I have a video from this time last year. My almost three year old daughter unsteadily utters the words “Daddy blue car drive”. It was the first time she ever said four words in a row. Those four words (their quantity rather than quality – colours & modes of transport are toddler staples, after all) were the first step towards a breakthrough from her previously diagnosed speech delay.
And yes, with hindsight, the fact that she didn’t really talk until she was three doesn’t seem such a big deal. But like colic, late crawling, or showing affection for other children by wrestling them into a headlock (just us?), when you’re in the midst of these phases, they can feel hopeless. And onlookers who dismiss them with words like ‘phase’ feel like tormentors. Besides, I challenge anyone to attend an initial speech therapy assessment with their kid and not come out of it feeling anything other than a thoroughly shitty parent.
I can’t remember when the Frozen obsession began. She’d had previous dalliances with Lion King, Little Mermaid and, of course, Toy Story. Her dad, the film critic, would watch trailers on YouTube with her as part of their bedtime routine. Cbeebies stalwarts would be appalled, I’m sure. But then my dad used to sing Queen songs in lieu of nursery rhymes while putting me to bed, and I turned out ok. If slightly obsessed with a couple of their B-sides.
Unlike speech therapy – hours of observation and animal noises in stuffy windowless rooms – preschool helped immeasurably. For the past year her keyworker has tirelessly coaxed words from her. On the day she gained a sticker for standing up and telling the class it was Monday, I cried right there in the cloakroom. By the time she leaves next summer, my daughter will probably deliver whatever the four year old’s equivalent of a commencement speech is. And we’ll be so indebted to said key worker that we’ll probably have to buy her a car.
At the end of term preschool party they played the Frozen soundtrack. The girl who started the school year unwilling or able to tell them much more than her name proceeded to dance around the room and sing the entire cd to 26 people. The staff were still talking about her ‘transformation’ at the open day a week later.
Our lives were punctuated by the words “That’s no blizzard, that’s my sister!” A line which, fact fans, doesn’t even appear in the movie. She saw it at the cinema before she was strictly ready to adhere to cinema etiquette (Thank you Showcase autism friendly screenings!) Her newborn brother arrived accompanied by a copy of the just released blu-ray, as a peace offering to help ease his way into the family.
These days, she talks so much that I can even empathise with the other mums who wish their kids would just give it a rest and stop talking for five minutes. But I always feel guilty when I do. I no longer cry after her speech therapy appointments. Apart from maybe her next one, at which I have a sneaking suspicion they’re going to discharge her.
Today she went with her dad to a Sing-along Frozen screening. She came home excited, telling me in delightfully intricate sentences how loudly she’d sung at the cinema, while digging out her latest ‘toy’ microphone. Having started with a v-tech flashing karaoke machine which plays Twinkle Twinkle, she recently progressed to an old Sing Star mic & stand, a throwback from the days when we had parties instead of babies. (Because performing or, more specifically, showing off, runs in the family.) We spent the next couple of hours watching in awe as she held a Frozen concert in our living room.
I have a video from today. My almost four year old daughter belts out the line “My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.” word perfectly. And, ok, not all of the words she’s singing in Let It Go are dictionary standard. But I’m 33, and I still sing made up lyrics to most of the songs I know. The hype may be hysterical, and other parents might tear their hair out at its unremitting presence in their lives. But I owe a small debt of gratitude to that Disney film.