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Can We Talk? (Because I’m Not Really Sure.)

Can We Talk? (Because I’m Not Really Sure.)


The proclamation was made just as we were pulling into the garage after a trip to Target one afternoon last week. I turned around, half-expecting to be confronted by a 1930s street urchin selling newspapers out of the back of my car. But it was just Mini, smiling back at me, resting comfortably in his car seat, and shaking his sippy cup up and down like it was a can of soda he hoped to con me into opening later.

“Dude, did you just say, ‘NUTS!’?”
“Seriously? You said, ‘nuts’?”
“I don’t want to be overly critical, Mini, it’s just, where on earth did you pick that up?”
” . . . ”
“Are you saying it in the place of an expletive? Like, ‘Oh, nuts! I’m out of cheesy poofs!’ Or is it more of a request, like . . . ‘Give me some nuts!’?”
” . . . ”
“I mean, I never say ‘nuts,’ do I? I don’t even eat them usually. How often could they possibly come up in conversation?”
” . . . ”
“And it’s not as if we’ve been watching old gumshoe detective film noir movies recently. Or . . . I don’t know, who says ‘nuts’ anymore? Mr. Rogers?”
“Ohchekulakakakakaka . . . THIS!”
“Right. This.
“What? Are you doing Bea Arthur now?”
“Okay, okay. I’m coming.”

Language is weird. The process of language acquisition is even weirder. This is hardly the most profound observation I’ve made recently, but watching my son develop his language skills is really astonishing at times. And I mean beyond the obvious ways, like the miracle that he has yet to say the words “cocksucker” or “asshat.” Although statistically speaking, that is pretty amazing, because even though Mr. Right-Click and I have theoretically been trying to clean up our language around Mini, the sad reality is that we haven’t quite learned to recognize him for the linguistic sponge that he is. We still think of him as a little baby whose brain is only halfway turned on, even though at 18 months, he wears 3T and has done things like wrestle with Mr. Right-Click for the TV remote, saying, “I WANT THIS.”

So when he came up to me with a board book and said, “read THIS,” I was not sure if he was really speaking to me, or if it was a coincidence that he arrived at those particular sounds in exactly the correct context at that moment. You know, like when you have a newborn that’s making all their weird newborn noises, and then all of a sudden they happen upon a real word, but obviously they’re not really saying that word, because they can’t talk yet.

Like the time when Mini was about two months old and we were driving along, and we hear something out of the back seat that sounds like, “Himmahommameeobajezza–ANAL,” and Mr. Right-Click and I look at each other like, “Dude, did he just say, ‘ANAL’?”

But now sometimes Mini really says words, like the obvious Mama and Dada, NO!, ‘night (Goodnight), Bah (Bath), THIS (one of his favorites), hah da (hot dog, only used a few times), dah (either that, cat, or anything he sees and likes, and wants to go get), and, of course, “Nice!”. These are among the words that we know he is saying with intentionality, but there are many others that we aren’t so sure about. And he’ll say one, or a string of them together, and the two of us are always looking at him like, “Seriously? Did you really just say that?”

I mean sure there are the times where he says something like, “BANAL,” and I’ll be like, “Look, I may be a pretentious asshole, but no way have I said ‘banal’ enough around you for you to pick it up. Try again, funny man.”

But there are other times where it’s not clear how much of it is actually intentional talk, and how much of it is just him happening upon combinations of words that sound like full sentences. I remember explaining to the pediatrician at the twelve-month appointment that he used “mama” to connote me, but also when he was tired or wanted to be soothed, and “dada” to refer to Mr. Right-Click, but also when he was doing something fun or exciting, wild and crazy. And she was like, “OK, well, we don’t have to psychoanalyze his use of every word . . .”

So yeah, maybe I’m overthinking it. But sometimes I wonder about that mind that is being shaped in that cutie pie melon of his–sometimes I look at him and am amazed by what I see. Like, how does he know to catch my eye and then try to fill up a cup with bathwater, and pretend to drink it? How does he know that will make me freak out? How does he already know that actually drinking the bathwater is not necessary, as long as he is convincing in his pretend drinking? And where does that laugh come from? How old is this kid anyway? Nuts!

