When the Toddler was about nine months old, people would regularly tell me: “Oooh he’ll be walking soon, then your nice easy life will be over, haha!” First of all, we will gloss over the suggestion that life with a nine month old baby was easy and move straight onto the effects of walking on the status quo. I couldn’t wait for him to walk, and when he did I was overjoyed. They get so heavy at that age and it is such a blessing to be able to just hold their hand and let them walk. The only downside that I had strangely not anticipated was that he didn’t want to go where I wanted to go. Yes, he walked and eventually ran, but usually towards a busy road or to the corner shop where he had a better view of the trucks driving past along the main route out of our neighbourhood.
Talking, I also eagerly anticipated. How amazing that he would be able to tell me what he wanted and what was wrong if he was upset! This, too, has mainly remained a fantasy up until now. Yes, he can tell me what he wants most of the time (“Milk, Mummy!” “Juice” “No, not beneden [downstairs]”) but words fail him when it really matters.
He is lying on the floor, kicking and screaming at a volume and pitch that could shatter glass, tears rolling down his cheeks. “What is the matter?” I ask. He just wails.
He is sitting on the sofa, keeping up a constant whine and not responding to any suggestions, other than by temporarily increasing the volume of the whining. “Are you alright?” I ask. “Would you like a drink?” He whines a little louder.
He wakes up in the night, crying. Bleary eyed, muzzy haired, he is standing up in his cot holding Teddy. “Are you in pain?” I ask. He just cries.
I suppose when I am unhappy words fail me too. But it seems a little unfair, as surely the purpose of learning to talk is to be able to communicate with those who can help in moments of distress, as well as being able to count and point out “a big big bus”.
Finally, a little slice of toddler-conversation. In the same five minutes he will be enigmatically unintelligible, desperately trying to explain something very important that I just can’t decipher:
“Mummy, racing car! Pat. Dot. Nuhnuh wheels. Racing car.” This while sitting at the dinner table-
followed by an exchange that is clear as day:
“Klaar, [Finished]” He pushes his bowl away.
“Wil je niet meer eten?” [Don’t you want anymore dinner?]
“Nee. Ziek.” [No. Poorly.]
I double check: “Is het omdat je ziek bent dat je niet meer wil eten?” [Is it because you feel poorly that you don’t want anymore dinner].
“Mm-hm!” he nods, and climbs down from his chair, off to do some more therapeutic counting with his new number fridge magnets.