Language interpretation is another skill I have acquired. Maybe mothers can't always decipher what other people's children are saying, but we learn the remote dialects of our own.
My four year old son, Ranin, has had an evolving relationship with language. At the age of two he would stand in front of the refrigerator pointing emphatically, saying "Bin! Bin!" We would cover the litany of contents, trying to figure out what he wanted. "Milk? Juice? Popsicle? Pickle?", Peter or I would query. Then he would shake his head and say "Bin" with more emphasis. Or "BIN!" with more volume. It was kind of like being in a foreign country and trying to understand someone speaking the language there. They might think that if they yell at you slowly you'll understand them.
If someone asked Ranin what his name was he would also say, "Bin." Tonal grunts with different meanings. We never did learn the real meaning of Bin.
He also used the word, Boo, frequently. Boo was boo-boo, as in, I hurt myself. Boo was also synonymous with Pooh, such as Pooh Bear. All bears were Pooh, or Boo. Then the day came when Ranin ran up to me excitedly, thumb up, exclaiming, "Boo! Boo!" My first thought was that he had hurt himself. Upon closer examination I could see that he had stuck in his thumb and had not pulled out plum. This kid needed a diaper change!
The world of children is only partially filled in. They have to try to make sense of the things adults say and do. Why this and why not that? I remember in kindergarten wondering why John Kennedy won the presidency against Richard Nixon because he had more boats. Why would more boats have anything to do with being president? And besides, what's a president?
One day my son Tymon sneered at his plate. He was five at the time. "Why do we always have grilled cheese sandwiches? How come we never have boy cheese?" (He was hearing it girl cheese.)
I used to baby-sit for two little Jewish girls, Eve and Julie, ages 5 and 3. They were very interested in all the talk about Christmas at our house. Suddenly, Julie burst into tears and said with great anguish, "Why is it always Christmas Eve? Why is it never Christmas Julie?" I think Eve grinned at her in a kind of gloating way, but not really understanding why either.
One of my mother's favorite stories was about a little boy who called kitty cats, perky whacks. When someone's kittycat scratched him, he retaliated and hit the cat back. He later explained, "The perky whack did lumping to me. And I did lumping to it!" Lumping. You can almost see it. What an image! From then on, our cats were called perky whacks. My mother began signing her letters; Love, Iris, Fen and the Perky Whacks.
When Tymon was about one and a half, he called hot dogs, Hagoats. Books were Gips. And popsicles became Cobiddies. Cabuddies. Kawbuddys. I never could figure out a spelling.
Sometimes children are struck with the spirit. They want to express something, even if it's totally out of context with anything else. Our family was driving along one day, and our daughter Gracie, who was two at the time, blurted out with great emotion, "I never eat rats!"
Well Gracie, I was just about to pull into a McRats, and I'm really glad you clarified that.
Ranin's diction still needs improving. It takes a truly discerning ear to translate what he's saying at the age of four and a half. Last Christmas he said to me: "San Caws gung weave pwesents unna Fmibus Fee?" (Is Santa Claus going to leave presents under the Christmas Tree?)
And: "When you go shopping you gung buy me a feet?" (When you go shopping are you going to buy me a treat?)
And this very evening Ranin trotted up to me and said, "I need a toad pot."
Some might be daunted. A toad pot? Are we doing some experimental cooking? Reptilian potty training?
Nay. I immediately knew what he meant. Our air conditioning is broken. It's a hot night and he's running around in his underpants, sticky and sweaty. "I need a cold spot." What else?
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.