There is no rushing our Baby T. As I may have mentioned, he is a bit of a law unto himself: he likes to decide what he is going to do and when he is going to do it. He does very little simply to please us and, as a result, trying to nudge him towards a milestone or two is both frustrating and pointless.
Up until very recently, communicating using anything other than pointing and grunting simply wasn’t on his list of priorities. Yes, he has been getting annoyed by being misunderstood, but T either hasn’t made the connection between attempting to speak and getting what you want, or he simply hasn’t felt it worth diverting his energy towards learning speech yet.
Our fruitless efforts to encourage a bit of verbal communication have been laughable.
“What’s this?” (points at picture of a cat)
“Can you say Daddy?”
“I’m Mama. This is Dada. Say Dada”
He seriously said Batman before he said Daddy. Daddy was peeved.
Learning to talk with the other two was rather a different affair. H wasn’t particularly early to speak but he was a pleaser and, once he realised he got a round of applause and lots of whooping when he copied a word from his doting parents, he took it upon himself to win as much praise as possible. Like our T, he was an extreme scribbler, but once the words started he did his best to make us happy and learn as many as he could, bless him.
M was, and still is, my communicator extraordinaire. She started talking incredibly young and, by T’s age, she was using complete and complex sentences. I’ve not been able to shut her up since, which I love, incidentally, even if it drives me crazy from time to time.
You see, I am a talker. “No!” I hear you shout. Yes, I know, it’s a shocker, but I love to talk. And I have surrounded myself with talkers in life: a net of like-minded communicators who catch and carry each other with a web of words. And I don’t mean talking just because you like the sound of your own voice. I mean the art of verbal communication: talking but also listening, responding, encouraging, sympathising. It is the stuff of life. It keeps you sane and soothes the soul. My closest friends and I barely pause when we meet up, sharing our joys and woes, wrapping each other in a verbal blanket of support and kindness.
My little M is a dyed in the wool, five star talker. She is a total chip off the old block and I just know her. I know how she thinks, how she listens, how she learns. I almost can’t remember a time before she was able to express herself.
And so we come back to our little T. Part of the problem is that he came after my alpha communicator – a tough act to follow and no mistake. But mostly, it has been about the fact that he simply doesn’t give a monkey’s. I know my nearly two year old well enough to know that, until he does care, there is next to no point in pushing it. Locking horns with a toddler is never productive.
But something rather miraculous has happened in the last couple of weeks. A spark has fired in his little brain and T has caught the wordy bug. Remembering that he was starting from a pretty low base, I think he has made up some incredible ground of late. I’ll admit I was beginning to have a creeping concern about my grunting child and I even checked the dreaded expectations list of what a two year old ‘should’ be able to do (he was a clear fail a few weeks ago, as far an language went). But now I’m kicking back and relaxing, knowing that he has whizzed passed the mark in next to no time.
Talker T is now running three or four basic words into sentences. He is playing with sounds, trying everything out and is utterly delighted with himself when he nails it. OK, so lots of the words are noises that only I can interpret right now but he has gone from having just a handful of them to producing them by the bucketload.
I’d forgotten just how funny and engaging this early talking stage can be. The look on his little face when he manages a new word for the first time is just adorable. T was given some cake in a plastic cup at a party this weekend. The novelty factor of having “kerk in a curp” was something that clearly required a great deal of repetition, marvelling at being able to describe what he had in his hands.
So, has this wave of new language had an impact on the number of frustrated tantrums? No, not really. He may be able to explain what he wants a bit better now but he still kicks off when he doesn’t get it. What it has done is make me feel like we are really beginning to get there.
With his second birthday just around the corner, Baby T has still felt very much like a baby to us. Too much like a baby, to be honest. With the older two, I felt we were really out of the baby stage by their second birthdays, and we were good and ready for that change each time. Let’s face it, a lot of the baby stuff sucks and two years really is enough. But my wordless boy has been seriously dragging his heels. Without language, he still seemed incredibly young, still in the baby bubble. I have been really keen to be able to finally have a two way interaction with my obstinate youngest. We are now, after a long wait, on the cusp of that and I am delighted by it.
Soon there will be another little voice asking me endless questions, bickering with his siblings, interrupting me on the phone. Our house is already full of constant chatter and it is about to increase significantly. Bring it on, I say. It is a hell of a lot better than grunting.
Being the youngest, T will always be my baby, but I’m glad he is starting to shake off his babydom just a little. I think Talker T and I are going to get on just fine.