It’s usually my two-year-old boy whose verbal language skills require a little assistance from me. My husband often asks “Mummy, what’s he saying?” and in the blink of the eye, I translate the toddler talk into English, and everyone’s happy.
So I was recently stumped when my four-year-old son sat in his car seat saying something that made absolutely no sense to me. This is a very rare occurrence; in fact it hasn’t happened in a couple of years. My younger son was at junior kindy that day, so it was just Master Four, The Baby and me travelling in the car.
Him: “Mummy, I’m a sausage.” (Yeah, nothing unusual here, I’ve heard him say weirder).
Me: “Oh you’re a sausage are you, darling?”
Him: “No, I said SAUSAGE!”
Er, ok… tactical response: just keep driving and he’ll forget what he was saying.
Something mystical happens when you become a mother. You become somewhat of a “kid-whisperer”. When your child says something inaudible and nonsensical, you have an innate ability to interpret their verbal language attempt for others. Grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends turn to you to decipher your toddler’s babble. Of course, you know exactly what they’re saying. And you have a 90% success rate in translating for him. The other 10% involves a frustrating to-and-fro as your lines of communication run strictly parallel to your child’s and threaten to never intersect. Panic ensues. After all, you’re the expert. If you can’t understand him, no one can. It’s all down to you, mum.
By the way, he hasn’t forgotten what he was on about.
Him: “A sauce lid!!!” (What the hell’s a sauce lid? I’m wondering, but fair enough, he could be onto something).
Me: “Ohhh, a sauce lid! Mmm-hmm.”
Him: “No mum. A sauce lid”.
Sometimes young kids manage to articulate themselves as clearly as a bell. I was recently queuing in the crowded (but strangely silent) local post office, and my toddler said beautifully “Mama, my want a boobie”. I glanced around nervously attempting to gauge whether he’d been heard (newsbreak: of course he had), and managed a pathetic smile at the elderly lady in front of me. Just when I dared to think he’d gone unheard, my preschooler piped up: “Mummy, Sam said he wants a breastfeed. Are you gonna give him a BREASTFEED???”. Nice. No need for any interpretation there.
Other times its a toddler’s poor pronunciation that causes the utmost embarrassment for his mother. I have a friend whose two year old has a rather unfortunate way of saying the name of his favourite toy: his dump truck. What did your kid just call me?
Back to the sauce lid conversation. Only now he’s saying “assorted” and I’ve given up, because I highly doubt he knows the word assorted, despite the fact that’s exactly what he’s saying. I swiftly remove my Mummy hat and place my Teacher hat firmly on.
Me: “Sweetie, I’m having trouble understanding what you’re saying. Could you think of another way to say it?”. And that’s how it’s done, I think smugly.
Until my usually easy-going little guy reaches forward from his seat, smacks the back of mine and yells:
“MUM! I’M A SCHOOL KID!!!!”
Of course! I’ve just collected him from kindergarten, where he gets to wear a little kindergarten t-shirt, and take a backpack and packed lunch. He’s a school kid. How dumb am I?
Apparently very. He’s not saying school kid. He’s now very frustrated. I consider conceding defeat and calling my husband on Bluetooth to let our son have it out with him. But no, that won’t work, it’s only 2.53pm, and my husband is busy doing his other job – teaching a class of students – for another six and a half minutes. Pfft.
Hang on… what’s that? Silence? Surely not?
I hazard a glance in my rear view mirror and to my extraordinary shock, he’s asleep. He looks so peaceful and adorably cute when he’s not yelling at me.
Oh my poor little man. He must have been exhausted.
Exhausted! “Mummy, I’m exhausted.” Oh bless, I think, as I click on my favourite non-child-friendly radio station, take a long sip of my jumbo takeaway cappuccino and thoroughly enjoy the ten minute drive home, my mind at ease.
A note: This post is just intended as a lighthearted observation of one of the many minor challenges of parenthood. If you have any concerns about your child’s oral language development, you may wish to have a look at one of my favourite blogs, Mommy Speech Therapy, and utilise the Articulation Screener Tool, as a first step.