Monday, 21 April 2008

Little Miss Chatterbox

Neve is 'talking' now - at least, that's what her Mother would have you believe - but I am not sure it's any language that I recognise. There are certainly smatterings of recognisable words in her near constant stream of babble, but I am not sure they are ever intended or in the right context. Here's a typical example:
"Hello, Nevey"
"ullo, Da-deee"
"Are you being a good girl?"
"Husha-fusha-bubble. Isha bisha duck, Da-dee"
"Right, I see. A duck. OK. Sounds good."
"Yasha basha. Telephone."
"Telephone. Duck."
"What? What did you say?"
"Isha boosha yasha shak...Duck. Telephone. Petrol!"

...which must have meant something important to her, but clearly not what it suggested to me (which, for the record, was: "Daddy, there is a duck on the telephone. He is calling about some petrol." Obviously wrong: I checked, and there was nobody there.)
These exchanges leave me completely bemused and her completely enraged; you can tell by her reddening face and whitening knuckles that her inability to make herself understood fills her with absolute fury.
I understand from the experts (by which what I actually mean is: my wife read it out loud to me from 'Parenting' magazine while I was doing the crossword and not listening properly) that children find this a terribly difficult phase because they desperately want to communicate, but have yet to realise that the strings of sounds they produce don't really make much sense to anybody else. I can certainly relate to that (Ive been similarly affected myself when drunk, and I've also worked with a few people who appeared to be unwittingly afflicted well into their adulthood) but I wish it didn't make her so angry - partly because I don't like to see her getting so upset, and partly because, well, she hits me. In the face, if she can reach.
This issue is exacerbated if what she says is inadvertently amusing. One of her favourite books at the moment is 'Maisys Rainbow Dream', in which Maisy the mouse falls asleep and travels through a (slightly hallucinatory) educational dreamscape while learning about colours. Each page is dominated by a random object in a primary hue, so Maisy watches a RED ladybird and finds a GREEN leaf, etc. The problem comes with Maisys BLUE clock, which Neve (a) likes, and so wants to discuss and (b) cannot pronounce, unfailingly dropping the 'l'. So we end up with the following scenario, when Daddy has not been awake for very long on a Sunday morning and is hence bleary-eyed and not very sensible:
"Ooh, look Nevey, what has Maisie found now? A yellow butterfly!"
"Bubberfy. Lellow."
"Uhuh, very good. And look: a blue clock."
"Blue cock."
"Clock. Cl-ock."
"Cock. Blue cock."
..repeat until I start giggling, at which point she gets angry, and hits me.
Nini hears a lot more sense in what Neve says than I do, though I do think she is guilty of hearing what she wants to hear (i.e "She's talking so early! She's a child genius!" just because she said 'chicken'). In the last week, this has caused some conflict:
"Guess what? Nevey said 'I love you' to me today!" said Nini, eyes sparkling with pride.
"I bet she didn't. I bet she said 'uh-wuh-moo', or something".
"She didn't. You are soooo cynical. It was very clear. I said 'Goodnight Nevey, I love you', and she said 'I love you' back..."
Despite my disbelief, it didn't stop me trying to get her to say the same to me. After following her round the house for 30 minutes, going "Nevey! Nevey, I love you" and getting nothing back, Amelie's curiosity was piqued:
"Daddy, why are you telling Neve you love her all the time?"
"I want to hear if she knows how to say it back, Ami."
"Oh, she can. But she won't say it to you, Daddy."
"Why not?"
"Because she loves Mummy."

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