You know what frustrates me most about babies and toddlers? Leaving aside their general dullness, what with all that inability to build a rocket from Lego, and not withstanding their habit of not sleeping through the night, and perhaps ignoring their lack of fine motor control over their opposing thumbs, it is the fact that they cannot speak that irritates me more than anything else. (Although the whole Lego-rocket thing comes a close second).
After all, if they picked up the jist of speaking by the time they were three months, it would save everyone a lot of time and angst. Parents could just ask their wailing offspring why they were crying. Again. We could politely enquire as to the reason why the scrambled egg we have just lovingly prepared has been spat contemptuously back onto the plate, when three days ago they couldn’t get enough of the bloody stuff. And we could get them to explain exactly why they think 5am is an appropriate time to start the day.
Thankfully, B, at about 20 months, has finally pulled his finger out and is assembling a reasonable babble of words in his oral armoury. So alongside ‘daddy’, he finally acquiesced and now, there is ‘mummy’. And ‘no’. Of course there is bloody ‘no’. He is a toddler. Petulance is his middle name (well, it was a toss up between that and Englebert). But these are just child’s play in terms of learning words. In an early round of Strictly Come Speaking, this verbal performance would muster perhaps a score of 1, delivered with a yawn and a roll of the eyes. And yet as more words are spoken by my son, I realise that they are simply a reflection of his world and ergo, often a reflection (by which I mean damning indictment) of our parenting skills. So, amongst other things, B also says:
“iPad“. A word uttered significantly more frequently than ‘mummy’, probably because it is better company and ultimately less irritating. Interestingly, he has mastered the art of pressing the buttons of both the iPad and mummy.
“Pat“. This refers to Postman Pat, for which he has a curious fondness. Personally, the sooner that misshapen-headed lump-nosed goon gets crushed to death in a freak accident involving a large parcel and Jess the Cat, the better.
“Acks Boat“. Translation: Jack’s Boat, another CBeebies favourite. We hardly ever let him watch the television, honest. I don’t know how he can have picked it up so quickly, he’s probably only watched it twice. Maybe.
“Puddles.” Closely followed by “wewwies” (translation: wellies). This boy could puddle-stamp for England. If he ever actually learns to jump, there’ll be no stopping him. And to complete the word trio, he has “wet“. Usually said in a slightly whiny tone, pointing to his trousers / coat / hat / face / brother three seconds after furiously stamping in a deep puddle, giving me the perfect opportunity to explain the notion of consequence. To which he replies: “iPad”.
“Wiwwie“. Translation: willy. Now, I am not one of those mums who hears their offspring spit out a gutteral vowel sound or two and proclaim that he has just said his first word, when in fact he is just choking on a raisin . (We all know that what is at work here is the Infinite Monkey Theorem. You know the one, where it is hypothesized that a monkey bashing away at a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will eventually write a given text, such as Shakespeare. Either that or it will go utterly bonkers, foam at the mouth and tear its own testicles off, the less well known Monkey Self-Castration Theorem). But I know ‘wiwwie’ to be willy, because every time I change B’s nappy, his hand shoots to his willy and he gleefully proclaims ‘WIWWIE’ at the top of his voice whilst giving it a good old yank and giggling loudly. I am guessing he’ll be a tad less giggly when he is trying to do this as a teenager in his bedroom and I keep accidentally walking in on him.
“Spatchcock.”This, I admit, took me a little by surprise. Last week I was changing B’s nappy whilst M entertained the head end, talking to him, asking him questions. (I admit that I am a tad vague at this point – I wasn’t paying much attention. It was a particularly sticky poo and I was, I think, considering deploying the back of a comb to help). M asked B a question, to which B clearly replied: “spatchcock”. “Spatchcock?” M and I repeated in puzzled unison. To my knowledge, B has not been flicking over from Old Jack’s Boat to re-runs of Gordon Ramsey as soon as we leave the room, so we attribute it to that pesky infinite monkey. I would hardly call it Shakespeare, but as accidental linguistic utterances go, it was more amusing than most. Although of course, there is a chance that it was a purposeful plea from our son for us to diversify his menu away from scrambled egg and toast. In which case, he can just spatchcock off.