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Speaking Volumes

As Maddie passes her nineteen-month marker
(yes, I still keep track,) I’m amazed at how different
developmental skills suddenly take off.

She’s always been a talker; in public or with people she
doesn’t know she’ll be quiet and reserved, simply
taking it all in. But with family and close friends she’s
quite the chatterbox. For several months – actually, about a
year now! – she’s been jabbering in her own emphatic
language, using gestures to help us stupid adults keep up. And of
course she started saying individual words last summer – the
basic “dada” and “mama” and so forth
– but recently she’s been forming her own short
sentences, and you’re left to extrapolate on your own.

For example, Maddie spent much of her
Thanksgiving vacation in her grandparents’ back yard, playing
in leaf piles. That whole week she’d say, “Nana, Papa!
One, two, three!” Which, to the uninitiated, means, “I
want to go over to Nana and Papa’s house! I want to go play
in their back yard and stand in front of the leaf pile and say,
‘One, two, three!’ and fall backwards into it!”

Isn’t it obvious?

But as time passes, the same words mean something different. Once
we got back home and Maddie began to miss the leaf pile,
she’d say wistfully, “Nana, Papa, one two three.”
In this case, it meant, “Remember when I’d go over to
Nana and Papa’s and play in the leaf pile? That was really
fun and I miss it a lot.”

Her ability to communicate volumes with just a couple of carefully
selected words is pretty remarkable, when you think about it.
“Meow Meow. Lap. Paws. Hurt.” Usually means,
“I’d like to get Kitty to sit in my lap. But I’m
nervous because sometimes her paws hurt, so will you help
me?” As you go to put on her bib for dinner, she’ll
hold up a warning finger and say, “Hurt. No pull.” This
means, “I remember one time (three months ago, kid!) when you
accidentally snapped my hair into my bib. It really hurt. So please
be a little more careful this time, and don’t pull my hair

Maddie's clearly pleased with ner newfound ability to communicate
and make herself understood; she spends several minutes in her crib
upon waking simply talking to herself. She reminisces and practices
new combinations, telling funny stories and singing songs. She even
lies in her crib some nights after bedtime chatting for up to half
an hour, content with her own company. For my part, having that
parent monitor gives me a great seat for the best show out there:
just a few minutes ago she said, "Maddie's hiney. Maddie's happy
hiney. My happy hiney."

Practicing her conjugation, apparently.

On the plus side, her ability to communicate (or should I say,
train us to interpret) has made life easier in several ways: if she
doesn’t feel well, she can tell me what’s wrong –
“Eyes. Hurt.” means headache – and she
doesn’t get frustrated so much because she can effectively
explain what she wants. “Maddie. Peaches. Mouth.” That
pretty much sums it up.

On the down side, though, my daughter is much easier to understand.
Which means that I can no longer pretend not to know what she means
when she says something like, oh, “Mama carry me.”

Especially when it’s followed by “Please.”


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