Having never been a dad before, this is my first time watching child development happen right in front of me. Like speech for example–the words that come out of his mouth are both beautiful and fascinating. It is amazing to see how he puts them together to get his point across-and this little guy always has a point. Sometimes it is a little startling. “When did he start doing that?”
It hasn’t taken long for our son, who was behind in a number of areas when he first arrived, to quickly catch-up to where he should be. Recently it seems we have been on a bit of a wild ride. He has been cruising along on two word phrases which we have encouraged him to use. The days of grunting, wild pointing, and shouts of “a-this, a-this” have given way to “more cereal” or “cereal please.” It doesn’t come out quite that coherently but it’s close enough. It becomes a kind of game for us daddies–trying to figure out exactly what he is saying. We had originally thought of making a list of his entire vocabulary since therapists were initially concerned about his speech. That was the thought back when we figured it would be kind of cute and manageable. When the speech fuse was lit in his brain though, it wasn’t like lighting a candle or even a fire; it was more like a fuse running along the floor to waiting sticks of dynamite. It was this big messy word explosion-it was impossible to keep up. We are amazed by the sheer number of words, some of which we had no idea he knew. I would say we are in the hundreds, though we suspect there are many words he knows that we don’t know he knows.
This is the original list phonetically spelled the way they are pronounced by said nearly two year old:
Gasses (Glasses )
Ocky (Rocky, one of our dogs)
Daddy (Darrow and/or myself)
waffo or pop (waffle or the sound that the waffle makes when it comes out of the toaster)
I think the most surprising thing though was when he was on the changing table with Darrow and spontaneously began to rattle off his ABCs. Darrow said he mangled a few of the letters but made it pretty much through the entire alphabet. Now he will just begin to babble a phrase or two often repeating it several times. And the two of us will look at each other and ask “what did he just say?” Sometimes we can piece it together by the context and other times it sounds like something he might have heard from day care but just isn’t able to articulate completely. Two weeks ago he kept repeating the same thing over and over. It took us a while but he wanted us to read a book that we had recently bought called Pancakes for Supper. And that is exactly what he kept repeating, the funny thing is, neither of us remembered the title of the book. All we remembered is that there was a bear and cougar and a little girl lost in the forest.
As his communication abilities have improved, he has a lot more to say, or maybe we just understand what he was saying to us all along. The frustrated screams are not any less, they’re just different. Now when he screams it isn’t because we don’t understand, it is because we do understand but are unwilling to agree to his demands. Like the other night we had spaghetti and meatballs (Yum, yummy!) but someone was insistent on waffles. Since Darrow is not a short-order cook, we were non-compliant and therefore there were screams. He reluctantly took a few bites but ultimately didn’t eat that much for dinner.
Now there are more things to say to him. Rather than hoping that he understands what we say to him, we believe more often than not that he gets it. I now spend more time telling him what got him into trouble and exactly what it takes to get him out. Language has also caused his play to evolve. He is saying more complicated things; there seems to be a great degree of imagination and even some real life themes being acted out. Even the play between he and us is evolving and growing more complex. With new words come new opportunities to have fun and be goofy and with two very goofy forty year olds parents we play a lot.
We also spend much more time helping him to learn new things. Like the other night we talked about the moon. He seems to be fascinated by it. He now looks for it in the night sky and notices it in the pictures of some of his books. We talk to him about the dogs-how when Milo is in his bed he likes to sleep under his covers where it’s warm-how Rocky when he lays on the ground he likes to have his belly tickled-how when Mika is laying in the middle of the doorway we have to be careful not to step on her feet and tail because that hurts. I also have begun to speak to him about his sisters. I haven’t mentioned them much because we have never met them. But he sees them once a week and has begun to say their names here and there. I know that whatever happens with him, he is attached to them and it will be important to retain that relationship. We believe that his infatuation with little girls in general is due to his contact with his sisters.
One day soon he will probably be able to talk about them with us. Over time as he remains with us, what will be difficult is how to talk about his situation as a foster child, how to explain why he has a mommy, a daddy, and sisters once a week for an hour and then daddy and daddy-papa for the rest of the time. For now his beautiful words do not include the things in life that are bad, that are painful or hurtful. For now the beautiful words are the happy, fun kind of words. Someday we will have to get to the rest of the beautiful words when he has the capacity to understand them.