Friday, October 23, 2009

Lost in Translation

One of the biggest milestones in a toddler’s life is grasping the use of speech and building vocabulary in order to communicate their wants and needs. It usually starts small, with things like “Dada”, followed by “Mama” and perhaps “milk” and/or “pee pee”. Even if your toddler doesn’t say these words clearly, it’s simple enough to understand what the heck they mean when they point to their bottle and say “baba”. But when your toddler moves on to more complex words and tries their hand at stringing a few together, sometimes it’s impossible to figure out what in tarnation they’re trying to say. Learning to understand your little one is strictly trial and error. And believe me, they will let you know when you are not getting it.

There was an episode of the Simpsons a while back in which Homer’s brother invents a device called the Baby Translator. Remember?  Quite the moneymaker. Having such a device could avoid so much heartache and frustration. It’s hard to say which party is more exasperated – the little person who doesn’t understand why you are so dense, or the grown-up person, forced to play charades every waking hour.

The situation was definitely more difficult with my first child. Not due to the child, you understand, but simply my lack of experience. No one told me that when he first starting speaking, it would sound like an alien language that only he understood. And it wasn’t just me. Others would ask “what’s he saying?” My reply was usually “I dunno”. Because the only thing more annoying than not being able to understand your toddler is a parent who pretends that they know every single word their kid is muttering. You know who you are.

When my son was about 14 months old, he used one single “nonsense” word to actually represent several sentences. It was up to me to crack the code. This one took me about four days: “Hymee” = “Henry”. “Henry” = “Henry the Octopus from The Wiggles”. It was a slow and painful process, but a couple days later, I finally figured out that when he said “Hymee”, what he really meant was “I want to watch an episode of The Wiggles right this very instant, and it has to be the one where Henry is singing with his underwater jazz band”. There. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

This whole Toddler to English translation thing came much more easily with my second child. Many of her sayings (commands) are pretty universal, so here is a sampling of some of the more basic stuff. All the work has already been done for you, so enjoy!

1) What she said: “I go Potty?”

   What she meant: There’s a nice big puddle on the kitchen floor calling your name. Plus a few wet footprints. And a handprint or two. 

2) What she said: “I not ride stroller”

   What she meant: You might want to do a couple of stretches before you have to sprint after me in the crowded mall.

3) What she said: “I not tired!”

   What she meant: I was tired about 43 minutes ago, but you missed your window of opportunity and now it will take you two and a half hours to get me to go to sleep.

4) What she said: “no. No! NO!! NOOOO!!!!!”

   What she meant: I hope you don’t see anyone you know here because this is going to be a record breaking temper tantrum. Heh heh.

5) What she said: “Uh oh. I spill!”

   What she meant: I spilled my yogurt all over my face and my hair with my hands. Also, check my left nostril.

6) What she said: “I bump my head at ‘cool today”

   What she meant: Today, at school, I headbutted Billy. The teacher will be speaking to you about it tomorrow.

7) What she said: “I tooted!”

   What she meant: I think I only tooted, but if it’s still stinky after three minutes, you may want to check my pants. It could have been more. I can’t be sure.

8) What she said: “I pretty princess!”

   What she meant: I will be wearing this tutu with my pajamas and rainboots out in public all day and if you try to change my outfit, see #4,

9) What she said: “Mmmm. Yummy widdle bug”

   What she meant: Of course I didn’t eat the bug, but oh man – if you could see your face right now. Ahhh. Classic.

10) What she said: “I loves you, Mommy”

    What she meant: I loves you, Mommy.

Yes, Rosetta Stone…I would LOVE to collaborate with you on your new Toddlerese series, thanks for asking!

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