Billy is a bright boy, he was able to load a tape into the VCR, switch to the appropriate channel and hit play a good 6 months ago. He has since forgotten this skill, but it was proof enough to me that he has sufficient grey matter. Where he doesnâ€™t do so well is in the arena of speech. I havenâ€™t paid much attention to this, as a) I didnâ€™t really care and b) I had no idea how much the other kids his age could speak. When Heidi said she wanted to get him some speech therapy, I was amused more than anything else. I said okay, as long as it is free. It wasnâ€™t, so he didnâ€™t get any.
A few weeks ago I heard one of his friends speak and realized why Heidi had been so concerned. His friend said: â€œMe and Billy are playing on the mat.â€ This may seem unremarkable to you, but I was astounded. Billyâ€™s “sentences” at the time included, â€œcar,â€ â€œdaddy,â€ â€œmummy,â€ â€œchoo-choo,â€ â€œup,â€ â€œdownâ€ and so on. As in, sentences were so far beyond his capability it was laughable to even imagine them coming from his mouth.
I can deliver a complex set of instructions to Billy and he will follow them to the letter. For example, I can say, go into the kitchen and fetch your big red truck, and with much self-importance and ceremony, he will do exactly as I ask. When I tell him what a clever boy he is, he seems to understand why. So again, I know his brain works, and Iâ€™ve never been worried by any of this.
But still, sometimes you think it might be nice to hear what he has to say. Hear what he is thinking about. To this effect, when I get home in the evening, I always ask him what heâ€™s been doing all day. When he grasps what I am asking heâ€™ll launch into a litany of babbles, detailing everything heâ€™s done with nary a word of English anywhere in the mix. Heâ€™ll point to where he imagines the places in his head are located, laugh when he recalls moments that amused him, and jump up and down with excitement at the recollection of any cars or trains. These words I can make out. If he remembers his friend Anna, he gets especially excited, wrapping his hands together with glee and repeating her name over and over. He appears to be in love with her.
Something must have clicked in his brain a couple of weeks ago, as for the first time ever he formed a sentence. I should warn you, it isnâ€™t great but here it is: â€œDaddy nose.â€ His pronunciation leaves something to be desired. He says Daddy well enough; he has had plenty of practice with that, then he takes a pause, a fairly long one as gears crank into place in his head, then he says noooooooooooooooooo(z). I put the â€œZâ€ in parenthesis, as it seems to be optional depending on his mood.
Blue and 2
In Billyâ€™s world colors and numbers exist, but they only exist as broad concepts. If something has color, it is â€œblooooâ€. If there is more than one of something, there are â€œtooooooâ€. On Sunday evening we rode our bikes to the lake in the park and had our dinner watching the birds and the pedal boats drift by. When one boat passed by, Billy said â€œbooooooaaaa.â€ When two boats came into view, he pointed to them both, and yelled â€œtooooooooooâ€ When 3, 4 or 5 came into view heâ€™d flap and flail his arms from one to the other and yell, with even more animation, â€œtoooooooooo.â€
If I say, fetch the red pen. He fetches the red pen. If I hold the red pen in the air and say, what color is it Billy? He will say â€œbloooooooooo.â€ Every car we pass in the street is â€œblooooooo,â€ no matter its actual color.
If he sees a large quantity of very colorful things, heâ€™ll engage his newly honed sentence creation skills and give us a whopping â€œtooooooooooo blooooooooooo.â€ Progress indeed.
I used to wonder how kids got such complex concepts as quantity into their heads. I wondered how you could possibly teach such an abstract thing from scratch. My question was clearly in error. There is no such thing as â€œfrom scratch,â€ the blank slate theories of consciousness are long discredited and when you are forever proffering 2 objects to your kid and saying â€œdo you want 2?â€ or pointing to two objects in his hand and saying â€œyouâ€™ve got 2!â€ it becomes glaringly obvious how they learn these abstract concepts. Common bleedinâ€™ sense, thatâ€™s how.
Watching Billy this last week or so it is clear that we are on the cusp of a vast proliferation in his vocal abilities. In the last few days alone his skills have improved hugely. Whereas this time last week he was happy to point at something he wanted, heâ€™ll now take a stab at any word. Milk is â€œnyok,â€ Bestow (the landladyâ€™s dog) is â€œboooo,â€ he has a verb, eat, which is predictably pronounced â€œeeeee,â€ and his old word â€œjew,â€ for juice, has attained an almost imperceptible â€œsâ€ on the end. Oh, and how could I forget, â€œTeletubbiesâ€ is now â€œTeta.â€ Spanish for boob.
Itâ€™s remarkable how much more enjoyable all this development makes the whole child-rearing enterprise. Itâ€™s like having a little entertainer about the place, and even though his act is rubbish; we are genetically programmed to lap it up.
I’ve been forced to the conclusion that those first two years are more of a womanâ€™s time. Pardon my crude sexism, but as soppy as men are capable of being, there just isnâ€™t that much to be had from the tiny infant/mewling baby stages. You feel a lot of love and a lot of other things, some pleasant and some unpleasant, but you very rarely feel much satisfaction. More often than not I just felt trapped. Kind of in a good way, but also kind of not. As the â€œterrible twosâ€ approach, I may still be trapped, but at least Iâ€™ll have an entertaining little companion sharing my cell.