I am generally immune to humiliation. Having kids will do that to you. I have birthed three of them the old-fashioned way, having my water break in spectacular fashion in the middle of Cracker Barrel with the third, so there is not much left of my dignity. I can discover in the middle of a school track meet that I have tucked my the hem of my skirt into the waistband, and I scarcely bat an eye. I have had a nursing babe lose interest in their meal in the middle of church and give the choir a good show, and I don’t even bother to blush. I thought I had the parental nerves of steel. And then Squish learned to talk.
When Squish was a wee lad, we made an appointment to have him evaluated for speech delays because he didn’t make sounds. We knew he could hear, but he had no interest in meaningful communication. Upon the arrival of the evaluator, it was my fun duty to inform her that this child who could say no more than “mama” ( I SWEAR!) six days ago when I MADE the appointment , had now added 12 words and 7 signs to his vocabulary. I take my humble pie with ice cream, if you please.
Fast-forward 8 months, and he’s talking. A lot. With some quirks. First off, he is not the most motivated communicator. He wants to BE understood, of course, but he doesn’t see that he should make a lot of effort to do so. His tendency when learning a new and complicated word is to pick his favorite syllable and go with it. Combine that trait with his current inconsistencies when pronouncing the letter “R,” and it sounds like he is swearing. Most of the time.
I volunteer and work part time at a zoo, so we spend a great deal of time there. Running along the paths is such a great way to wear him out that I don’t even take the Ergo anymore. I wind him up and set him down. He rarely watches where he is going, so I often have to remind him “Watch out! People!” Every so often, he notices an oncoming stroller or group, and in his most helpful way announces it to the world. But his version, shouted gleefully at the top of his lungs, tends to sound more like “Awww, Sh**! People!” I have quit making eye contact with anyone we pass.
Last week (what was I thinking?) I introduced him to the marmoset exhibit. Now, some animals just don’t really ring his bell, and these little guys could have easily fallen into that category, but they have BABIES! So he needs to tell people about them. Often. And of course, he can’t be bothered with the WHOLE word, as marmoset is a little tough for a little guy. So he calls them “shets.” “Little shets,” to be more precise. Could I be more proud?
I would love to be able to pretend that the whole world understands what he MEANT to say, but I know it’s not true. I know it in the giggles, the dropped jaws, the judgmental looks I get from the people we pass. And from the phone call from my mom saying “I wanted you to know what he SAID when he dropped his bag of bunny crackers!” Do you think she believes me when I explain he was actually saying “Watch it!?” I don’t. The sad part is, she hasn’t even HEARD the worst of it. Wait until he asks her for the “big fork.”
I am trying to accept the fact that everyone the little guy comes into contact with believes that we swear like sailors at home. I am trying not to care. I am also working to limit the multi-syllabic vocabulary to which he is introduced or if all else fails, his contact with the outside world. He got a new book from the Imagination Library last week that is going to have to be put away for awhile. It’s about road construction. We don’t need talk about black asphalt around here. I KNOW how that will end.