Thursday, June 16, 2011

Toddler Translator

My daughter is two and is talking up a storm. She chats to everyone and, as most toddlers do, points out every single object, person and pet she encounters. It’s as though her activities and sights need a continuous verbal relay. I hear about every plane that passes overhead, every dog that walks by, every bird that crosses our lawn, and pretty much every other action taking place. Her new one is “Mama, watch this!” which is followed by some sort of action on her part, usually a tumbling move she picked up from observing her brothers “break dance”. (Her tumbling maneuver, more often than not, consists of her lifting her arms up, straight into the air then dramatically swooshing them down, bending over and kicking her feet all of two inches off the floor. It’s priceless!)

On the whole, I love to hear her talk. I’ve waited for this day for a long time. Once kids begin speaking it makes life, generally speaking, easier. The only problem is, as is the case with beginner talkers, she speaks her own language. By this I mean she doesn’t always pronounce words correctly (sometimes she’s not even close!), making it a challenge to decipher her intention. She is extremely precise and knows exactly what she wants to say, and she says it, only I don’t always understand her. We play this game throughout the day endlessly. I have to go through a list of every single word she could possibly mean and say it out loud until I hit the right one. Now, being her mother and with her all day long I’m usually quite adept at picking the winning word quickly. However, there are instances where we spend a good chunk of time attempting to understand each other.

This morning, for example, she kept saying “Pez! Pez!” I looked all around the room for something that might sound similar to “pez” but couldn’t locate anything. I asked “Birds?... Cars?... Books?... Brush?... Pants?... Bed?...” until I finally hit the jack pot with “Brothers.” Turns out she was inquiring after her two brothers while I was getting her dressed for the day.

My daughter has the habit of just repeating the word (or phrase) over and over and over until I get it. She doesn’t tire, she’ll just repeat it incessantly like a broken record. When she’s not feeling patient and is frustrated with me for taking too long she’ll continue with her repetition but then she’ll throw in a loud “No!” of exasperation in between guesses, scrunch up her face, stiffen her body and then arch her back in protest, as though I am wasting her time and could I please hurry up and get with the program already! Sheesh! (I have no idea where she gets that from, by the way… Ha! I can’t even type those words without laughing!)

I usually make an attempt to exercise my own patience in this situation because I know she’s trying hard to speak to me. I can relate to just how wearisome it is when either people do not understand your words or when you lack the vocabulary to properly express yourself. It can be maddening. Of course I also make a point to encourage her to remain calm and let her know I’m doing the best I can, thank you very much!

However, even with the challenges involved I do really love the learning-to-speak stage. It’s a point where you can see your child grow and develop right before your very eyes, from moment to moment. It’s fascinating! I think at this stage every parent proudly states their child is pure genius for being able to identify, pronounce, express, and relay meaning. It’s a remarkable time in a child’s life. Witnessing such leaps and bounds in mere days more than makes up for the Monopoly-style guessing games and frustrated toddler tantrums.

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