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Is Mommy Listening?

I’ve noticed a recent trend in
Madeleine towards deliberate craftiness that is disturbing, to say
the least.

When she wants something from me she’ll often ask several
times, even though I always answer with “no”.
Eventually she’ll start saying, “Yes!”
“No!” I reply. “Yes!” “No!”
until it’s kind of a game in itself and it’s clear she
doesn’t really have a hope of changing my mind.

Except that sometimes she will switch, and say, “No!”
in the clear hopes that I’ll absentmindedly reply,
“Yes!” Every time I catch it and smile knowingly at the
little minx, she’ll look a bit chagrined but unabashed.

This leads me to wonder how often I
actually do tune her out. In private or with people she knows well
Maddie is astonishingly verbal, and will often provide free
narration to her own life, as if she’s writing the script for
her movie as she goes along. “Maddie sits!”
she’ll say as she brings a chair over to the table to sit and
read a book. “Maddie reading!” she’ll continue.
Sometimes this is clear dialogue with me: “Oatmeal
hot!” Maddie will say, over and over again, until I say
something like, “Is it hot?” “Not hot!”
she’ll reply. But she’ll repeat the same phrase over
and over again until I repeat it in acknowledgement, or at least
pick up the thread of conversation.

Which sounds like no big deal – after all, who doesn’t
want to talk with her kid? - except for the fact that
Maddie’s big into conjugating verbs these days, and it gets
tiresome. “Maddie eats!” “Yes, Maddie
eats.” “Daddy eats!” “Yes, Daddy eats
too.” “Mama eats!” “Yep, Mama’s
eating.” “Mama eating!” and so on. You can see
how this would grow old, but I’ve learned to keep at least
half an oar in the conversation or it’s a broken record until
I start paddling again.

Other times, though, Madeleine’s perfectly content to simply
talk to herself, doing the narration thing as she goes along. This
aspect of her personality is fascinating – I love getting a
glimpse into how she sees things. Brian recently played a tape he
made of worship one Sunday, and Maddie pointed at the cassette tape
and said, “Maddie in there! Maddie sings!” as if to
say, “Hey! I was there! I’m part of that!”

Her little habit is also incredibly useful, since she will often
alert me to something she shouldn’t be doing. I can work in
the kitchen getting a meal ready and listen to her roam all over
our (very small) house, describing what she’s doing. When I
hear something along the lines of, “Climb stool!” I
know it’s time to put down the paring knife and investigate.

But back to Maddie’s crafty capitalizing on my
half-listening. As I said last week, we’ve seen a resurgence
of Naked Girl, and Madeleine’s still looking for ways to
bring the superhero out of hiding on a more frequent basis. Thus
the following little scenario:

Arriving home after a brief foray out into the cold, I proceeded to
allow Maddie to narrate the removal of all her outerwear.
“Hat off!” Maddie would say. “Hat off.
Check!” I’d reply as I removed the gear. “Mittens
off!” “Mittens off. Check.” “Shoes
off!” “Shoes off. Check.” I answered, standing
her on the ground to facilitate coat removal. “Coat
off!” “Coat off. Check.” I finished, preparing to
move on to my own gear. Next thing I hear –

“Pants off!”

I look up to see my daughter mooning me, a smiling mug of Elmo
smirking in my face from her diapers, pants down around her ankles,
hiney in the air.

“No, no,” I hastily corrected as I pulled the pants
back on, “Pants stay on, Maddie.” My daughter had
clearly hoped I wasn’t really listening to our conversation.

“Ok, mommy,” she agreed. Then took a few steps.

“Naked Girl, pants off!” I heard, with a repeat of the
(admittedly adorable) gesture.

She’s got me there – I didn’t say the pants stay
on Naked Girl.


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