The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Monday, June 06, 2005

A cow says moo, and a second child says "me, too"

I was cleaning up my kitchen the other day (OK, I was really basically just moving crap from one pile to another) when I came across a list I'd made when Julia was about 16 1/2 months old. She had just begun what ended up being the language explosion that took her from 8 words total to 8 word sentences in 3 months, and I, diligent mother that I professed to be, had written down the words she knew for posterity. Lazy mother that I actually am, I never actually filed the list in her baby book after the fact, but that's probably just as well, since I'd never think to look there for anything other than dust bunnies. It was much more fun to come upon the piece of paper accidentally, and I immediately abandoned my tidying up in order to study it.

Needless to say, the cardinal "thou shalt not compare" rule of parenting went out the window as soon as I realized that the list had been written when Julia was almost exactly Evan's age. But for once, no one was "ahead" or "behind," and it turned out that their word count tallies at this age were nearly identical. That's where the similarities ended, though, and the differences soon had me laughing.

Both of my children had about three dozen words or phrases in their 16 month repertoires. But despite all of that vocabulary, my firstborn child could apparently say nearly nothing of any use whatsoever at this age. Of course, I didn't realize that at the time, primarily because she could perform such great party tricks: naming animals and the sounds they make, point out her body parts, etc. But unless we were having a conversation about a farm or human anatomy, she frankly didn't have much to bring to the table.

Evan, on the other hand, has got none of that crap... I don't think he'd know a snake if it slithered up to him, let alone the sound it makes, and he's still a little unclear on the location of his nose. But he can tell me what's what. When the kid's done eating, he says "all done." When you ask who's going to be the first one to do something, he says "I am." He can't tell you that he's gripping a Fisher Price cow for dear life. But he can damn well let you know that it's his and he's definitely going to tell you "no" if you try to take it away from him.

Julia's early vocabulary was clearly all taught to her by well meaning adults. Her list of words said "someone who loves me is carefully exposing me to the world around me." But it was almost entirely functionally useless. In contrast, Evan's vocabulary has appeared with no great input on my part. His list of words says "hey... look at me... I'm here, too!" But as a result, language serves a real purpose in his daily life. I guess I do feel a little guilty that I don't spend as much time cultivating my younger child as I did the older one. But I also feel proud that he's doing such a good job of finding his way in the world on his own. And I continue to suspect that in the long run, he'll be better served by my slight negligence than Julia was by my constant attention.

Julia eventually learned to express her wants and needs as freely as her arcane knowledge, and I'm sure that Evan will someday be equally capable of identifying his chin or telling you what a goat says. But for this brief moment in time, one of the stark differences in the ways I'm uninentionally raising my kids was all too apparent. And then this morning, Evan picked up a plastic dinosaur at a friend's house and started to roar. I couldn't figure out where the heck he got that from, until I realized Julia must have taught him. I was glad to know she's started picking up the slack for me. Maybe she'll start in on body parts next.


At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Gretchen C. said...

Oh my goodness -- Matt too! He's still a little fuzzy on what all the animals say, but he will tell you clear as a bell, No. Don't touch my clothes. Always announcing himself. This is Matt. This is me.


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