. I don’t have children yet, although I want them something fierce. I am a a fairly new reader and always feel I can relate so much. Not necessarily because I have relative experiences to draw from, but rather because you paint such clear pictures with your words. I love that. I hope he gives you what you are craving soon. Stubborn little booger. 🙂

  27. I am so sorry Katie. Know that he loves you…perhaps he’s a little smart turd like my son who used to taunt me by calling me Dadda a bazillion and one times…he even said Papa and Nana…it will come. Sending you hugs 😉

  28. My son is 13 months and says a handful of words. Some the sounds like mama, dada, and some that sounds like he’s trying to say his sisters names. But the one thing I fully understand it “See” he points to things and says, “Eee”. All day long!

    I know that eventually he’ll get it though!

    There’s no doubting that your child loves you though!

  29. Does he have a name for you in his head? Yes. And in his heart.

    But I know what you mean. And I will send all kinds of good “mama” vibes your way in hopes you will hear it soon.

  30. he DOES have a word for you. he does. and the day he says it out loud will be magical.

    hard to imagine now. but it will come. and then he’ll be saying things you wish he never did! 🙂

  31. Hang in there, Mama! When it happens (and it WILL!) it will be that much sweeter and you won’t take it for granted.

  32. Oh, Katie.

    I also agree with Cameron. You are his everything.

    But I can understand how much you need to hear that word. I know it was music to my ears the first time. And really, each subsequent time thereafter.

    I am still waiting for my second child to say it. Really say it.

    However, he does not say octagon. That is crazy cool.

  33. I’m impressed at all of the amazing things he can do but so sorry that he has yet to say Mommy. I know it is so hard when you have to wait and wait for that one word you have been longing for. I hope it comes soon. Maybe saying Mommy is just like breathing for him, it does not need to be said because you are so close to his heart you don’t need a name in his mind.