Sunday, November 13, 2005

Once again, my child is a curve-breaker

I am informed by the weekly newsletter I receive in my inbox for my 15 month old (week 3), that “By 15 months, the majority (about 75 percent) of children have a vocabulary that consists of "Mama" and "Dada" plus at least three other words, usually nouns, such as "cookie," "ball," and "dog."”

Yes, well. My child? Is part of the 25 percent of all babies who are not speaking a single word-as-such by age 15 months (week 3).

Not. One.

Noise, we’ve got. Ba-ba-ba-ba, na-na-na, va-va-va.

But, ba-ba-ba does not mean, say, “bottle” or “boogie” or “fetch me a peeled grape.” It means, uh, ba-ba-ba.

The pediatrician said, “We’d like him to get a hearing test.”

I said, “Ha! HAHAHA! No, that won’t be necessary.”

He hears just fine. He understands words like ‘juice’, ‘snack’, ‘no’, and his own name. He also sings rather well and recognizes the theme songs from his favorite movies from clear upstairs.

He just…does not care to speak to us right now.

I’d be more alarmed, except that Eldest did the same exact thing. I swear, the child did not say more than a word or two ('no' and 'muh-muh') until she was almost eighteen months old, at which point she suddenly toddled over, looked up at me as I was loading the dishwasher and said, clear as a bell, “Mommy, kin I pwease have-it some joos?”

I just about fell over.

And I expect Captain Adventure will do the same thing to me. I’ll probably be sitting there watching Spiffy the Wonder Dog and the Toddler Mafia Take On The Leaky Diaper Monster (again), and he’ll turn to me and say, “You know, mother, I find this to be such a fascinating exploration of the psyche, touching on the depths of our fears around embarrassing bodily fluid eruptions…”

All the same, I’m stepping up my efforts to force him to talk. As is usually the case, the problem with the child comes back to his parents (OK, OK, it comes back to yours truly). I don’t make him talk. He doesn’t have to talk. He doesn’t have to say “up”, because mommy will automatically bend down and pick him up when he tugs at me. He doesn’t have to say, “Joos!” because I will respond to fussiness by running through a checklist in my head: hmm, is it likely to be a) hunger, b) a diaper issue, or c) thirst? Hmm, I’m going to go with ‘c’ – GIVE THE LUCKY WOMAN A GIGGLE, SHE’S RIGHT AGAIN!

Go Mom. Only, see, it does mean that His Most Royal Highness has not had to learn to communicate much. Sure, it’s nice having a personal assistant who spends most of her waking hours fretting about your comfort, health, hygiene and so forth, but at the same time it does create a kind of flabby dependence on your part. I mean, seriously. What would happen to the kid if I got mowed down by an over-caffeinated SUV driver at the school tomorrow? He’d be stuck with Daddy, who while equally in love with his children lacks both the overactive nurturing gene and the Uterus Sensors, which automatically alert me to such things as offspring hunger/thirst, children (my own and others) getting into things that will get them hurt and whether or not it is imperative that they wear socks YES IN THE HOUSE lest lurking cold germs leap under their bare toenails and creep up to their throats, there to wreak havoc for weeks on end.

So I’m trying to make him say ‘up’ instead of just responding to him pawing at my pant legs and yowling. I look down at his misery and say, “Do you want UP? Say UP! UP? UP?!”

And he’s looking at me with an expression of extreme frustration, an expression that clearly says, “Yes, I want UP you astonishing twit! What part of my leg-pawing and wailing is hard for you to understand?!”

Undaunted, I continue to ask him if he wants, you know, UP.

In the back of my mind, however, I know that there is one unshakeable truth: My child will start to talk when he’s damned good and ready, and not one (1) moment sooner. Leading a horse to water and all that – I can work it all I want, but he will not purse up those adorable little lips and spit out the simple word “up” until he feels the urge from deep within his soul.

At which point, after spending days, weeks, or even months stressing out over getting the kid to say his first word…you know what?

I’ll spend the next twenty years trying to get him to be quiet for one damned minute so I can hear myself think.

It just ain’t fair, I tell you, it just ain’t fair…

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