Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dad: The Baby Translator

After listening to my daughter belt out countless ba-ba-ba’s and ma-ma-ma’s for the first year of her life, the girl is finally capable of holding a conversation with her “da-da.”

Sort of. She knows a handful of words (more than 10 by our count), and we can talk at great length about “tree,” “baby” and “ball,” but then she’ll go off on some tangent about “doo-wee skroo-joe bip dwoo,” and look at me for a response. Most of the time, all I can say is an emphatic “YEAH!” which makes her smile and clap. For all I know, I’ve agreed to let her get Elmo’s face tattooed on her stomach when she turns 13.

She has also started answering the phone, which is sometimes her toy phone, sometimes our real phones and sometimes her hand, and carrying on a full conversation with who-knows-who. She’ll pull whatever object she has to her ear (or the back of her neck is more accurate) and say “HEY.” Then she’ll walk off talking about “posh peesh fisbo meesha,” which, I guess, is how I must sound to her (and my wife) when I talk to my dad about sports.

"Meesh-mosh weboo Justin Upton bam-bam."

Hearing your toddler talk in her own language is an incredible, amazing thing to watch as a parent, especially considering how I felt about her talking situation seven months ago. It’s also frustrating because one of her favorite words is “NO”, and she uses it frequently, complete with wild, violent head flailing and/or running away.

Susan, come here and let me wipe your nose. NO.

Let’s go change your diaper. NO.

Oh, are you bringing that random object to me so I can put it back where it belongs? NO.

Give me that random piece of whatever you just found on the ground and are about to put in your mouth. NO.

Give me whatever you just put in your mouth. NO.

Please? NO.

Ok fine, eat it and get sick. NO.

Stop saying no. NO.

I’m serious. (cries)

All NO’s aside, it’d be really helpful if the girl could tell us when something is wrong or when (and where) she’s in pain, but she’s not quite there yet. She can say “OW” but only does so in response to me when she bites my finger or slings a book into my forehead. And I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to teach your kid what “OW” means by example, so I’m going to let her daycare classmates take the lead on that one.

That said, my wife and I are now at that delicate stage of Toddlerdom where our daughter can verbally communicate some of her needs, but not all. It leads to frustration on everyone’s part when she tries to communicate something we don’t understand and she’s forced to revert to the universal language of suffering, which is screaming in public like a banshee (nice restaurant be damned). If only Google Translate could decipher baby-speak.

Current communication breakdown withstanding, I’m happy to be able to share in at least a handful of words with my daughter. I actually enjoy the jargon a little bit more because you can see in her face when she’s jibber-jabbing that she knows EXACTLY what she’s trying to say.  And it sure sounds a hell of a lot better than “You’re not the boss of me,” so Susan, you just keep meesh-mo and see-bowing away.

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