Thursday, June 07, 2007

Look Who's Talking

Baby Girl has entered that delightful phase in which she splices real words with her own patois,expressions, and gestures in an effort to communicate. It is an endearing time because she hasn't yet learned any slang words, crass idioms, or eye rolls. The worst thing she might say is Tib!, which I have come to interpret as a remark of frustration over her thwarted attempts to eat yesterday's waffle crumbs from the dining room floor. (Oh who am I kidding - those waffle crumbs have been there since '04.) She may be on to something: I have found that a heartfelt Tib! is a surprisingly satisfying way of swearing without swearing.

She has a stable of reliable English words that have gotten her pretty far. She says Mom and Dad - always the two front-runners in language acquisition. She says hi and bye, which sound remarkably similar: breathy and high-pitched, but with subtle differences in intonation and arm movement, almost like Baby Mandarin. The hi is a small hand wave with her head cocked to one side and a little smile on her mouth. The whole routine makes it look like she's contemplating the perfect spot for the tiara she's about to win. While claiming the same long i vowel sound, bye is accompanied by the full arm wave, and no coquettish tilt of the head. If she could handle a fan, she'd already be the court favorite.

She has of course mastered the No, although she says it in perfect imitation of yours truly. I will see her reaching for some paper or string, and I will call her name. She will turn to me, with her arm stiffened in front of her, purse her lips, and say NONONO! - just like me, except I am not rocking the early-Pebbles, single, central ponytail look. Then she will laugh. This does not bode well for the teenage years. And of course, I cannot overlook the reverent way she calls to me when I am filling her bottle or cup. It's as if she is invoking Yahweh when she sits in the living room and whispers Bee-Baaaah.

But sometimes the best words are those of her own invention. She's exuberant and vivacious, and to hear her prattle away to her reflection in the patio doors is priceless. There are clearly some expressions that mean a great deal to her. While talking to herself, she will often exclaim something that sounds very much like Pyong-yang!, after which she will laugh in short barking bursts. Then she will lean in and try to French herself. We're hoping that this Kim Jong-il impression is just a phase.

She will crawl up to me when I'm at the computer, pat my leg, and ask, very earnestly, Hub-Dub? To which the only response can be, "Absolutely!" But do not confuse Hub-Dub with Dub-Lub DA?, which is more of a rhetorical question anyway. As a variation on the theme, she will scoot into her lair under the dining room table, and, once she has found some little smackerel of last night's dinner, will raise her hand triumphantly and announce DUB-DUB-HEH! before she crams it into her mouth. Is this a blessing? A simple proclamation of success? Who knows.

The interesting part of this language explosion has been the family's reaction. We are wild with trying to teach her new words or trying to match her inflected chatter, and the children and I will gather around her like she's an old-time radio; uncharted sounds coming out at us in pops and squeaks.

I don't remember doing this with Older Girl. It wasn't so much that I did not want to teach her new words, I think I just took it for granted that she would begin to speak as I spoke to her. She was my partner in the conversation; my articulate, precise, shrunken version of myself.

The Boy's language development was so convoluted that I am sometimes amazed that he even speaks at all. He rarely spoke or babbled as a baby, but we weren't concerned until he turned two and still did not call me "Mom." That single linguistic omission sent us on an odyssey that led us to the discovery of his reversible hearing impairment, to his speech therapy, and eventually to the discovery of his SPD and occupational therapy. When he was smaller and I agonized over why he didn't speak, or why he spoke, but no one could understand him, I knew there had to be a reason that his development was unfolding as it was. There is now such an enveloping comfort when I look back and realize that if he had not had hearing trouble and he had spoken clearly from the beginning, he would have never been in speech therapy and his SPD would not have been recognized as early as it was. The ways of the Lord are mysterious, indeed.

Maybe that's what makes Baby Girl's early speech so special for me. To watch your child blossom in their age appropriate stage of development is wondrous, especially after seeing another child struggle with a more circuitous route. I can't wipe the grin off my face when she cruises by me and says Yahyahyah - heya, Mama. I want to scoop her up, kiss her all over her face, and tell her what a darling she is. What a babbling, gurgling, laughing darling of an ordinary child she is. She just makes me want to say Lub-Dub with all my heart.

Lub-Dub, Baby Girl.


  1. She is a darling. Give in. Scoop her up and cover her with kisses. Its a mom's prerogative! Quick, before she turns into a teenager!!

  2. Baby babble is like music to the ears and always puts a grin on my face. My lil guy babbled like a fool from very early on and we loved every minute of it - of course, nowadays it's not so cute when his mouth moves faster than a ducks behind, but at least I'll always know what's on his mind!
    Kiss that baby! Like T said, do it now, before she's a teenager!!!

  3. "Sh*t", said Little A when she dropped her barbie doll from the tub.

    "Damn it" thought mommy as she crossed off yet another of her favorite words from her list of things that it was still ok to say out loud.

  4. Thanks for the birthday card!
    : )
    Lub-dub to all of you!

  5. We're on the leading edge of becoming concerned about our son's language skills. The little guy is 20 months and still isn't talking.

    His receptive vocab is perfect, but he just can't get any words together to give back to us.

    It's the total opposite of our daughter, his older sister, who was talking at 11 months.

  6. What a great post with lots of treasures of wisdom in it. My son's speech has been a bit slow. Mom was definitely not his first word, that was dog, then ball and then car. Luckily we, too, have sought early intervention and now he is speaking a lot more. However, pronunciation still isn't the best.

    The Lord truly blesses us in mysterious ways.

  7. T & Meg: I do kiss her with abandon on a regular basis, but I can't get enough of that kid. She apparently can get enough of me, though. She turns her head away and says NONONO when she's done with the kissing. I tell her to remember that with the boys in her future!

    Johanna: Happy Birthday MathGirl! I was going to do a shout out on the blog, but I haven't been in the house long enough to type it. We were thinking of you!

    Jenn: Same thing around here, baby Girl just hasn't gotten that far yet. Once The Boy got his ears fixed, one of the first things I heard him mutter to himself was "Oh CR*P!!" And that was one of the nicer selections he chose.

    MyBestInvest: Hey! Thanks for stopping by - I don't know if you'll ever come back (I hope so), but for what it's worth, you might want to have your son evaluated for speech. Our oldest was also verbally precocious, and so when The Boy wasn't even saying "mom" at 2 yrs, I knew something was up. Speech therapy has been nothing but fabulous for The Boy - he is a changed person - but sometimes the waiting lists are long (depending on the services where you live).

    Amy & An Ordinary Mom: Thanks for the nice comments :)

  8. So very very sweet. I agree with T - Kiss her LOTS!

    (I hate BeeBahs, BTW. But we were Teletubby lovers long before many others)


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