We’re on Day 1,140 of Operation What Have I Gotten Myself Into, or perhaps better known as: Arthur Hawkins, age 3. In the past three years of Arthur’s life, my memories of his existence have pretty much boiled down into a whirlwind of steadily advancing gray hair and explosive diarrhea.

I am only partially joking here.

By no means am I qualified to give parenting advice to anyone, but if there are any new first-time parents reading this, I strongly recommend that you collect photographic evidence that your child was ever a baby. Once he or she graduates to toddler-levels of mischief and mayhem, you’ll be surprised with how quickly your brain deletes memories of your child’s infancy.

But this column isn’t about Arthur’s past; it’s about his future. After three years, one month and 15 days, I can proudly proclaim that my boy can speak. Since Arthur’s birth, I have been patiently waiting for this day as one of the three key benchmarks of his development.

The other two, of course, are 1) magically gaining the basketball powers of Michael Jordan at the age of 10 and leading the Trail Blazers to eight straight NBA titles before retiring at 18 to pursue a degree in political science at an Ivy League university and 2) using his education and athletic clout to be elected president of the Pan-American Confederacy – that’s the union of the U.S., Mexico and Canada in 2031 – and prevent nuclear war by defeating the reanimated corpse of Joseph Stalin in an arm-wrestling match.

It may sound far-fetched, but the latter two can never happen without Arthur first learning to talk.

Obviously, there are heaping gobs of development for a child between when they are born and when they learn to speak. I guess I put specific emphasis on speech because so much of human interaction is done through verbal communication. Arthur has long been able to communicate to his mom and dad through non-verbal cues, but I have been particularly excited about being able to converse back and forth with Arthur on a level that doesn’t require me to constantly guess and decipher what he is trying to say.

Arthur’s third birthday passed in June, and he was still speaking on a level that most child development experts expect out of 2-year-olds. He could speak, but he wasn’t particularly interested in having any kind of back-and-forth dialogue on even the most basic level. Arthur has always preferred to use visual cues to let his mother and I know what he wants.

I know that every child develops speech at their own pace. I have heard and read plenty of stories of kids going until their fourth or fifth birthday before talking, so I’ve never pushed my boy to talk before he was ready. But still, I knew I was going to be ecstatic when he decided to finally break down that barrier and start chatting with his mom and dad like we were old buddies of his sharing a beer at the local tavern.

And in the last week or two, that barrier has finally come down. His intermittent speech has been replacing with verbal parroting, as he seeks to repeat everything he hears people say. That comes with obvious unintended consequences, as evidenced by his dad calling something a turd sandwich the other day, only to have Arthur behind him say, “tood sammich.” It was adorably inappropriate.

This is just one step out of thousands in Arthur’s development, but it opens the doors to so much more going forward. From potty training to reading books, his speech development is already paying off, and it will continue to do so in the years to come.

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