Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The New Baby and Joys of Language

            “Daddy! Look! It’s the kitty!” Celia excitedly picked up our black cat. “Kitty scratched me and it was bleeding,” she said to no one in particular, and part of me wondered if she was, in fact, addressing our household cat. Finally, it was confirmed.
            “Kitty, can you say ‘bleeding’?” Celia asked.
            I laughed, then thought to myself, it kind of makes sense. Kids mimic what their parents say as part of their language development, and I’ve been saying that phrase a lot to Celia recently. A few weeks ago I asked her, “Celia, some cats are wild, but ours is domesticated. Can you say ‘domesticated’?”
            “Do-meti-cated.” Celia said proudly.
            “That was pretty good,” I patted her on the head.
            I’ve used her mimicry to our family’s advantage. One day I secretly took her aside and said, “Celia, the next time your mother gets angry, say this to her, ‘Mommy, are you having a fit?’ It’ll make her laugh. Can you say that?”
            When she did actually put that last one into practice, it had the exact intended effect. Michelle was starting to get upset, and I whispered to Celia, “Now’s the time! Ask Mommy if she’s having a fit.”
            Celia walked over to Michelle and asked, “Mommy, are you having a fit?”
            Michelle suddenly laughed and turned to me, “You told her to say that, didn’t you!?”
            I laughed. It was too obvious. I couldn’t help but grin at the well-planned success of our mission. Kids are little sponges sucking up everything we say and teach them. I am continually delighted with Celia’s gentle, unpredictable, and charming spirit.
            Yesterday, my sister-in-law finally gave birth to a little baby boy. Everyone showed up and crammed into their house to see the little guy. The whole way over, as over a dozen of us marched from the grandparents’ house with pancakes and sausages, Celia kept declaring, “We’re going to see the baby! We’re going to see the new baby!” She was one of the first to kiss the little guy.
            I held him, a light little feather, in my hands and marveled at the miracle of life. This little fella came from nowhere – and suddenly there’s a brand new soul to enjoy. Child-rearing is probably one of the most difficult, but also most rewarding, things a person can be involved in.
            And let’s face it, it’s not often in an adult’s life journey that we get to come across the delightful nuances and unpredictable applications of our language. Not to mention hearing things such as the wonderful sage advise from Sesame Street’s Ernie: “Never ask directions from a two-headed clown.”
            Nope. I don’t think I’d know about that one without my little ones around. 

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