It's true, she's not being rude. She doesn't dislike you. She wants to be included. She wants to say thank you. She wants the giggles to come easily, wants to tell you she knows the answer, wants to read you the story in her really great silly voices, she wants to sing in the choir with the other kids.
I asked her what it feels like when the worry comes and steals her voice. She said she wasn't sure. I asked if she could draw the feeling.
This is it:
"He is mostly orange has a scary smile like the Joker on Batman, and a mohawk - but sideways. His hands are SO big and his pet is a black widow spider on a leash and he even has spiders on his knees and spiders for feet."
"But you're not even afraid of spiders."
"I know - but most people are, so I just want you to see that it feels really scary."
( I asked her if I could share her picture - she said yes.)
That is how it feels to be selectively mute.
Rico and I have raised 5 kids collectively. If you know us, you'll be quick to point out that two of ours have no freaking problem speaking - it's actually a hobby of sorts. And for the record - the other two seem to take no issue with it either. But this one is struggling.
And it's hard, because one of the things we want for our kids is for them to know they matter, that they have a voice, that they deserve to be heard.
So Rico and I need to step up - step out - advocate when she can't. Her teachers have been wonderful (one of them so positively perfect that I don't think Yoda will ever love anyone more). But there have been other people - even other professionals who've said, "Well, I've worked with selective mutes before, I'm pretty experienced" or "Yes, I understand the situation." or "She's just shy."
To them I say - no.
I mean look at that picture! Imagine feeling that in your chest every time you had to ask to use the bathroom, or get a drink of water. Even I can't come to grips with that $#!t and I live with her - it's terrifying. Besides, my kid isn't "a selective mute" - she is Yoda who sometimes is so afraid that she can't talk. She is sarcastic, quick witted, fiercely loyal, adores family game nights and movies. She loves dance class and hates mushrooms. She has fire in her soul and grace in her heart. She is Yoda - beautiful, silly, wishes she was still in kindergarten Yoda.
And sometimes she is quiet, because as another child who shares her struggles says: