b Papa Dog's Blog: Baby Talk

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Baby Talk

Baby Dog was singing this morning when I was getting her dressed – “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “I Know an Old Lady,” “Nobody Does It Better (the Theme from The Spy Who Loved Me),” the usual baby stuff. On a whim, I asked her to sing me “Starry Starry Night.” Since it’s been promoted to Chief Bedtime Song, I figured she’d be able to sing the first line of it at least. She startled me with this rendition: “Starry Starry night/Paint palette blueandgrey/Look out at summer’s day/Eyes that know…” here she drifted off, not knowing that the rest of the line was “the darkness in my soul,” but after a pause she continued with, “Shadows onna hills/Sketch trees, daffodils…” Here she drifted off again, so I prompted with “Catch the breeze,” and she responded by making a blowing wind sound. I was so delighted that I had her repeat the performance for Mama Dog. “She knows more words from that song than I do,” she said.

Thinking about it later, it struck me that I really have to get used to the idea that Baby Dog is becoming a fully fledged user of language and the sooner I stop looking at her every utterance as the most darling thing ever, the better. Yes, trotting out the lyrics to a song she hears every night is just a matter of rote memorisation, but it’s clear she’s associating the words with the real world and making the appropriate connections. She knows what the breeze is from having felt it on her face out of doors, and she understands that when the word is used in the song, it’s referring to that selfsame breeze. For that matter, whenever the subject of stars comes up, it’s almost inevitable that she says, “Sing ‘Starry Starry Night?’”

Anyway…I know when I was little kid with a big vocabulary, my elders would think it was cute whenever I used a word or a turn of phrase that seemed too mature for use by children. They would chuckle and patronise and I would burn with resentment. I understand now why they did that. It is so damn cute when Baby Dog says “Oh my goodness!” or “pantaloons.” But I remember what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that condescending chuckle, and I think I’m going to start working now to wipe it out of my repertoire. The key, of course, is to remember that she’s not a talking doll and that when she speaks her goal is communication, same as anyone. The respectful thing is to listen to what she has to say.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The hard thing is to be completely honest and fairly consistent.
Kids (even/especially? toddlers) can suss out hypocrisy like nobody else. We have to respect their enthusiastic skepticism.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous big sister said...

I think the key here is condescension. I think you are just proud of her and amazed at what she can do. It will never hurt her to know that. In fact, that will be her solid base. Listening to everything she has to say is great, too.

4:59 AM  

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