Lost in Translation

For the first two years, Sylvan was none too interested in talking.  At first, like any first time mom, I worried that something was wrong.  Eventually, the refrain from more experienced parents of, “trust me–he’ll talk.  And when he does start you won’t be able to get him to stop!” got through to me and I relaxed.  And, as promised, soon after his second birthday he jumped into language in a big way.  He wanted to know the names of every animal, every kitchen appliance, every vehicle on the road.  Most of the time, we think his little stream of consciousness narrative is adorable.  Occasionally we even manage to get a word in edgewise.

Having a child who can talk has made me more aware of what I’m saying around him (I know, should have thought of that earlier, right?)  No one wants to be the playground’s pariah parent, with a kid who could make a sailor blush, or who repeats things that were really better left unsaid. We worked on a farm in Massachusetts where the three year old (truly one of the most delightful children I’ve ever known) knew full well not only the full gamut of curse words but also how to use them, and we all worried about what would happen when he reached preschool age.  He didn’t pull ’em out often, but when he did, it made your ears burn.

I’ve discussed among friends various strategies to excise bad words from a child’s memory–someone claimed that children have a stronger memory of the most recent thing said, so if you follow a four letter word with something familiar and innocuous, maybe “peanut butter,” your child will glide right over the offending expletive and skip straight to wanting a snack.  Another friend recounted the story of a near crash, when a large truck cut her off and she let out a word that rhymes with truck.  Her toddler daughter was in the backseat, so my friend quickly elaborated, “TRUCK!  Yup, that was a big TRUCK!  Did you see the truck that almost killed us??”  Her daughter rode the rest of the way home saying, “truck, truck truck.  BIIIIIIG truck.”

Happily, Sylvan does not seem to have taken in any ill-advised interjections from his mommy (because of course daddy would never do such a thing!).  He does, however, have a problem with enunciation.  Every word that ends in “uck” or “ook”–duck, truck, dough hook–all sound, when Sylvan speaks them, like they start with an “f”.  This is awkward, because he likes trucks and ducks a lot, and talks about them daily.  He also elides his sister’s name so that “Baby Alice” sounds a lot closer to “Baby A**”.  He loves her, really, we swear.

This has all become so commonplace to us by now that we rarely notice it, and it really wouldn’t be worthy of a blogpost at all were it not for a recent statement that he made and which brought tears to all of our eyes.  Talking about the various machines and cars on our farm the other day he declared, “Mommy and Daddy truck in barn.”

I hope that one doesn’t come up in church!

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