If we've met, you likely know that neither I, nor my husband, nor my two older children have trouble with speaking. On the contrary, one of them would likely make a career out of it if possible, and the other would be hot on his heels.
But Tiny is different.
It took a while for everyone to understand how something so basic, so simple, so LOVED by the rest of us, was seemingly impossible for her. It took a while, but we got there.
For me, it is snakes. If you've seen the Ellen video you know - if you haven't, well it's here. That's me at 3:22 every time I even imagine a snake.
For Kooka, it's spiders. She can't even sleep in a room where she's seen a spider. Can't be in the same room with a dead spider.
This is funny, because I am a bit of a spider rescuer. I'll get the spider from her room, take it outside, make sure it has a safe spot, wish it godspeed and be on my way.
Kooka has picked up wild snakes with her bare hands. I actually watched it happen one time and stood there frozen, thinking "Be a shame if that's venomous, because there's not a damn thing I can do about this situation."
And then there's this kid:
But she feels the exact same way, the exact same fear, when she is asked to speak.
The difference here is that nobody asks me to hold a snake for 8 hours a day.
Nobody is dropping spiders down Kooka's back during civics class.
But Tiny - she's feeling like somebody is dropping spiders down her back for several hours per day.
We tell ourselves every day, it doesn't matter what any of us are afraid of - they key to understanding, the key to helping each other is knowing that even if the catalyst is different, the feeling is the same. When we put ourselves in that mindset, it's much easier to get through the tough times.
Telling her to not be afraid to say hi to her classmates, feels exactly the same as someone laying a snake on my pillow while I sleep and telling me not to worry about it. Telling her it's OK to ask for help during math time, feels the same as asking Punk to bungee jump from the Golden Gate Bridge.
We also realize that nothing will get better here if we all just keep telling each other how stupid it is to be afraid of snakes, or spiders, or heights, or speaking. It might very well be stupid, but that won't make the feeling go away.
So we keep looking for ways to help. We did find a place that's got everyone talking - literally. It's a specialized institute in the heart of New York City. We looked into taking a family road trip to participate in their intensive program. But at $1,800 per hour, for 12-20 hours, we could probably buy one of those custom Japanese robots to do all of the talking for her.
So that's probably not happening.
Anyway - if you see us around, say hi - especially to Tiny. She may not answer, but we're trying to give her chances to try - which is really all any of us can do.