Of all the developmental milestones of babyhood and childhood, it is definitely the talking that is the biggest deal to me. Barak did everything late, but I never worried much that he wasn't sitting up, wasn't crawling, wasn't walking. That he wasn't babbling at eight and a half months--that had me scared out of my skin. I can remember the day he started so vividly that remembering it is like watching a movie. I was sitting at the folding table that served as our living room table, holding him in my lap, trying my best to get him to imitate me.
"Barak! Barak! Ba ba ba ba. Can you say it? Ah-ba. Ah-ba. Ba ba ba ba ba? Ba ba ba?" You can probably picture it. He watched me with interest, his eyes scanning my mouth and face and eyes, smiling at all the attention, but with zero intention of trying it himself. "Come on, Barak, help your imma out here. Babble. Say ba. Repeated consonants! We need repeated consonants! Say ba ba ba.."
"Eh deh deh deh deh deh. Deh. Deh deh deh...
Yeah, so, like I said, Barak does things his way. I put him to bed that night and he was so busy saying deh he didn't fall asleep for--well, that part was normal.
Iyyar is just seven months and change, so the no-babbling thing wasn't worrying me so much. The day before yesterday, I was in the kitchen trying to get some semblance of dinner together before MHH came home. Barak was in his high chair playing with play-doh, loading and unloading it with a forklift driven by a chicken. (You know, the usual.) "Heavy loads! Put innair forklift! Rrrrr!" Iyyar was in the saucer, which he wasn't too pleased about. I work on Mondays, so I'd only been home for a couple of hours, and he really wanted to be held. I can do a lot of things with a baby in the sling but cooking and unloading the bottom rack of the dishwasher are not among them.
I tried to make him feel like he was getting attention by talking to him and smiling at him while I cooked, but he wasn't having it. He moved from petulant to irritated to seriously ticked off.
"Aooooooaaarr! Adabaraaaaa! Aaaaada!"
Grumpy pause during which Iyyar glares at negligent mother, not believing that silly line that if she doesn't eat, neither does he. What does she think he was, born yesterday? Nosirree. It's been months!
Grumpy pause redux.
"Ah da da da da da da da DA! Da DA! Da DA DA DA DA DA DA DA!"
There he was, like a tiny irate old man, gripping the rim of his saucer with both hands, chin pushed up, eyes squinched, looking huffily up at me and hollering "DA DA DA DA DA!"
It could just as easily if been, "Darn kids! Get offa my lawn!"
* * *
Two years on, Barak's talking is quite different. Yesterday when I went to get him from his nap, we were both wearing zip-neck fleece tops. He noticed this and reached for mine. "C'I zip it up?"
"Sure, you can zip it up." He zipped. "Can I zip yours up?" He giggled, and I zipped his.
"Imma zip it up! Barak zip it up! Barak zip it up Imma shirt!"
Today, before MHH came home, I decided to have a little pizza party with some leftover bagel dough I had in the fridge. I made a little cheese pizza and gave a piece to Barak for dinner. He was not interested; he had his forklift on the job and only wanted raisins and Chex and things that can be, you know, forklifted. I told him that he did not have to eat the pizza but he did have to leave it on the plate, and I would let him have Cheerios and milk later if he didn't want the pizza. "But you have to leave the pizza there."
"I don't want it!" he protested. I repeated my position, which he knows very well. You don't have to eat it, but you leave it on your plate until Imma takes it. (Fairly often he'll start eating things he said he didn't want. And come on, this was pizza, not broccoli schnitzel.)
"I don't want it! Put it onna counter!" He kept asking me to dispense with the pizza, and finally, looking right at me, dropped it off the side of his high chair--a cardinal sin calling for immediate time out. I didn't say anything, just took the tray off, picked him up, and deposited him ("I don't wanna go night night!") in his crib. "Two minutes," I said. "You know we don't throw food." And I shut the door.
Two minutes later, I came back, and as is the post-time-out practice, reminded him what had brought him to the dreaded crib. Well, I meant to do that--but he beat me to it.
"I gotta time out," he said mournfully. (He's never said that before.)
"Right," I said. "You got a time out because you threw food, right?"
"Yeah," he said. "Trow it food."
(Okay, a little essential background. House rules: we never throw food. Toys we do not throw in the house, but can throw outside.)
"Do we throw food off the table?"
"No! Trow it outside."