Oh the early years… So much time from birth to age 5 is spent slogging through the sheer physical demands of parenthood: the feeding, the butt wiping, the sleepless nights, the plucking of Cheerios out of the car seats, the never getting to go to the bathroom with the door shut. The list goes on, right? At every turn I found it exhausting. A labor of love, for sure, but some days were “Calgon, take me away” exhausting.
If you are a parent, you probably spent your share of afternoons, or evenings, pleading with an inconsolable babe to just tell you what they want. Just one word. So you could fix it and right their world again. And then one day (praise be!) they do. Coos give way to syllables; syllables morph into words and soon little phrases begin to dominate the afternoon hours once marked by monologue. The start of this chapter, of watching my children learn how to communicate and socially navigate the world through language, gave me one of the first genuine joys of parenting. It also gave me one of the most unexpected comedic rewards: listening to them jack it up.
We spent the Christmas of 2013 listening to our 2-year-old call the Christmas tree topper an “a-hole” instead of an angel. It quickly became a season marked by confused looks at the grocery store whenever she’d ask people if they wanted to come over to see it. Nope, I won’t be forgetting the Christmas of 2013 anytime soon. The indelible image of my son at the same age is him tugging at a pant leg, rapidly repeating, “What you said?” whenever he was confused or didn’t hear me. He’s almost 5 years old now and we still hear it. I can’t help but giggle and feel my heart melt a little every time.
To boot, when our children were really starting to put sentences together they were soaking in all the words, expressions, and terms of endearment in English and Spanish. Confusion was inevitable. I just wasn’t banking on having two little extroverts that would try to communicate to whomever they could, whenever they could with whatever words they had handy. At least twice a week I have to use the translation app on my phone to sleuth out what one of them is telling me, trying to tell someone else, or trying to tell me what they told someone else. (Foca means seal in Spanish, by the way–it’s not a plea for mommy to focus while reading. Learned that one night after my reading of the beloved animal book devolved into mommy explaining that she focuses on every picture equally and does not short-shift the seal picture in any way, shape, or form. Mommy loves seals.)
We try to keep a list of the really funny or memorable ones and print them onto mugs at Christmas time. Neither has a baby book documenting their early years in any conventional sense, so my plan is to have a kitchen cabinet catalogue of how my little people found their own voices. So much personality shines through in so few words. It may be one of those projects that gets sidelined over time, who knows, but for now I’m going to enjoy my coffee, in its quote-tagged mug, and hope that the game of Uno they are playing lasts long enough for me to drink it while it’s hot. Then again… maybe not. I just heard my son chase his sister down the hall chanting “Let’s have a fight of pillows!”
I better write that one down.
photo by ELIZA