The arrival of Desh and Nah.

My son can say Yes and No!

Well, more accurately, he can say Desh and Nah. But as I am his mother, I can understand what he means perfectly. Also, they are accompanied by head nodding and shaking respectively, which was a bit of a clue if I’m honest.

It’s amazing! Firstly, the gloat-y mother bit you all abhor. Feel free to skim. Most parents tell me their kids learn the word no and its uses months before yes. Some parents of teenagers still seem to be unsure if their kids have mastered the positive response to questions. Not my baby. He only seems to say no if the suggestion is truly awful, (ie: bedtime) and nods happily to most other questions, (breadsticks, grapes, crackers, raisins- he isn’t fussy.) Seriously though, he really thinks about his response rather than going straight to ‘Nahhhh.”

Which is really what I am celebrating. The arrival of Yes and No means that he is comprehending what I am saying well enough to have his own response. How cool is that? And pretty complex if you think about it.  Ima is saying something that I can either agree or disagree with, and then I can let her know which response I’m having. The only problem is that he hasn’t quite mastered whether I’m going to agree with his response to my response yet.

Yes sweetheart, I know you said you don’t want a nappy on, but we are in fact on our way to rhyme time in the buggy, so I think we’l keep in on.
I know baby, I can see that you are bringing me the shaving cream and nodding at me chanting desh desh desh.. but it isn’t technically edible, so I’m not going to unscrew it for you to drink ok?

At the moment I’m still in that giddy excited phase where my son is ACTUALLY communicating with me, so I really don’t mind what the outcome of our conversation is. I just spend most of my time with him offering stuff. If there’s nothing child-friendly around, I improvise. R? Do you want my watch? This tissue? A hug? (That last one is guaranteed to get me a fierce Nah.) If I’m really strapped for questions I just ask every five minutes if he wants to go to sleep. I’m pretty sure he now thinks nap time is a game that he can avoid with the magic word No.

What’s amazing is that he can really express himself with those two words and one or two other useless ones. (Yes, I can see that’s a ball without you telling me.) It’s opened up a whole world for us both. I don’t have to listen to him crying at me and helplessly try any number of options, I can just ask. He doesn’t get surprised that it is suddenly sleep time, or that I’ve given him a snack he didn’t fancy, or any other aspect of his day hasn’t gone as he anticipated. He can have a tiny bit of control over his choices, and I love it. I love knowing that however minor they seem to me, his choices are what his life is made up of, and I am giving him some input for the first time.

And even though it’s been less than a week, I can see that he is happier for it. Adult or baby, don’t we all want the chance to make decisions for ourselves?

Can you say…?

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If Aristotle worked in Starbucks..

I’ve heard it said that it’s just twists of fate that make people successful or unsuccessful in life. That our careers are decided upon just as much by where we’re born and the choices our parents make as our own drive to succeed and conscious decisions regarding goals and ambition.

Today I met one such example, who has obviously been handed an unfair lot in life, most likely through no fault of her own.

Out in Hampstead, near one of the more charming Starbucks locations, we were deciding whether to stop for a quick drink or go peruse the bookshelves of Waterstones. C turned to the barista and through no intention of his own, was given the oddest answer ever given to this particular question.

“What time do you close?”
“What time are we open untill? Or what time do we close?”

Baffling. Clearly I am not on the same plane as this particular barista, because try as I might, I am not seeing the subtle distinction.

After spending a few hours mulling it over, I have come up with two possible solutions to my conundrum.

1. She is one of those poor unfortunate souls who has come over from Eastern Europe and is forced to be a waitress, even though she in fact holds a Doctorate in Philosophy.
2. She is a first class idiot.

I’ll leave it to you to decide.

(Ps: No offence meant. She’s probably very happy with her job. After all, if I were a barista, I’d just leave the apron at work, say it really fast, and hope people assume I practise law.)

I love you, now leave me alone.

I have been inspired today by West End Singleton, who writes about being clear about your intentions when getting into a relationship with someone.

It got me thinking, how many of life’s stresses ad upsets could have been entirely avoided, simply by being more honest and open with our communication?

