Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Teaching. That is what being a parent really comes down to. Teaching about life, love, right, wrong, good, bad … you get the idea. But right now, at 13 months I’m focusing on some more earthy goals – words. Since Cora has been about 9 months old she’s had about five words in her repertoire: Hi, Mama, Dada, Gog Gog (dog), and Uh Oh.

Once she moved on to focusing her time on learning to walk, almost all of those were pushed aside by her brain. Now that she’s a little sprinter, the electricity to the speech section has been turned back on. Taking my cue, I’ve been working with her over the past month on learning new words.

Ever since she was born, we have made sure we use the kind of language in dealing with Cora that we want her to pick up someday. So when she wanted out of her exersaucer, we would ask “up, please?”. When she would do something she was not supposed to, she would hear “no, ma’am.” My child will have manners if it kills me.

But after months of little return, I’d decided to focus my sights a little lower. We’ve been focusing on words like “milk”, “more”, “sippy”, “doo-doo” and “love you”. I’ve also been trying to get her to use or at least acknowledge a few gestures, like a head nod, a kiss or a hug. Over the past months we’ve gotten a lot of those down. She can now high five, low five, hug on command, blow kisses, or give a good “real” kiss (complete with the “swack” sound). But for some reason words are just escaping our grasp.

Until this weekend that is. I was sitting on the couch with Cora and noticed she was intently studying my face as if there was something new she had never seen before. Suddenly, just like a little baby ninja, she reached up and grabbed my nose – a thumb up one nostril, all the fingers around the rest – and squeezed for all she was worth.

Remembering my pediatrician’s advice, I said a sharp and loud “OW!” This serves two purposes – one, it startles the child into ceasing whatever painful behavior they were engaging in, and two it allows them to understand that when they do that, it gets an unpleasant response. Unless you are my child. My child just paused, looked at me – head cocked to one side, nose still firmly in hand – and matter-of-factly said “ow”.

Great. I work for months on “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, or even just “more” – and after one brief interlude I get “ow”. So yesterday morning as she toddled around the house, she was greeting everything (couch, chairs, tables, dog, cat, etc) with either “Hi!” or “Ow”. And yesterday afternoon while in my arms, she sweetly put her head on my shoulder and whispered “ow”. And at dinner in her high chair she poked her rosemary chicken with her finger and said “Ow!”. *sigh* How can you explain to a 13 month old that the chicken is not hot, and is not hurting her, and thus is not “ow”. You don’t. And how to do explain to mom’s ego that she will not get to wholly control her daughter’s language skills? You don’t. Ow.

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