The last post celebrated the start of engaging my girls’ imaginations and having fun with vocab to create stories without boundaries. Just over a year ago, we experienced an incident that was no “tall story”, and it’s only recently, that I’m starting to appreciate the need for little ones to also communicate their thoughts and feelings about less than fun experiences.
With the development of language and communication, I have realized how incredible the girls’ memory is. For some reason, just because they haven’t been able to express their thoughts around certain events, I’ve assumed that once the even was over, they no longer thought about it; that silenced voices equated to silenced thoughts. How wrong I have been!
About 14 months ago (the twins were then just on 2 ½ years old), we decided to take a weekend break from our rural village, and explore one of the game farms nearby. It really was a beautiful setting, with thatched cabins that were spread across an emerald lawn. Such lush grass had attracted a family of warthogs that had been grazing on their knees all morning. Initially, we were all intrigued by their presence as they seemed rather tame, but as the day went on, they became “part of the furniture”. One rather large female, was taking a nap in the shade near our cabin. It had just stopped drizzling, so the light was lovely. I decided to try to “capture the moment” of my family on the deck of this gorgeous chalet, and these sweet little warthogs minding their own business around us. So, off with my camera, I ventured a few meters in front of the deck to get my “shot”. As I was composing my picture and testing out the lighting, horror of all horrors happened. Hadassah, wanted to join me, and started walking down the stairs towards me, I saw that she had not noticed the warthog in the shade, and should she make her way to me, I felt that she’d be too close to it for my comfort. I screamed to her to stop (of course not yet knowing that she was deaf). In a few moments, which suddenly went on pause mode in my view as I tried to intervene in time, Hadassah had reached the grass, startled the warthog, and it had charged her. This rather large creature had hit her in the mouth, and we were all beside ourselves. After cleaning the mud and blood out our little Dassie’s mouth, and deciding to have her immunized for rabies, we managed to settle everyone, and spent the rest of the weekend in the family sized spa bath creating mountains of bubbles as an attempt to keep everyone out of range of spotting another terrifying warthog. This was a traumatic experience that led to the girls becoming rather fearful of animals (this is getting better now), and I felt terribly guilty about walking out onto the grass in the first place, but time went on, and I thought that the girls had forgotten about the incident (well, at least the details.)
Two weeks ago, Hadassah came up to me and I could see that she wanted to tell me something…when she has a story coming, she gets a look of intensity as she works out how she’s going to express herself and she starts swaying. Through words and sign, she started telling me about that warthog. How she had wanted to go to mamma, then the warthog saw her and ran and hit her in the mouth and Hadassah was crying. My poor baby, this event, over 14 months ago now, had been anything but forgotten. She now tells the story in pieces every now and then, and we reassure her that the warthog was naughty, mamma is sorry and it won’t hurt her again and it is very far away now. What is quite sweet, is how Tahlita also mentions how this whole fiasco had also happened to her (which it hadn’t but she had witnessed it, and maybe with the bond of being a twin, felt as though it had happened to her). This irritates Hadassah so much, and her signing is very exaggerated and intense as she explains to Tahlita that the warthog hurt Hadassah NOT Tahlita.
Besides learning that even the tamest of wild life can be unpredictable, it’s also been a very humbling discovery,that just because one is unable to vocalize something, certainly doesn’t mean that their thoughts are also silenced. This quote by Maya Angelou makes me feel like a terrible mother for not realizing this earlier, but how true are these words? “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I am hoping, that the improvement in our ability to communicate and the girls’ ability to express themselves, will allow for the purging of horrible memories and emotions, that is necessary for my little girls to fully recover from this traumatic experience, that they have clearly not forgotten, and at long last are able to work through, using language. I think that from now on, encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings about experiences, both good and bad, is going to become a priority in our home.