Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Mouths of Babes

The mouth of the baby is really one of the main sources of parental anxiety. They need to eat, and it's our job to feed them. They wail. They upchuck. (Had to go with "upchuck," because hey, when do you get a chance to throw in a word like that?) They are incredibly cunning when it comes to hiding contraband in their mouths. Ezra eats garden-variety foul things on a daily basis, such as errant rocks and cat crunchies.

But kids also talk, and it's the straightest straight talk you'll hear. And that, dear reader, is priceless. Ezra, at eleven months old, babbles and coos, says "ma," "ba," and "da," in a half-purposeful way, sometimes, and makes a terrific little grunt when he's coyly trying to attract attention—or a partner in mischief. But Elliott, the eldest, at nearly three, offers up the real deal, a compendium of our best and worst daily words.

"Shut up baby!" he rattled off weeks ago. I was stunned, until I realized that it's one of Jay's phrases from the trying nightly routine of putting two to bed simultaneously (Ezra ALWAYS cries at bedtime). "Very very special," my favorite, comes out as "Ver ver feshul." Lots of things are special. Anything delicious, like soda, a trip to McDonald's, or a brownie, is very very special. A trip up or down stairs used to elicit "Hope not fall down"—a testament to our deep-abiding fear of our own staircases. "Umbrella" comes out sounding Italian, and "Make it louder," as in "turn up the music," sounds strangely British.

I could go on. Of course I could go on—I'm his mother. But today took the cake. I've fixed him a snack of Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese. The snack retained his interest for about thirty seconds, then ended up on the floor, where it quickly attracted the attention of Ezra (crackers) and Tater, our cat (total cheesehound). Elliott was bummed when I swept up the crumbs, tossed the licked cheese, and nixed any notion of another snack. "More damn crackers," he said. "I think he just said…" I thought. "Have some more damn crackers," he repeated, in his precise but stilted way. He got this one from me. There are so many damn things I've cooked, cleaned, found, or thrown away that I should be surprised that he's been expletive-free so long. Anyway, I did what any self-respecting pottymouth parent might do: I pretended to misunderstand him while vowing that I MUST come up with better ways to verbally vent my frustration. "No, no more brown crackers," I replied. "The brown crackers were left on the floor."

"Damn" and "brown" sort of rhyme. That's my cover-up. If Elliott can call bean bags "green bags," and bathing suits "baking suits," then damn it, they're brown crackers!

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