We’re all guilty of it. We tell our spouses “Nothing’s wrong” when thats far from the truth, we answer “I’m fine” even when we’re not close to it. We put a moody face on, and hope someone guesses they’ve upset us without us having to spell it out. And then we get angry or disappointed when people cant read our oh so clever signals and magically apologize or change.

But why would they? If I dont tell a friend that I need some alone time, why wouldnt they keep texting and phoning? If I dont mention to my spouse that he’s upset me, how on earth can he know how to avoid the same mistake the next time? For the most part, no one is trying to upset anyone else. But we are not each other. We think and feel differently to anyone else on the planet, and thats what makes relationships so great.

I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” Plutarch. I love this quote, and I think that we all want our relationships to to challenge us and differ from us in countless ways. Accepting that the people in our lives are not inside our heads, and might need to hear our thoughts once in a while, is not a failiure of the friendship or of you as an individual. On the contrary, its proof that you are close enough to talk honestly together, without being afraid of hurt feelings or miscommunication.

I know a couple who recently split up, after nearly 2 decades of marriage. They are currently giving it another go, despite much dissatisfaction between them. The guy has said that he has had issues with the relationship for over a decade, but hasnt wanted to ‘make a fuss.’ It’s almost laughable. He nearly lost the whole marriage because he didnt mention the niggles and problems ten or fifteen years previously. Of course the wife couldnt change her behaviour, (because why would she think to try to?) and probably felt that she coulnt mention anything negative to her {seemingly satisfied) hubby, and suddenly the carpet gets too full of ‘little things’ being brushed underneath it, and they’re having the kids on alternate weekends.

It’s shocking. It’s shocking how easily not talking becomes shouting.

There are always going to be no-go areas with the people in our lives, topics that are not discussed because they’re fruitless or where two people differ too greatly. But for the most part, with the right language, telling someone how you feel can never be a mistake, even and sometimes especially, where it’s difficult or doesnt have your ideal outcome.

Children tell us exactly what they want, when they want it. In no uncertain terms, kids hold nothing back. And at some point we are taught how to censor the words we use and the people we use them to, for social etiquette or self-preservation. But when are we taught to start hiding, especially from those that we love?

Freedom of (not) speech

I’ve been acutely involved in a discussion this week on another blog. And it’s been on my mind for days. The blog was freshly pressed this week, and was excellent. It was related to parenting and teaching, and kids in general… and it was overflowing with expletives. I read the blog, enjoyed it, followed the blogger, and didn’t comment on the language. But a lot of other people did. The offended commenters encouraged the blogger into writing another blog this week, to inform the world that it is her blog, and she can write any which way she freaking likes. Except she didnt say freaking. This was met with nothing less than rapturous applause. And I have been shocked.

It is no secret that I am anti foul language. I think it is crass, uncreative, lazy, offensive, mostly unnecessary and frankly boring. And I think it makes the user seem ignorant. That’s just my opinion. You are entitled to yours.

However, as far as I have power over any kind of language, I do not put up with it. As an editor, if a manuscript comes my way with cursing in it, I barely give it a second glance before throwing it into the reject pile. If you are lazy enough to resort to bad language when you are blessed with a language so vast, I’m pretty certain that the rest of your descriptive capabilities arent going to be worth my time. It’s totally your choice as a writer, but if you need the literary crutch of expletives, then I doubt I can help you.

Of course, there will be times when a decision is not mine to make. A manuscript already approved has been placed on my desk. Unlucky you if you like your foul mouthed characters. Mark Twain has been famously quoted as saying “Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be” and that is exactly what I would do in both cases. In my mind, the same lack of expression is in both kinds of writing. I wouldnt let an author get away with writing ‘very’, and I equally wouldnt let them get away with using swear words.

Why am I so militant about this issue? This is a question that has been tossed my way this week by people who think I am old fashioned and ‘fuddy duddy.’ As a writer and an editor, the answer is simple, which is that your work is better without it. Art is simply better without it. As a person, and now a mother, it is more complex.

