i suspect henry’s first words will be “HELLLLLOOOOOO, HENRY!!”
he hears that about 400 times a day. he also hears a little silly song i made up that just says, “i love, i love, i love, i love, i love you.” sorry your mom’s musical talents aren’t more sophisticated, kid.
i find it hilarious how adults interact with babies. first, we talk in “we” all the time. like “we just had a total ass explosion and we think it’s even on the ceiling and the dog now, isn’t it?” or “we had some really nice long naps today, didn’t we?” really? “we” did? then who did the laundry and washed the poop off the dog?
and not only are we always speaking in the collective (i mean, really, are we giving our kids split personalities? “it wasn’t me, mom! it was the voices! it was we!”), but we also always finish every statement like that, and really any statement directed toward the baby at all, with a question. “are we awake?” “did we have a nice nap?” “did we go potty?” “what do we think of the iran-contra affair?”
and, if you watch really closely, most of the time, adults will then REPEAT THE QUESTION. as if, maybe this 6 week old amoeba just didn’t hear me the first time and will respond more appropriately if i repeat the question…
“did we go potty, henry? did we go potty?”
“why yes, you loathsome woman, I did go potty! of course I went potty! it’s what I do! i don’t know that ‘we’ went potty. i don’t know or care what you’re up to over there, but I did go potty. and it’s in my drawers and it’s starting to cool and if i had the coordination i would be flinging it at you. now just hurry up and change me. pip pip.”
i can’t help it. all babies sound like stewie in my head.
and we adults are obsessed with ourselves. “am i making a funny face at you?” “do you see mama/daddy/grandma, etc?” and we always talk about ourselves in the 3rd person like that. i’m telling you, we are terrible models to these poor would-be talkers. or, rather, sarah is telling you. yes she is! yes she is!
and then we talk endlessly about what physical characteristics he shares with one of us. (“i think he has my pinkie toes!”) and we’re not even to the starting-to-talk phase yet. then we’ll all be thinking we’re one-upping each other, taking the baby to dark corners of the house to try to get him to say our names first. “come on, henry, say mrs. zimmerman. alright, fine, you can call me mama. say mama. say mama. say mama. say mama.” and this goes on until he falls asleep or learns to roll his eyes, whichever comes first.
and of course there’s the baby voice we use to coo at babies. i think if we talked normally to them they might speak clearly when they first start talking. but instead, we round out our consonants and get all high pitched, so it’s no wonder they sound like they’ve been sucking helium and use words like “libary” and “wabbit” when their words arrive on the scene. we did that. it’s on us.
and, lastly, our gender specific baby prattle. “he’s so big/strong/hairy” and she’s so “pretty/sweet/a bit hippy, no? maybe retaining water?”
so, anyway. i don’t know the proper way to talk to babies to avoid these tendencies. i do them all every day, all day. and some of it is that whatever you just did or said that made him smile, you’re going to repeat that ad nauseum in case he does it again because his smile is Christmas meets chocolate cake.
but even though i’m a buffoon when it comes to talking to my child, i do want him to have some access to smart adults. and i cannot count on robb or our families for this- we are all in the same b-b-b-boat. say boat. say boat, henry. BBBBBBoat.
so i trust the experts and i read to him a lot. from whatever i’m reading or his childrens‘ books. my favorite of his books so far, besides of course, dr. seuss and shel silverstein, are the sandra boynton books. amazing. so funny and clever.
but not the armadillo.
do you see how he’s paying such rapt attention to everything i’m saying? poor little monkey never stood a chance. 🙂