Comments (12)

  1. Kids say and do the funniest things. I get the pretend bathwater drinking. Still. The twins are almost 6. Always funny to them. Lately my daughter has been ending her sentences to me with Dawg! When is dinner, DAWG?

    Laurin of Laurin and Kelly Talk´s last blog post..That’s Bananas!

  2. Oct 30, 2008

    Damn! I got distracted by the CommentLuv link. I love me some bright shiny objects or in this case geeky gadgets. Let me try this again.

    I have always contended that one has children in order to “mess with their heads”. It seems that in your household that contention is reversed. Go Mini!

  3. Oct 30, 2008

    It’s amazing what they pick up and how fast. My son still says ‘atrocious’ from the two times I used it when he was four. If you teach him the word ‘insipid’ you can get him started on his career as a movie critic.

    Jim´s last blog post..School Picture Day

  4. Oct 30, 2008

    Oscar is at a really similar stage of language development. He has one clear sentence, “I see it,” and that means multiple things – he actually sees something, he’s found something, or he wants me to hand him something.

    And, he tries to make me laugh, like by putting things on his head or by blowing raspberries on his toys or making silly faces. He’s 16 months old and he has a sense of humor. How is that???

    jenni´s last blog post..Just Fifteen Minutes: A Story About My Mom

  5. Oct 30, 2008

    Can you believe that Carter’s three and I can’t remember what it was like when he was learning to talk? LOL Sometimes I wish he still couldn’t. 😉

    sam {temptingmama}´s last blog post..On Screaming Snot-nosed Children (Yours, Not Mine)

  6. Oct 30, 2008

    It’s easier with cats. I have worked out a simple communication method with them. I ask a question. If they meow, it means yes. If they don’t, it means no. If they look at me like I’m the stupidest creature that they’ve ever encountered, it means everything is normal.

    Sometimes the cats really want to make me a martini, but they haven’t figured out how to use the shaker yet.

    Amy´s last blog post..PORN!!!

  7. Oct 30, 2008

    Aww, this is adorable. I wonder these things all the time too – my girl is nearly 9 months, and I analyze every word and near-word that exits her mouth. She, too, uses “Mamamama” when she’s sad/needy, and “dadadada” for nearly any other instance.

    So cool to watch – it really is miraculous, isn’t it?

    bessie.viola´s last blog post..three years

  8. Oct 30, 2008

    Laurin you’re cracking me up!

    Also, I wish I would remember to say, “Nuts!” It’s a really great little curse. Gonna have to try and use that one. It’s better than my regular curse word, which is “Motherf***er.” The day one of my kids yells that at me I will have only myself to blame.

    I totally get this. It’s so amazing to me, watching my kids acquire language skills. Me and the husb are entranced by all new words and phrases the kids come up with. It never gets old.

    blissfully caffeinated´s last blog post..Today, in a Very Special World Series Edition of Man Candy…

  9. Oct 30, 2008

    We’re there too with Thing 2. He’ll walk up and ask “What you doing?” but then he won’t say cat or dog. Instead, he meows or barks, which is really funny.

    He also says “Mama,” “dada,” “eye,” “nooooo” (nose), “mouuuu” (mouth), “yeah” and “thank you.” And, he gets so mad at me when he’s talking to me, asking for something, and I give him the wrong thing. He pushes it away and shakes his head and yells at me. Such a temper!

    Mary Anna´s last blog post..Whitewater Adventure

  10. Oct 30, 2008

    Sounds like you’ve got a pretty intelligent boy on your hands. I’m amazed at how much kids “get” just from being around people, which is borne out by rare and sad feral children cases. Also, people don’t seem to realize that children aren’t stupid just because they’re uneducated.

    J.´s last blog post..1939-2008

  11. MichelleB
    Oct 31, 2008

    Haha kids will pick up and say anything they are like sponges! After my recent divorce from my husband and I sold the engagement ring he gave me to http://www.idonowidont.com my 3 year old daughter told another little girl at a playdate that “mommy ring gone, daddy hates mommy” which she chose to say on her own.

    Obviously she connects the ring and my ex-husband together but they can say the craziest stuff!

  12. surcey
    Nov 7, 2008

    My daughter uses the word stupendous, which I don’t think I’ve used ever in my life.

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