Monday, June 25, 2012

To Talk of Many Things

"I may be wearing Mardi Gras beads and no pants, but I am NOT your trained monkey!"

We are at a strange linguistic crossroads with the young man.  It has been quite some time since LO uttered his first words.  He has mastered the words no, yes, bye-bye, Mama, Daddy and endoplasmic reticulum.  We know this because we have heard him use each of these words in appropriate contexts and at the most adorable times imaginable.

We have also heard him utter complete sentences.  After mercilessly teasing my dad for "hearing" LO claim that he was a MAN, J and I and an independent and impartial observer heard the child say it again just a few weeks ago.  Last month, while I pattered on to LO about getting him ready for bed, he stated to me "I go to bed."

I think it's fairly clear that the child has a passing acquaintance with the Queen's English.

Unfortunately, he also happens to be the offspring of The Stubbornest Woman in the World and The Man Stubborn Enough to Marry That Woman.  (I'm thinking perhaps we should have put a little more thought into what reproducing might mean for us.)

Basically, I believe that LO knows much more than he is willing to admit to.  He simply has an abhorrence for performing for people, even when those asking for the performance are his beloved Mama and Daddy.

LO and I have had long conversations (i.e., monologues on my part) about how much less frustrating life is for those of us who agree to conform to the social convention of speaking.  When LO is pointing at random toward the kitchen emitting "Ah! Ah! Ah!" sounds in such rapid succession that he sounds like some sort of European car alarm, I say to him over and over again "I don't know what you want, LO.  You'll have to use your words."  (I somewhat undercut this lesson by picking things up at random and offering them to him just to make the Ah! Ah! Ah!ing stop).
In general, LO's lack of interest in speaking does not really bother us.  As it was eloquently stated in Shit My Dad Says, "It ain't like he knows the cure for cancer and he just ain't spitting it out."
However, every once in a while, J and I start wondering if we ought to be doing something to help LO get over his sense that talking is some kind of monkey dance.

For example, J and I had some new neighbors and their 1-month-younger-than-LO son over for dinner the other night.  The mom apologized when she was unable to prod her young man to say thank you when I handed him a drink.  "It's easier to get them to say please," she said.  "They don't get whatever it is if they don't say please."

Hmm.  We don't exactly force the child to say please--or even "applesauce" or "juice"--before we hand him whatever it is he's asking for at the moment.  Perhaps that is the problem.

J and I had a long conversation about this.  We concluded that we were beaten before we started in terms of stubbornness.  (LO is, after all, the "best" of both of us.  Wish us luck.)  Making him speak when he's not interested is probably not going to end well for any of us.  It would be a monkey dance if we started forcing him to speak, and I doubt that it would make a jot of difference in his verbosity.  He really is that head strong.

I do feel as though we're walking a tightrope.  We want LO to feel like he can be himself, damning the social conventions and all.  But we don't want to have a 14-year-old who is still pointing and "Ah! Ah! Ah!"ing at anything he wants.  So, we keep inviting him to use his words and tell him we're pleased whenever intelligible English emerges from his mouth.  We'll let him develop his long term relationship with spoken language at his own pace.  LO can take the time he needs.

I have to say, doing the monkey dance isn't so bad...


  1. I'm not sure I'd do a monkey dance to make him talk, but I might stop anticipating and meeting his needs so quickly if you want him to talk. Ask a question, give him space to answer, and don't jump to very quickly when he doesn't use words you know he has.

    On the other hand, once they start talking they do not stop. You might want to enjoy the silence...

  2. The anticipation of his needs is part of what's tough. We've never heard him use any food words--although he's never really had to. We know he can say "Up" for when he wants to be picked up, and we're working on getting him to say (a rough approximation of) the word before we pick him up, although it often just sounds like his "Ah!" sound with a P at the end. Overall, I'm not generally too worried about his lack of speech. I'm more concerned about the attitude behind it. He has made it very clear that he does not like being asked to do things. I remember that feeling. I feel that I need to apologize to my family for that feeling.