In a Word by Sue Mullinger

In a Word
Her two sons, Paul and Ryan, were very different in character and rates of development. Paul the elder boy was outgoing but Ryan was clingy. At mother and toddler groups’ he refused to leave her lap, while Paul was running about and playing with other children.
Tina mentioned to her health visitor, Ryan would not let her put him on the floor. Her husband Dave tried feeding him but Ryan just cried. Immediately Tina picked up the spoon, her younger son opened his mouth. She knew she should not compare her children but remembered Paul had taken his first steps at ten months and said his first words at a year! Ryan at thirteen months of age had not attempted to walk or say anything recognisable.
Four years later Tina stood at her sons’ bedroom door watching them sleep. Paul with his sun kissed fair hair and eyes of dark blue. Ryan always so pale he looked sickly but never ill, with his pale blue eyes. In Tina’s reverie, she recalled how Ryan surprised her at fourteen and a half months by talking and walking on the same day! Then there was no stopping him as he rapidly progressed to reach his milestones.
As Ryan’s vocabulary increased, Paul stopped acting as his spokes-man. However, there was a small stumbling- block and although cute to Tina, she knew a break- through was needed before Ryan joined his brother at infant school the following week. Tina was afraid bullies would pick on Ryan, if he could not say the proper word.
Every day after taking Paul to school, she would ask Ryan to say it but he refused. His word for jumper was buncher. Where it came from no-body knew and no cajoling helped Ryan say jumper.
Tina wondered if she should tell the teacher about Paul’s special word.
Finally, the first day of term arrived. Both boys’ had eaten their breakfast, went to get dressed for school. Then something strange happened! Ryan appeared at Tina’s side and asked if she could help him put on his jumper.
Everything Ryan achieved was at his own pace. From that day on a jumper was always a jumper! Today twenty years later as Tina revisited the past, she looked at a recent picture of her sons’. Paul, shorter than Ryan, sturdily built and serving in the Army. Beside him Ryan, over six feet tall, wiry, pale but rarely ill. A son who now lectures to two hundred students at a time. The word buncher was Ryan’s word and his alone.