A toddler does not take his words for granted. His vocabulary is built, word by word. Through repetition. With a lot of practice.
“What is your name amma? what is your name appa? what is your name anna?”, he would have quizzed us a thousand times. The more he asked, the more he internalized what those words meant, and with time he learnt to use them in a different context. “What is your name” paved way to “What is this amma?” and “what are you doing?”
Fluency is not a feature of toddler talk, but deliberation is. Every word is chosen consciously, strung together with lot of care, and expressed with pride. For instance, when he said “You hit my shoulder amma, be careful”, he did not say it in one breath like you and I would have. It took him few seconds to figure out the words, and put them in a sentence. When I responded with “I am so sorry Ram, I will be more careful”, the child simply couldn’t suppress his smile. For you see the choicest reward you can give to a toddler who is aspiring to talk is the acknowledgement that you have understood what he is trying to say and appropriately respond.
And that’s probably why he gets very frustrated the few times you are not able to make out what he is trying to say. Like the time he pointed to the fridge and kept saying a longish “blues”. It took me a while to figure out – he is so sure about what he is saying, it’s not gibberish, he is pointing to the fridge, , and then it dawns on me – aha! blue berries. “Do you want blue berries Ram?”, and the child is merrily nodding away, “Yes, blue berries. I want blue berries.”
Anything that is experienced, is articulated. “I like it Santa song” “I feel better now ” “Snow is not hot, it’s cold” And as he savors every word he utters, it’s just not the mouth that does the talking. Arched eyebrows, wonder struck eyes, high pitched voice to name a few of the accompanying special effects.
There are no limits to the words he wants to experiment with – “Acham illai acham illai acham enbadhu illai”, he valiantly attempts to imitate after his anna.
There is thrill in listing words because it comes with relative ease “Kathrikai, inji, poondu, soorakai, pavakai…”
Want to know the best part? As he climbs on my belly at bed time and rests his tired body, I whisper to him, “I love you a lot kannama”, and he replies “I love you amma”, tinted with mazhalai.
What is not to love about this pint sized love!
Note: I updated this post as I published it before I had captured all I wanted to capture.