Last month my 19-month-old daughter started talking in earnest. It was remarkable not just because hours before the onslaught of language her preferred method of communication was whining, bursting into tears, poking, pulling, dancing, swatting, giggling, throwing things gleefully or rolling on the floor. But because she had previously only uttered one word at a time and it took a team of audiologists, linguists and highly trained yentas to decipher each one.
Granted, what she’s speaking now still isn’t necessarily English. And for the sake of full disclosure, in the past she could actually string two words together, but only if one of the two words was “no.” As in, “No, Mama” or “Mama, no.”
The difference is that now she’s uttering real words and sometimes in the correct context. Like when I say we need to change her diaper, she tells me matter-of-fact as she ambles up the stairs to her room if she has “poo poo” or “pee pee.” (Too much information? Sure. But when it comes to my kid’s diapers, a little advance notice of exactly what to expect is always appreciated.)
Some words are more discernible than others. She says “pretty” loud and clear, but she rarely ever means “pleasing” or “attractive to the eye.” In gym class the other day she found a stray Goldfish cracker on a mat, picked it up and put it in her mouth. When I told her to spit it out, she extracted it and carefully placed it exactly where she had found it, then promptly looked at me while pointing to the moist cheddar remnants and said, “Prit-eeee.”
Anything she’s instructed not to touch is pretty. Among the objects she finds prettiest are her diaper pail, hot stoves, yellow snow, and mud and bacteria laden rocks on the sidewalk that she attempts to ingest quicker than I can ever possibly tell her not to. Christmas lights are also pretty to her. And while I agree that Christmas lights are, indeed, pretty, she’s calling them that because she learned the hard way not to touch them on our fake tree in December.
She says “hi” frequently (or “hello,” pronounced “hi-lo”), but not as a greeting. She usually says it when she’s trying to distract from something she doesn’t want to hear, such as “It’s time for night nights” or “Are you supposed to be dumping the contents of your dresser on the floor?” She’ll come over and hug me, lie her head on my shoulder and coo, “Hi,” as if she thinks I’m that much of a pushover. Clearly at those moments she’s mistaking me for her dad.
“No” is a big word for her, as is “now.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell which one she’s saying, but whichever it is, it always means the same thing, which is the former. She only ever says “now” when I say it, and when I say it, it’s because she needs to take a nap now, get dressed now, walk away from the television now or stop trying to run into traffic now.
She’s improved on a few words lately. She used to call snow “nay nay,” but now she pronounces it “ttthhhhh-know.” It’s sort of like how she pronounces “nice” as in, “Don’t hit that nice little boy — be nice.” She repeats “nyyyy-tthhh.” When she says either she sounds like someone listening to loud music with headphones who can’t hear what she’s saying, only she’s much cuter and has more snot.
These days instead of saying “Mama,” she’ll sometimes call me “Mommy,” or “Mom-MEEEE.” Which is significant in that she’s also taken to saying “Me Me Me Me” or “Mine” frequently. That might read more charming than it actually is.
As much as I can really understand her now, there are some words and phrases, the origins of which just elude me. When she sees an airplane she points to it in the sky and says, “duck-ah duck-ah duck-ah.” She also says the same thing for ceiling fans and any type of overhead light. While she uses the word “baby” frequently and correctly, she calls her baby doll “Bah-da Bah-da.” And when she throws her bottle off the table a half a dozen times while she’s eating, she waves to it each time and says, “Bye-bye ba ba.” It’s very clever, unless you’re the one assigned to the role of her ba ba gofer at that meal.
It’s really a joy listening to her talk, except when it’s not. Like a few weeks ago when she woke up crying at 3:15 a.m. with a fever and couldn’t go back to sleep for two hours. I finally brought her into bed and said, “Do you want to cuddle with Mommy and Daddy?”
She repeated, “Do do do do do do do do” for the next 11 minutes. It’s moments like those that I wish she came with a mute button. Since she didn’t, I give a little prayer of thanks to the person who invented earplugs.
More on and from Meredith at MeredithCarroll.com.