Thursday, September 6, 2012

Toddler Language Explosion

Blogging is interesting. My sister-in-law Angie has written a couple thought-provoking posts this summer about her struggle to know how much good and bad to put on her blog and when and how. (Check her out here.) My "friend" Jen Hatmaker (friend is only in quotes because we haven't met, but I'm pretty sure that I love her enough to make the friendship work even with that minor technicality in play) wrote several stirring, serious, passionate posts in a row only to -- with astounding humor and effectiveness -- relate five normal mundane things that irk her. (Check her out here.)

Here is part of my favorite paragraph from her recent post, which kind of describes my dilemma in writing this and (sometimes) other posts about Gavin.

From Jen a few days ago: The downside of being a pretentious ingredient snob is that ... You end up saying pompous things like, “Grocery store tomatoes are not 1/100th the quality of my Cherokee Purples in the backyard.” This actually makes people hate you, like when you complain about shredding cheese and someone says just buy the preshredded bag and you call it waxy and unacceptable and they are like I kind of wish you were dead."

When I share victories about Gavin like how he is talking up a storm, I wonder if people are like stop bragging already. Then there are times when I contemplate sharing struggles and questions like...

when will he stop waking up at 5am already and
can the child never sit in circle time in our mommy-and-me class and
does this mean that he will always be a loner and not function in society? (I was pretty sure that he would start kindergarten being able only to bang toys together and never use them as intended until he proved otherwise. But I obsess, I mean, digress! ...Ummmm...)

I find it difficult to blog about struggles that are not yet resolved. That's what anonymous message boards are for, right? Somewhere between my anxiety about looking clueless (so sad she never properly taught that child to sleep) and my anxiety about looking clueless (doesn't she know babies that age aren't supposed to do that yet), it's just hard to get it down on the page. BUT I am contemplating thinking about planning to try to be more open about struggles in my blog. (Can you tell I don't feel particularly compelled at the moment?)

So that's for later. This is for now. Gavin is talking up a storm! Please don't 'kind of wish I was dead.'

Gavin has been saying words for quite a while. At about 18 months, there wasn't anything he wouldn't try to say. Then at 19.5 months, he started saying two-word phrases like "big up" (he still loves to step up and down more than just about anything else) and later that week moved on to two-word (what the books call) sentences like "bye dad-dee" and "eat pear." We love it, and he is quite proud of himself!

Along with his new ability to put words together has also come a new level of jibberish that will soon become intelligible conversation. New intonations, new sounds and a new expectation for us to understand more than we do. You see, his pronunciation is often far from accurate. I have often considered helping those closest to us by charting his "N" words like lunch, down and dinner and his "M" words like balloon and violin get the idea. I remember excitedly texting Josh during his important study session when Gavin went from saying pink (for months pronounced "hum") to pink (pronounced "humnk") to pink ("mink") to pink ("pink") all in a morning. (Aside: even now I'm wondering if you are like doesn't she know that kind of pronunciation is a sign of a learning disability or conversely if you are like duh, all babies do that. Reference crazy-person rant above about blogging struggles.) 

Anyway, because he expects us to understand more these days and because--for new words or words with no context--we often don't, his (adorable) little toddler brain has a few go-to ways of dealing with it:

1) Just keep saying it. I can picture his patient, earnest little face now as he thinks to himself C'mon mom, you can do it. Reach back into that rusty brain. Remember, we were talking about this yesterday. Remember. Many times, it will click for me, and I'll know I'm right when he repeats my correct answer with confident approval. Sometimes, he'll even add a yeah which he then tends to follow by yes and uh-huh.
2) When possible, point. He'll usually try a couple times without pointing even if the object is right next to him. I love it when the object is not next to him, and he takes those cute pudgy legs over to it and then gently repeatedly points with one finger.
3) Take a better suggestion. If I am guessing, and say something that sounds pretty good to him, he'll sometimes (though much less often than you might think) change his mind. Crackers? Yes, okay mom. Since you're offering.
4) Give up. Sometimes, he'll just decide it's not worth it. I'll guess a few times as he stares intently at me, then he'll just calmly look down and go back to what he was doing like Yeah,'s really not worth it after all.
5) Whine or cry. Thankfully, this doesn't happen often, but he is a toddler after all, and more so every day. 

To end this already-too-long post, here are my favorite things he's saying right now. At this point, I am probably the only one still reading, so why not indulge myself?

scissors -- seh-sehs with equal emphasis on both syllables
olive oil -- he'll say it five different ways in one minute which is part of the cuteness, but it's one of the few times he makes an actual "L" sound instead of a "Y" sound. Usually it comes out ol-oh.
house -- it's spot on but almost a nasal sound
high five dad -- I miss this one about half the time until he patiently helps me catch on, so I don't really know how to describe it.
hug -- an oldie, but a goodie -- he says it like a cross between hug and huck, which is adorable, but it's that sweet face with eyebrows slightly raised and those arms reaching out that make me think I don't care how you say it, baby. Yes, I'll take one of those.

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