Look who’s talking. (R’s story)

Boy, what a terrible afternoon I’ve had. You just wouldn’t believe what my Ima has put me through.

Today I wasn’t with my Ima, because she didn’t exist. Everyone knows when you don’t see someone, they don’t exist. Anyway, I was at work, watching and playing with the nice lady who cooks much nicer food than my Ima, (even though I admit it does look the same) and suddenly my Ima existed again. No warning, nothing, she just arrives while I was eating my supper. Well that put me right off my food, and no matter what coaxing and distracting she tried, I wasn’t going to have one more bite. No sir. I didn’t mind as I was sure there wouldn’t be any consequences.

Anyway, then I wanted to leave right away, and my mean Ima made me have a clean nappy, (what was wrong with the old one?) shoes, (does anyone know the point of those?) and a hat (I didn’t mind that so much-I do look pretty fly in a cap) before we left. Finally we got out of the door, and my Ima tries to put me in the buggy. The buggy! I can’t remember exactly what was so bad about it, but I know I was definitely not going to get in there, so I started walking in the right direction. But Ima wouldn’t listen to me and kept making me go the other way. She seemed to be getting frustrated every time I went the right way again, so even though I was correct I let her make the wrong decision and followed her instead. Eventually we got to the park. It took much longer than usual. I’m sure it would have been quicker my way, and definitely if Ima had stopped asking me to get in the buggy every time I stopped to look at flowers and leaves.

The park is my favourite place, but someone had forgotten to open the windows or put the fan on, cause I was very hot and uncomfortable. I can’t see how that would affect anyone else, so I was hoping that Ima would be especially good and well behaved to make me feel better. No such luck. First she offered me some water, which I drank. But then she took out my juice. I’d never seen it before, but it must be mine-as everything is. She started drinking from MY juice! I let her know how upset I was by throwing my glasses on the floor. That’s the best way to show her that I’m cross. She had the cheek to tell me off about my glasses, but didn’t make me wear them again. She gave me my juice back, and I took a sip and decided to keep the lid in my hand so she couldnt put it away. She asked me for the lid. I said no. She asked again. I didn’t answer as I’d already told her no. My poor Ima, she only recently started understanding yes and no, so sometimes it’s hard for her. Then you will never believe what happened, she SNATCHED the lid out my hand and put it back on the bottle! Boy was I angry. I sat on that climbing frame and kicked and shouted. But nothing, she just walked away like she couldnt even see me. Eventually she came back with more juice, and the ultimate insult- a straw. What does she think I am? A baby?! I threw the straw on the ground where it belongs. Gosh I was hot and uncomfortable, and something else… that’s right, hungry. Why was I hungry? Didn’t I finish supper? Why didn’t my Ima let me finish my supper? I couldn’t remember but I’m sure it was her fault. This day was going from bad to worse.

Just then my phone rang from Ima’s bag, and she had a quick chat with the man inside the phone. He sometimes sounds like my Daddy, or Ima’s friend Auntie M, but mostly he sounds like my Nana. I wanted my phone very much, but Ima wouldn’t let me have it for no good reason. That upset me for nearly 7 seconds until I found a breadstick. Remind me what was wrong again?

Things were looking up. I decided to find a new game, and started climbing up the stairs to the slide sideways. How fun! Why do people do it frontways? I wondered. But here comes Ima again, spoiling all my fun. Yes yes, I hear you telling me to turn around and climb properly, but I don’t want to. No, stop it! Stop lifting me off the slide, I want to climb this way! Ok FINE. I can wait.. I can be patient… Let’s pretend I’m walking towards the swings… and yes! NOW! I ran towards the slide and started climbing sideways again, but … OUCH! Why am I on the floor?! Why am I all dirty? Why does my arm hurt? Where’s my Ima and why did she let this happen to me? Horrible terrible parent, why didn’t she warn me this could happen???

For some reason, it was my Ima who looked like she had had enough of the park and the whole afternoon, even though it was me having such a terrible time, and she picked me up and after a quick cuddle put me in the buggy. I was about to moan for food, when she read my mind and gave me a whole packet of breadsticks to eat. Boy, that’s more like it. Normally I only get one or two, which would make me cry when they were done. As I finished the breadsticks, she already had a peppa pig ready on the magic phone for me to watch. It was amazing. She must have been feeling very happy to give me so many treats all in one go. I hope she knows how lucky she is not to be hungry, tired and far too hot like I was, and feeling so rubbish. But I didn’t dwell on it. After all, I wasn’t hungry any more after the 17 breadsticks, and much less tired and hot after the shady ride in the buggy home.

But when I got home, I was angry. What a bad day I was having. Ima didn’t seem to understand, or at least, she wasn’t doing anything about it, so I decided to cry and whinge non-stop for a while. But if anything-she got less sympathetic. I wasn’t sure I could take much more of this treatment. She carried me to the bathroom and started running the bath. A bath! I don’t want a bath, I shouted, I hate baths!

(Ten minutes later.)

Why are you trying to take me out of the bath? I want my bath! I shouted. I love baths!

You probably wonder why I decided to have an Ima in the first place after all this negligence on her part. Well, on days like today I wont pretend I don’t ask myself that question. But most days aren’t like this. Most days she doesn’t make the world too hot, or keep me hungry for what must be hours, or refuse to play with me or be wantonly mean. Most days she tries not to give me too much time to myself, and offers me lots of delicious broccoli and not too much yucky chicken. In fact, as crazy as it may seem, once we all go to sleep at 7pm, I will probably miss her, even today. I will probably miss her enough that after a little while, I will cry very loudly so she comes in and I can have just one more quick cuddle. I know that she doesn’t mean to be difficult. She just doesn’t know any better yet. She’s only an Ima after all.

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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…?

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?

My baby is so nosy, his first words were…

“Who’s that?”

That’s right, in the past month, my baby is taking serious steps (literally) towards toddler-dom. He is not only walking, but now talking. And his first words, creatively eschewing the more traditional mama and dada, are “Who’s that?” (I like to think he knows about the apostrophe.)

It took me and C a while to decide whether these are in fact his first words. After all, with no other grasp on language, it is hard to cross examine him as to whether he understands what he is saying. For a while now, he has surprised us with his unexpected skills of mimicry, at the oddest moments and with no repeat performances, he will give you an exact copy of what you have just said to him. These are not first words. That is his first foray into impressions.

“Who’s that” started out the same way. We would point to a new guest in our home, and sing-song those words to our son, in the hope that he would answer us with “Daddy!” “Nana!” “The Ocado delivery man!” We would also use his reflection as an opportunity to see if he knew his own name, “Who’s that? Its R!” You get the picture. However, evidently, our plan backfired. After a while, when we were simply asking him to name a relative, he would mimic back to us, “ooooo zaaa” and we would laugh.

However, it has progressed to clear speech. George V would be jealous. Upon passing a mirror, or a car window, or any particularly shiny surface, including the bathroom taps, our son now gleefully points at himself and announces, “Who’s that?” The same is true when he sees my mum, or a familliar face in the house. He knows when to say the words, he knows the actions which go along with them, and so without any further method of detection, I think we have to accept that he is speaking.

The last few days he has broadened out to objects. “Whass that?” I hear as he passes me a toy or points at my shopping bags. Never mind, I’m sure his next words will be Ima or Daddy. Or you know, “Move out the way, I’m spying on the neighbours.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What were your baby’s first words?

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!