Sunday, September 17, 2006

Words He Doesn't Say

At 20mths and change, The Boy has finally reached what I think is the most exciting time in Babyland so far -- Speech. His comprehension has always been excellent. I had no doubt that he understood everything we were saying, and he followed simple directions perfectly. He was 'jargoning' like crazy, but with no intelligible words.

The Boy has always had what I once read described as a "Watcher" temperament (no reference to Buffy here), in that you get the feeling that he is perfectly capable of doing something, but that he chooses not to do it until he is able to do it perfectly. Case in point: he would walk for blocks while holding your hand, not even using you for balance, but was unwilling to walk on his own. Then one day we leave him with Nana for two hours, and he's walking like he's done it for months.

He's technically been speaking for some time now, if you count the basics: Mama, Dada, Nana, hi, bye, yes, no. Around about a month ago, though, his vocabulary exploded. It was like someone flipped a switch and decided "Thou shalt speak". Everyday, new words come out, ones that I had no idea he even knew. Some days, we'll get as many as five new words, and I gotta say, I think that's pretty impressive. I mean, it's not like I'm sitting there with flash cards or something (see post below). So what I've been thinking about a lot lately is, is the order of the words important? Do the words used in the early days of speech reflect the type of parenting you bring to the table? And if so, what do The Boy's words say about us? Let's review:

  1. Mama, Dada, Nana, Hi, Bye-Bye, Yup. ...Okay, so we pretty much rammed the first two down The Boy's throat because we were having a contest to see who was the Beloved Parent (Technically, I think "Dada" won out as literal first word. Damn). Nana, my mother, was bandied about a great deal in our house because we were just so stinking glad when she came over because she gave us a baby break. The rest were reinforced ad nauseum because we thought they were cute. I started saying "yes" instead of "yup" shortly thereafter to try to set a good example.
  2. No. Technically, the word was "Noooooooooo". (Hear the lowing of cattle? So do I.) Startling, but inevitable, as The Boy learned the power of refusal. This word was/is used chiefly in answer to the question "Do you want Mummy to sing you a song?"
  3. Choo-Choo, Car, Bus, Truck. I would like to go on record with these being The Boy's actual first words. Clearly, he loves them dearly. And since I didn't write down his first word in the Baby Book (where did I put that again..?), that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  4. Ham. What can I say? The Boy likes his food. Why ham made so much of an impression remains a mystery.
  5. Nose, Eye, Toe, Shoe, Hat. Useful in any situation, and completely understandable.
  6. Water, Milk, More, Mine. Brought to us by "Big Boy Daycare". The first three are very helpful at dinner time, where we've been stalling in a sort of Brechtian failure to communicate. The last one, is a bit more problematic.
  7. Pee-pee. Mummy, apparently, drinks far too much water and can't keep it in.
  8. Cat, Doggie, Fishie, Monkey, Neigh, Baa, Hoot, Moo, Aminal (note spelling), Daddy, Ba-Ba. After 20 mths of struggling to introduce the animal world, this is as far as we've gotten. Why a Dog is a "Doggie", and a Cat isn't a "Cattie", I'll never know. And nothing we do will convince him that a "Neigh" is actually called a "Horse", or that a rooster, is not normally called a "Daddy" (I was trying to explain that a rooster is a "daddy chicken". Too much information, I guess).
  9. Park. No explanation necessary if you've been anywhere near a toddler in the summer.
  10. Apple, Banana, Cheese, Cracker, Cookie, Hamburger. See food above.
  11. Up, Down. Finally! After months of "Use your words, Mummy doesn't like screeching."
  12. Daddy, Mummy. Rather amazing that he has made the leap from Dada to Daddy, until you realize that ALL women are "mummy", and ALL men are "daddy". This one almost broke my heart.
  13. Money, Sun, Star, House, Elmo, Elbow, Shovel, Boat, Digging, Raining, Dirt, Running, Outside. A seemingly random array of words that gives you a fairly picturesque view of life at Casa Nomotherearth.
  14. "Hi Daddy", "Hi Ma-ma-mummy", "Hi Cat", "All done". And... we're back to pressuring the poor kid to learn in order to see who wins the popularity contest. (And it's Daddy again! Rats. Foiled again.)

You may have noticed the words that are missing from this list. Everyday words that we take for granted like: please, thank you, love, kiss, hug. I'm hoping that this doesn't mean that we're Bad Parents who never exemplify love or good manners in front of our child. I'm hoping that things like "monkey" and "money" don't end up being as important in later life as they are at the moment. Right now, I'm just so happy that we've moved away from grunting and pointing that I'll take what I can get.

All done.


kittenpie said...

Oh I looooved watching the sppech happen too, and then they start combining it and getting the patterns of sentences and inserting the little words after a while... so fascinating.

And about the reading thing - libraries have a programme called Leading to Reading in which volunteers tutor kids betweengrades 2-5 who are having trouble reading. It's one-on-one, one day a week. Could be what you're looking for.

Suzanne said...

Learning to speak is such an amazing process. I find it nothing short of amazing that children learn rules of language through some mysterious combination of observation and brain chemistry.

(My first thought when I read "Watcher" was Buffy, too!)

bubandpie said...

The language explosion is so much fun. Bub's started after he turned two; the Pie's is well underway already (25 words and counting at 13 months). And it's the missing words that are so interesting, aren't they? "Mama" and "Dada" came iin somewhere around 101 and 102 on Bub's list (well after "hippo" and "tiger").

Jill said...

The "neigh" for horse reminds me of my 4-yr-old when he was learning to talk. Instead of using the name of the animal he nearly exclusively used the sound they make. Dog was the best. Instead of saying "dog" he would hang his tongue out and pant.

Your list looks pretty similar to what I remember from my 4-yr-old. Here's hoping your boy's "truck" comes out better than my son's, who pronounced "tr" with an F.