a brief and unscientific update on language

Since I last wrote about Henry’s language development, there’s been a ton more. My friend John commented a couple of months ago that his son had all of a sudden started picking up about a word a day, and this now seems like an accurate description of what’s going on with Henry. He’s learned, in the past few weeks, food, water, turtle, pool, wall, meat, hot, high-chair, bowl, hat, down, tea, oatmeal, towel, and, uh, cowpig, which is the name we’ve given to a certain stuffed animal of indeterminate species. Not all of these are enunciated perfectly, of course — oatmeal is rather charmingly said “Emile,” for example. But generally, if you were looking for the mythical “language explosion” point in his development, this is probably it.

And man is it awful. I mean, really. Over the course of the year I’ve been at home with him, Henry and I had developed a pretty good routine and a pretty good working relationship. Up to a few weeks ago, he would generally content himself with little physical projects during the day — moving things around the living room, climbing onto the windowsills, and so on. My job was to feed him, diaper, him and rescue him when he got stuck. But now he’s mastered physical movement, I guess, and the new obsession is talking. All. The. Time.

This creates two problems. First, his desire to express things rapidly outstrips his ability, and so he gets frustrated easily. It’s a constant chore to divine what he’s trying to tell you, and if you don’t get it quickly enough he throws himself on the floor and moans piteously, “Noooooooooooooooo!”

Second, I don’t want to talk all the time. I’m blogging! I’m reading the news! I’m disagreeing with some guy on the A.V. Club about the relative merits of Hello Nasty in the Beastie Boys canon!

This is hard to deal with. Without any exaggeration, I can say that the language explosion has made me like my kid less. There’s no need to comment on this — I’m aware that the problem is mine, not his.

But it’s funny that you think, when your kid is a newborn and won’t sleep for more than an hour-and-a-half at a time, “Oh, this is the hard part. I am really making sacrifices now.” And then you figure out sleep and feeding and you sort of expect that it’s all going to be smooth sailing from here on out, and for a while, it really is. From six months to about 18 months, this kid just gets better and better. He becomes charming and sweet; he smiles and laughs; he learns to walk and feed himself. At 18 months, you’re kind of like, “Oh, man — this kid is like some great combination of a best pal and a dog.”

And then two months later, he’s moody and easily frustrated and wants to talk all the time, and you realize he’s actually some horrible combination of unemployed roommate and ill-tempered parrot.

Also, a friend dealing with his own fatherly frustrations once told me, “Everyone complains about the terrible twos, but really, it just gets worse every year after that.” So… looking forward to that.

On the other hand, I think his kid was five at the time, and the coments in this thread at Ask Moxie are full of testimony that around five it gets better. Sort of….

I definitely thought 3 was the pinnacle of PITA behavior. Two was a breeze for me (relatively speaking).

For example:
Mom: You may have/do X or Y.
2 yo child: [chooses X or Y]
3 yo child: NO! I WANT Z!

(Of course now, at 5 1/2 and 7, I get: You told me on Thursday, June 22, 2009 that if the planets were aligned with mercury in retrograde, Z would be on the table as long as I was wearing long sleeves and said please. You promised, Mom.)


2 responses to “a brief and unscientific update on language

  1. Goodness he is cute.
    And for what it is worth, there were times when you were sick and very quiet. I kind of enjoyed those times, despite your misery.
    And it doesn’t get worse. It does get better. Five is nice. Four much less so.
    Ten is the best.

  2. So Cute! It’s just so amazing to see his development bit by bit. And it seems to me the thought when our kids were little was that odd years were steadier, essentially easier and the even ones were full or developmental turmoil – though as I write this I realize I could have ‘misremembered’ which was which!

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