People will argue that swear words are ‘just words.’ That the only reason we are offended by them is because of arbitary meanings that people have placed on curse words rather than other words. That it makes no sense that we can use certain words in one way, and yet by changing the meaning, the same letters become abusive. Other people will shout from the rooftops that freedom of speech is what seperates us from slaves, and that we have a right to say whatever we choose, and be free of judgement or censorship for that choice.

I will argue that on the contrary, you are limiting yourself by using those words. I have said before, that I believe that Language creates reality. A great friend reminded me at the time, that God is said to have created the world with ten utterances, literally creating our reality with language. Everything we say, as much as what we do, matters. No more can I say that cursing is ‘just words’ than argue that punching is ‘just action.’ Being proud of using your language in an offensive and hurtful way, whether expletives are used or not, is just promoting anarchy and thoughtlessness amongst people. Being able to say what we want in whatever words we choose is definitely a sign of our freedom, I agree. So why abuse that freedom by limiting ourselves to words that mean nothing really, and are at best, even when not offensive, just unnecessary.

My son is just getting a basic understanding of language, and the wonder on his face when he repeats a word we say, or makes a sound that we interpret correctly and act upon, is a true miracle. For him, language is a new tool, a magic key into an unfamilliar world. Every day he comes a step closer to being able to make himself understood and to understand others. I don’t really care if it makes me old fashioned, or prude-ish, I no more want him using foul language to others, than I would want him using dangerous actions towards them. Because to me that danger is the same. I want him to be able to use his words to create his reality, where he expresses himself with prethought and intention, and has the freedom not to curse. So why would I expect anything less from myself?

Language creates reality.

I went out on a playdate this week with a friend and her son. Although they are a few months apart, they are at similar stages, and it was really cute to watch them playing together. By together, I mean in the same room, as babies of this age seem to entirely ignore each other as much as possible. But still, cute.

Our boys are on different sides of a year and a half, and until recently, neither had shown any interest in walking. Given that this is not late and not early, certainly for me the difficulty of a still crawling child was more in how heavy he is to lug everywhere, and the necessity to take a buggy or a husband with for even the quickest and easiest of trips.

However, while we were out, another mother, standing nearby and observing our lightning fast crawlers, asked how old our kids were. Upon hearing our answer, she replied “Gosh, all these late walkers!”

Er.. Do you want a slap?

At the time, I settled for walking away, mentally adding another face to my “Wow I don’t like you” list. Today, it’s progressed to annoyance and the need to vent. Ok, so your kid walked at 13 months, well done you. It doesnt make you a better mother, and it doesnt make your kid any cleverer. It doesnt mean anything at all in fact.

A statement like that, however innocently meant, can only serve to make another parent worried about their own childs development, and especially in a situation like ours, entirely pointlessly. 18 months give or take, is not a ‘late walker.’ We all worry enough about our kids and the milestones they are hitting. Is this too early? Is this too late? Are they doing things well enough or quickly enough? What we need from other mums, is support. And often sympathy.

How strange that if she had said “Gosh, he must be getting heavy!” The same message would have come across but I would not be annoyed at all. Rather than hear a self-congratulatory jibe at my son, (who is clearly wearing glasses, so clearly would have some delay anyway) I would have heard another mother empathising with me and engaging me in normal mummy chit-chat.

In any area of life, the things we say to one another are so important. Language creates reality. What we say to others gives them a new outlook on what is actually happening and what they are dealing with. You comfort a person, things actually become better for them in their eyes. You argue and lash out, and a new truth settles in a friends mind. If this is true of any situation, then how much more so when we are talking about our children-the most precious things in our lives, and possibly where we need the most reassurance? Yesterday, R became for that second a “late walker”, a baby who wasnt as quick as another, or as capable. I dismissed it, and chose to instead focus on disliking the speaker, but a different person could have walked away worried and concerned.

When I became a mother, I automatically joined this special group made up of parents.Even without an introduction, we can smile at each other across a coffee shop, strike up conversation on a bus ride, and give advice to each other about all manner of topics. Without being in this club, and enjoying the support it brings, the last 16 months would have been nearly impossible. Being a part of this group is therefore a priviledge. Why abuse it?

Standing Man!