Buster, our three-year-old, struggles to pronounce certain consonant sounds. The most famous of these is the k or hard c sound. Buster has always compensated for this lack by substituting another sound where the k goes, usually a t. Hence, milk becomes milt and work becomes wort.
We’ve learned to recognize these hybrid words, allowing him to express himself. At the same time, I have been trying to train him how to pull his tongue back into his mouth in order to pronounce the elusive k.
Our practice had yielded limited results. Then one day, he requested a bowl of cereal. When I asked if he wanted milk in it, his answer was non-committal. “Yes, milk or no, milk?” I asked again.
“Yes, milk,” he replied, clear as bell, whenever a bell perfectly pronounces the word milk.
I did a double take. “What? What did you just say?”
A smile of recognition stole over his face. “Yes, milk,” he belted out proudly.
I picked him up and hugged him. “You said, milk. What a brilliant boy! You did it!” I gushed as I spun circles with him in my arms. He beamed at me proud and happy at how proud and happy he’d made me.
When Mommy came home, he ran to her to show off the word milk like she’d never heard it before. More hugging and spinning ensued.
In the week since, he’s showed his mastery of milk to the next door neighbor and anyone else who happened by. When it’s eluded you for all your life, milk becomes powerful juice.
The other night, Buster, Mommy, and I were enunciating about milk. I happened to be about to eat a cookie that Buster had his eye on. “I’ll give you my cookie if you do two things,” I told him. “First, say cookie.”
Up until now, cookie has always be tootie. Buster thought hard. “Cootie,” he said, followed by “Tookie.” Getting two hard c sounds into one word is daunting work.
“Okay, that’s close enough. Now say candy.”
Buster focused. “Canny.”
“That’s so close. You got the c right but you left out the d.” D has never been a problem for him, but apparently there was no room for it in a word that already had a c.
“You’re very close. Try one more time.”
Buster looked longingly at my cookie. The pressure was too much. He couldn’t focus on the c and hit the d too.
“I know you can do it. One more try,” I pleaded .
Perhaps he saw the cookie drifting away from him. He looked at me hopefully, then shifted his gaze to the always compassionate Mommy. He took a deep breath and said with clarity and confidence:
Sometimes it’s not the cards in your hand; it’s how you play them. He won two proud smiles and a cookie.