Thursday, 13 January 2011

Pointing the finger

A cautionary tale about trying to understand small children.  Nothing to do with writing today:  except we can't write till we get the speaking and listening part of language conquered. (It's amazing how children pick up language at warp speed, isn't it?).
  In the case of my own three, their first words have reflected a lot of their personality.  The five year old wouldn't say 'Mama' for weeks and weeks after she started to pick up words - I think it wasn't even in her first forty words.  I suppose she didn't need me, since I was at her beck and call already (the lazy old days when one child was a handful).  It didn't stop me prancing around her like a loon, chanting 'Mummy, Mummy.'  Her first word popped out when she was playing peepo, and said 'there'. Along with her second word, 'gone', she managed to communicate about everything, from the fact she'd flushed the toilet ('gone') to the fact she wanted to put her shoes on ('there!').  She abused those two words for weeks.
  The four year old, ever a mummy's boy, and always trying to outdo his sister,  said 'Mama' first, and hasn't stopped saying it since.  The lump that choked me the first time he said it melted long ago;  it's still his favourite word, but when he bellows it in the middle of the night because it's shockingly dark, or in the day because the five year old  'is looking at me, Mummy!' it doesn't have the same appeal.  Perhaps I should have pranced around chanting 'Daddy, Daddy'.... 
  But the one year old, serene and adored in his little sphere, said his own name first.  We reasoned that it was what he heard most at the time.   Secretly I'm a bit worried: how self-obsessed must he be if his first word is his own name?  
  The one year old is also the one who has dabbled most in profanity.  I can't repeat some of the words we've heard him say. It goes without saying that he has a finely tuned sense of the most inappropriate place to use them, and he's never heard of whispering.
  The first time he said 'bugger' was a bit of a shock - I knew he hadn't heard it.  I discovered after a while that he really meant ' book', but it didn't stop us laughing when he muttered it under his breath like a grumpy old man, or threw a book across the room and yelled 'Bugger!'  I didn't laugh when he said it to my mother.  She can't hear all that well anymore, but she heard that.  She fixed me with her best mother-glare, and said, 'Where has he heard that?' (The italics are all her own).
  I was on my own this week when the baby/toddler pointed at me, full of high drama, and declared, 'Minger.'  I was a bit taken aback, as you might imagine, but I was full of faith in my smallest boy, who surely couldn't be that rude, and to his own mother, at that.
 'Say it again, darling,' said I, all sweetness and light.
Again, he pointed imperiously at me: 'Minger!'
I decided it was safest to blame Steve;  a one year old doesn't come up with that sort of thing on his own.
With the wind in my sails, I sat the husband down over dinner that night and told him the story, ready with my line of interrogation, but he wouldn't take it seriously.  In fact, he started to laugh.
  'I think you'll find he was saying finger, you daft bugger!' he said.  

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