Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Talking Beast

Once again writing to my daughter December in whatever future she gets around to reading this. Hey Padawan. I of course have no idea how far into the future this message is going to intercept you. I don't know if I am still around, or not. For all I know I'll never get around to leaving you another public message like this, or they will keep on coming for another five or even six decades. All I know is that some day you will probably stumble across these or someone will say "hey, you know your Pop left a bunch of messages for you on his blog from before you were born until... whenever." That person might even be me. When you find them you may let me know you found them, you may not - fair enough, as of now I don't know whether I'm going to point them out to you or not or if I do when. They aren't a secret I'm keeping from you - that would defeat the purpose... and what a silly place to put a secret - out on the internet for public consumption. Chances are this won't be the first or the last one you read, so there will be some value in suggesting that before you read any more that you stop and consider whether there is some satisfaction in rationing the remainder out to yourself. Perhaps you already are, you seem like a clever kid. They aren't going anywhere - they lasted this long for you to find. Save them as something special to be consumed, savoured and cherished like the pieces of an expensive chocolate bar... mind you if you are like your mother that will be a poor metaphor. Remember that you can only have the experience of reading them for the first time once - and they are a finite resource in that virgin form. But that's not what I wanted to tell you about. For context, you are a bot more than 20 months old. We returned from your first trip to Europe (Barcelona, Messina, Dubrovnik, Split, Koper, Venice and London in that order.) a little less than a month ago. You walk, run and climb (just today you went all the way up a slide "the wrong way" on your own - I'll post a video soon and hopefully remember to link it to here) you use an adult fork and know how to open doors yourself, you love birds, buses, frogs and Shrek and the Muppet Show. Your favourite foods right now are bananas, apples, blue berries, asparagus and corn. I take care of you three days a week, your Mom for two and the other two you go to daycare. And you are busting through the language barrier right now. It is pretty cool. Eight weeks ago your vocabulary (not including names of people you know) sat around a dozen and a half to two dozen words that you used singly and only a few of them came out with confidence. Shortly before we left for Europe it started opening up - both in number and construction. One day you and I were out walking - literally training for Europe, getting used to the carrying pack - and I had given you part of a banana over my shoulder. After a few blocks suddenly from behind me came your voice "MORE 'NANA!" It was pretty exciting. You had never strung two words together into one concept before. Of course you got more Banana (On a side note, "'Nana" has inexplicably changed into "'Nani" since then.) Soon thereafter it became apparent that your vocabulary was taking off - all of a sudden you were using a new words every day - sometimes two. In Venice one night an exciting thing happened (well, two - if you count you starting - no, DEMANDING - to go up and down stairs all by yourself). It was late and the three of us - you, your Mum and I - were walking home along the water. Mum and I were asking you questions, as parents do, to see what you will answer. "Who is this?" "Mum!" "Who is this?" "Daddy!" "Who are you?" "'Cem-mar." You whispered. We almost missed it. You said your own name for the first time. A few nights later in London you suddenly started saying it non-stop. (I have video of that too, I'll have to link it.) Oddly since then you don't say it so much. You seem to have decided that your name is "You" ...which makes a certain amount of backward sense linguistically. It will pass, and I will mourn the days when we could point at you and say "Who is this?" and you'd earnestly say "You." By now I haven't got a clue how many words you are picking up in a day. You don't often put more than two together at a time, but they are often grammatically correct in a simple subject-predicate sense. You will open your favourite books and say many key words that appear on that page - you aren't reading, but you associate those words with those pictures. You will spend hours parroting single words that you pull out of the sentences we say. You have full mastery of "more", "no", "yes" (though we hear it less), "Mum", "Daddy", "Shrek", "Show" (Short for Muppet Show), "'Nani" and at least a dozen more. Your less available vocabulary continues to grow too and each day you are demonstrably better at expressing yourself than the day before. It is fascinating, shocking, adorable, delightful, and at the same time a little heart-breaking. I know this is only the beginning of "losing my little girl" but at the same time I am so excited to be meeting the new little girl who is taking her place. She is funny and clever and willful and before too long I expect she'll be able to hold her own in stand-up debate with her old man. I look forward to that day, but it doesn't need to tomorrow.