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Each new word brings me closer to my boy

July 15th, 2011 · No Comments · Blog

As we were roughhousing on the living room floor Wednesday night, my son kept pointing beyond me and saying, “Moo. Moo.” He’s closing in fast on 20 months and adding new words almost every day. “Moo” was actually his first discernible word, and it came a few months back when he pointed to a small figurine of a cow on a shelf in our foyer. I couldn’t see any cows this time, however, so I didn’t know what he was talking about until he made his way over to the window and pointed out at the full moon hanging in the sky. It was “moon” he was saying. (And, no, there wasn’t a cow jumping over it.)

His pronunciation leaves us guessing quite often. “Light,” “hot,” and “hat” all can come out as “ott” or something close to it. “Grill,” pronounced “gra,” can sound an awful lot like “car” if you don’t listen carefully. And we didn’t catch on that “ki-ki” was “Snoopy” for a couple of days. (Silly us.) His vocabulary is expanding faster than we can keep up with it.

In the early days, he seemed to get stuck after moo, grill (we cook out a lot), juice, meow, and a couple of others. At his 18-month checkup the pediatrician declared him within the range of normal for expressive language, albeit on the slower end. His comprehension, on the other hand, was phenomenal. The kid understood just about everything we said to him, and had for a couple of months. They suggested trying some simple sign language to see if that could help him communicate to us. We taught him the sign for “more” first, and he caught onto it in about a day. He uses it for everything now. More food, more “Leave It to Beaver,” more singing (even my out-of-tune warbling he can’t get enough of). He signs “more” a hundred times a day, sometimes even vocalizing the word for emphasis.

At some point he picked up “I do,” which has been tremendously useful for us. “Do you want a sippy cup?” we ask. “I do,” he replies. And he only says it when he really does want what we offer. There’s still some guesswork involved, but thanks to his understanding of what we say, we can typically name that tune in three questions or less.

Of course, now that we’ve reached the point where the comprehension and the expression meet, I need to start being a little more careful about what I say. Because he’s parroting words back to us, even ones that he has no idea what they mean. So no more F-bombs when someone cuts us off as I’m driving him to the library, and no more offhand comments about all the fatty-bo-batties in the grocery store. I’m content to let someone else get blamed for teaching him all that.

One phrase I’m actually glad to hear him repeat comes from his favorite book, Casey at the Bat, which I have memorized well enough I can read the entire thing to him without looking at the words. He has it memorized as well. When we get to the part where the umpire calls “strike two,” he will often chip in with a “strike two!” The amazing part to me is he’s ready for it the moment I turn to that page. And we don’t even have to go in order. He was flipping through the pages one night this week and when the book opened to the part where the count goes 0-2 on Casey, he broke out with a “strike two!”

Reading, at last, has become interactive. Conversations finally can include recognizable words on both sides. Just yesterday he mixed in “wall,” “bread,” and “clock.” These are everyday items it’s very conceivable he’ll have a need to tell me about sometime soon. (Especially the bread, which he enjoys with or without butter.)

As badly as I want to share my ideas with the rest of the world, via blog posts and books I spend hundreds upon hundreds of hours working on, communicating with my son excites me the most. I want to know what’s going on in that mind of his. I know it’s working overtime every waking minute of the day. I can tell by the intense looks of concentration on his face when he’s wrestling with weighty issues. But what are they?

With every word he learns, every tool he adds to his box, I come a little closer to finding out.


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