Before I had kids, I remember wondering how on earth parents can understand what their toddlers are saying. Lets be realistic here, to the untrained ear it is pure babble with no real meaning. I never believed parents when they told me that they knew what their kids were saying. If they really could understand, it was only because they possess super powers.
Fast forward to now. I have my own beautiful little 2 year old. And let me tell you, she is a talker. If she has something on her mind, she WILL tell you. And it is a pretty rare occasion when she doesn’t have something on her mind. Just as I suspected would happen, she says a lot of things that I don’t understand right away. But more surprisingly, I do understand most of what she is saying, just like all those other moms swore they did. Huh, did I just admit I was wrong? Hurrying along now…
The question I ask now is not what is Zoey saying, but why is she saying it? What makes her (while she is playing with her baby doll) giggle and shout “Ri-crow carry!” (Wait, you didn’t know that means scarecrow is scary? Why couldn’t you figure that out?) Why is it that during dinner, which she is eating happily, she suddenly yells out “It’s cookie time!”? Nevermind, I know the answer to that. And yes, this phrase she does speak that clearly.
I wish this completed the list of questions I asked regarding what my toddler says, but there is one more. Sometimes this is the biggest question of all: Where did she learn that? Most of the time when I ask this question I get really proud and hope that the answer is that she learned it from mommy. This isn’t usually the answer. This week however, we had an “I know she didn’t learn that word from me!” incident.
Let me start by saying Kelly, Zoey and I ADORE our daycare provider, Tammy. We are constantly bragging how lucky we are to stumble onto such a gem. I wish she could have unlimited space in her daycare so all of my friends could use hers, but as it is she had to hire someone just to have enough room to take Maya once I go back to work. (It’s true moms-to-be, the best daycares are always full.) So when we got home on Tuesday night and I heard what Zoey was saying, I knew something didn’t add up. We had finished dinner and we were watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when Zoey shouted “Tammy big bi…” I’m not going to finish Zoey’s statement, but I think you get the picture.
The first heart-broken thought is, of course, where did she learn that word? We do not use that language in our home. Grandpa and Grandma didn’t teach her that one, I’m pretty confident that our church nursery workers didn’t lay that little morsel out, and it doesn’t make much sense that Tammy would say this about herself. Seeing as Zoey doesn’t get out to many other places, this just didn’t make sense. Who could have taught her that word?
Then a beautiful little story came to my mind. It happened when my little brother was about five. My family was watching one of my sister’s basketball games, and my brother was playing in the gym with one of his friends. All of the sudden he came running up to my parents with a devastated look on his face. “What’s wrong?” he was asked. His response? “I just said the F word.” While my mom was running through the list of emotions and questions mentioned in the paragraph above, my dad (ah, ever so sensible Dave) asked him “Brett, what exactly did you say?” He looked at the floor in shame and whispered “Fart.”
This story popped into my mind as Zoey kept repeating her little sentiment, over and over again as toddlers do. I knew my sweet angel couldn’t be saying what I thought she was saying, so I paused to assess the situation. What did I notice? I saw that Zoey kept pointing at the TV as she was saying this. And that’s when it came to me. It hit me like Dr. House’s weekly ah-ha moment.
Tammy always fills her yard with giant inflatable decorations for every holiday. I love it that she does this because kids love to see those, and when they can see them everyday in Tammy’s yard I don’t have to put any in my yard. And what is being displayed this year in Tammy’s collection? A giant inflatable Grinch. Tammy isn’t a big bi… mean woman. Tammy has a big Grinch in her yard!
I immediately called Tammy to let her know that tomorrow when she hears this, Zoey is really only commenting on her holiday decor, not what she or any member of our family think about her. Tammy just laughed, informed me she had already heard it, and the phrase had been decoded. We had a good laugh, talked a little longer, and then said good-night. I guess Tammy has super-powers too.
In the meantime, I got busy teaching Zoey how to pronounce Grinch. It’s coming out as Ginch, but at least that better than what it was.