Back to language.
Myowndaughter is blurting out paragraphs. I remember someone saying that this phenomenon comes about suddenly. It does. Yesterday, it was “No.” Tonight, it was, “No, Daddy, not now. Wait just a minute.” And in the proper context, too.
What should we expect next week? Will she write letters in Mandarin? Will she become a Basque scholar?
Where do these limber linguistics come from? How does it happen — physiologically, intellectually, developmentally, absurdly?
And, what are we supposed to do with this little creature who can suddenly converse like a real person?
As long as she was only partially communicative, we could, well, ignore her. Often. As often as it took to further our agenda. That’s our parental right, right? When we couldn’t understand her, it was a lot easier to feign interest and redirect. She: “Snakes. Blue snakes. Abby, blue snakes?” We: “Riiiiight. Here, eat more spinach.” Now it’s more like, “I don’t want to eat, I want to pretend I’m a snake and lick the floor.”
We’re also approaching the point where what we say can and will be used against us in the court of toddlerdom.
For instance, we’re trying to raise Ourowndaughter to be indpendent, strong, self-respecting. We want her to stand up for herself. There are a lot of pervs in the world. It would give me great pleasure for my little girl to be able to take down an NFL defensive lineman, even if her old man couldn’t with rocket-propelled grapling hooks and a giant net. Language is a fundamental element of defensive. When you hear about kids who break free from their would-be abductors, they’re the defiant, strong-willed kids who routinely tell people, “no,” who put up a fight and aren’t forced to bow to every adult’s whim — not many of these kids are raised in the South, by the way.
So, in that spirit, we’ve instructed our 2-year-old thusly: “When someone’s doing something you don’t want them to do, say, ‘No! Stop that!’, then kick him in the groin and run like hell!” (this reminds me of anatomically-correct language; I’ll get to that another time)
We thought we were being good parents. Sounds reasonable.
But when it’s bedtime, and we have to wrestle the kid to the floor, wrap her in a blanket and forcefully brush her teeth (only happens a few times a week), she gives us the “No! Stop that!” (Fortunately the blanket prevents the kicking.)
So what do we do? Really!?
If we tell her not to say “no,” will she think she’s never supposed to say “no?”
Are we supposed to give her a list of conditions? “Only say ‘Stop it!’ when it’s not me or mom, unless we’re unintentionally hurting you, and don’t say it to your grandpa and grandma, and maybe Aunt JoJo although she’s loopy most of the time, and possibly to your friend Charlie’s mom because she seems harmless, but it is OK to say “no” to Emily the Obnoxious Neighbor Girl, and also to Charlie’s dad because he lacks self confidence and exhibits a lot of displaced anger and I don’t trust him.”
How will she ever remember that? If we make her bend to our demands will she be more likely to bend to anyone who comes across as nice? Will we extinguish her spirit, sand-down her grit?
If we just ignore her defense will she abandon the practice?
This kid’s going to be out in the world by herself, without parental guidance, whether it happens at day care or with a sitter, or when she studies at the Sarbonne at age 5. She needs to be able to protect herself, and to project strength and certified bad-assness.
Maybe we should practice scenarios, like war games.
Yes, I realize I’m over-analyzing this. It’s what I do.