Saturday, January 10, 2009

Let Me Tell You a Story

Zoe has developed a few cute and quirky mannerisms. One of the things she is doing is recognizing that some action she is involved in should be funny, or is funny but just not funny enough to have a real laugh. But since she recognizes that some attempt at fun is being made she will try to participate in the good times by putting her hands on her head and doubling over with a fake little laugh. Trust me, it’s really cute. Another idiosyncrasy she has picked up, and I swear I had nothing to do with it (although now I imitate her), is when she responds in the positive she will not just say ‘yaa’, she will say ‘chyaa’, as in “Chyaa, that’s really gnarly.” When teenagers say chyaa they are obviously trying to be cool and quirky, so it comes off as a little, well, irritating. When a twenty two month old says it, it’s just, well, cute.

As parents we become attuned to our child’s thought process. A single word, seemingly unrelated to a situation, is enough to drive an entire conversation, albeit a conversation in which one party is responding in single-word sentences. For example, this afternoon I was reading Zoe a book of colors. We flipped to a page that had a picture of an umbrella. Oddly enough the word ‘umbrella’ is one that Zoe knows and can say (in a manner of speaking). However, instead of saying umbrella, she said moo (as in what a cow says). I remembered that a while back we took a trip to The Little Farm to feed the cows stalks of celery. It was a rainy day and I was carrying an umbrella. It’s almost as if I can see the gears of her mind working, the bits of memory piecing together to tell me a story. Because her vocabulary is so limited, she has to rely on the single most defining aspect of the story that she is able to speak. Here’s a conversation I had with Zoe recently. We were reading an A to Z book and we get to E for Elephant when Zoe interrupts me.
Zoe: Tallulah. (Tallulah is Zoe’s best friend.)
Me: You saw an elephant with Tallulah?
Zoe: Yah.
Me: Did you see an elephant at the Zoo with Tallulah?
Zoe: Yah.
Me: What else did you see at the Zoo?
Zoe: Blank stare.
Me: Did you see a giraffe?
Zoe: Yah. Tallulah.
Me: Tallulah saw a giraffe at the Zoo too?
Zoe: Yah.
Being able to quickly deduce and respond to what she is thinking is one of the pleasures of being a parent, and what probably makes everyone else kids seem like they’re babbling incoherently. I mean if I was reading a book to someone else’s child and they said moo when I showed them an umbrella, I would assume that they were a bit slow. It’s no wonder that the stay-at-home parent craves adult conversation.

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