Being a mom makes you an expert in so many things—a milk connoisseur (tasting it before the baby), diaper detective (scrutinizing different brands), restaurant critic (performance determined by availability of high chair), vaccine vixen (knowing when to have shots and how much it costs), and so much more. The one that tops my list though is being an interpreter extraordinaire. I believe God has wired moms to have the innate ability to interpret their babies’ verbal and body language. There are subtleties in the way my son Timmy communicates that only I can interpret. It often leads to those wonderful “aha moments” as I watch my little man learn the art of talking.
Baby Talk and Baby Blabber
When Timmy was a few months old we were so delighted to hear his coos and ahhs. He would talk endlessly using unintelligible words that seem like a combination of German, French, and Russian! We would converse with him using adult language but in a small high-pitched voice, trying to sort of imitate his vocal range. It’s funny how adults all of a sudden go high pitch when they’re with babies. 🙂 Early on, we decided to distinguish baby talk from baby blabber. By that I mean we allow Timmy to talk the way he talks but we talk to him the way adults do. The closest we got to baby talk was using the baby pitch. I had seen one of my aunts use baby blabber while talking to her son. It took quite a while before he started talking straight. Like he would call me “Tate Bobby” instead of “Ate Ivy” and they would find it enjoyable. I, on the other hand, would try to correct him but to no avail. I think he got my name right when he was four. I guess my annoyance left a strong mark on me that should I have my own baby in the future I will not indulge his baby blabber.
We allowed Timmy to explore saying things at his own pace while we continued to say things correctly. I try to be animated most of the time when I talk to him repeating the proper enunciation of words without sternly correcting him. I read somewhere that you don’t have to say “No” when you are correcting your child in language development. It’s not like he is intentionally doing it wrong. He just doesn’t know how to say it. It’s a teaching stage and not a correcting stage. It said that the best approach is repeating the proper enunciation until he gets it. It’s amazing to see how Timmy moved from one stage to another until finally getting the words right. 🙂
A friend told me that babies learn to identify members of the family first. I was so eager to hear mama or mommy from Timmy. It turned out that he first said “dada” and then “daddy” before he was able to utter “mommy.” Truth be told, it took a couple of months before he said mommy and when he finally did he would say it only when he was crying or in distress! Mommy for him was 911 while daddy was everything but that. A couple more months passed before he was able to call mommy without duress. Haha! And I confess that the novelty of hearing my baby call me mommy never wears out even after so many months of hearing it repeatedly. 🙂
Communicating pain and discomfort is probably the most difficult thing to translate for a mom. When he was still a few months old, Timmy would cry and cry when he’s in pain. At that time, I wished that he could just talk and verbalize things. Now that he’s two, he is able to say “painful” crystal clear and it literally rips my heart. I find myself wishing sometimes that he would go back to just crying. Hearing him say it makes me helpless. I guess this is one of those moments in language development that catches you by surprise. There are moments when Timmy falls or bumps his head and we would tell him that it’s okay. We would affirm that he is a brave boy. Now, when he gets hurt (as long as it’s minor) he would get up and say, “Timmy’s a brave boy.” 🙂
When Timmy started to identify objects we watched as he evolved from saying afly to buffly to butterfly. He also went from cocoys to chocoys to chocolate. We would show him our joy and approval when he gets a word right. There’s a lot of clapping and cheering involved but the animated version comes from mommy alone. Haha! Right now, our two-year-old is in the process of moving from one word to multiple words. Actually, he’s forming sentences already. From saying car, he would now say “It’s a car.” Some of my favorite Timmy phrases/sentences are:
“Want to read” and “Want to read book” (He loves books and we are so thrilled about it!)
“Let’s pray.” (He initiates praying and it warms our heart whenever he does)
“It’s bath time!” (He loves bath time! What a relief!)
“Want to walk.” (When he’s stuck in the stroller. Haha!)
“Please, mommy.” and “Thank you, mommy.” (When asking for/receiving something)
“Such a happy boy!” or “Timmy is a happy boy!” (When he’s really happy)
“Oh no! What happened?!” (When he watches something and it disappears or something goes wrong coupled with a worried-shocked facial expression. Haha!)
“It’s okay, try again.” (Whenever he misses a shot while playing basketball)
“It’s okay baby.” or “It’s okay now.” (When trying to comfort himself; imitating mommy’s voice, too! Haha!)
“So funny!” (when he sees or experiences something funny; it has variations connected to people like “Tito Niño, funny.” or “Lolo funny.”)
He also shows his bilingual skills when he says “no more” and “many”. For example, when he would say, “No more airplane.” he will quickly follow it up with “Wala na airplane.” 🙂 Or when he says, “So many pens!” he would automatically translate it to “Dami pens!” 🙂 Omar and I make sure that he gets a healthy dose of English and Filipino in his vocabulary. After learning to count in English, I taught him to count in Filipino and he nailed it. 🙂 He is already very knowledgeable with the English alphabet that I’m thinking of working on his “abakada” already. 🙂 I also noticed that he grasps Tagalog words faster! I guess because our phonics is easier to enunciate.
Training the Talking
Soon Timmy will learn how to complain, criticize, and speak in ways we wouldn’t want to hear. Sometimes I ask myself, “How did we get to the point of lashing bitter angry words when we started with nothing but pure innocent language?” I dread the day when Timmy finds out those words and uses them in ways that would hurt other people including us. I’m sure my parents didn’t expect that I have the ability to disrespect them during those times when all I gave them was sheer cuteness. I know that as parents we can only do so much in training and influencing our child to becoming the person God wants him to be.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Every day is an opportunity for us to deposit small amounts of training in his speech and behavior that will form the foundation of his character. Below are some verses where we draw biblical principles that we can teach to our kids:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
We cannot control the people he will meet nor filter all the cultural influences he will imbibe as Timmy grows up. What we can do is train him early in God’s Word and try our best to model good behavior. He is still in the process of learning the art of talking and with proper guidance and prayer we know that God will help our little boy communicate in a way that is beneficial to him and the people around him. 🙂
I look forward to the day when we’ll have long conversations with our son. I know that my days as an interpreter extraordinaire are numbered. In a couple of years or so, everyone will be able to understand everything that Timmy wants to say. For now, I will enjoy each milestone in his speech development. I will continue to encourage him to express his thoughts and feelings the best way possible. I will relish being a spectator, watching his ability to form words and sentences in all its simplicity. And I will wait for the time when those sentences become stories that chronicle his life experiences whether big or small. 🙂