Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bye-Bye Dada and Other Language Revelations

From her highchair, Opal is at the perfect angle to see the comings and goings through the front door. On an average day, Jesse gets home from work while she is eating dinner, his entry announced by the closing of his car-door which triggers giddy wiggles from the dog. Opal notices and launches into a mantra of dadadadadada! refusing to eat and staring down the door until he enters. The reunion between the two of them after a long day apart never ceases to move me. Even when she slyly turns away from his greeting-kiss, her delight is obvious in the anticipation of his entry and the immediate calling for him when he slips down the hall to quickly change out of his work clothes.
Give her another few months and a slightly broader vocabulary, and she'll be scrambling to tell daddy every iota of every detail of the day. Another many months from then—when her bedtime is a little later than 7pm— and she'll be telling both of us about the trials, tribulations, excitements of a schoolday over a family meal. But there I go getting ahead of myself again.

About a week ago, Jesse was home for the evening and when dashed down the hall to change, Opal hollered Bye-bye Dada! She then turned to me as if to measure the level of her success from my response, as if she'd been practicing this one in private for a while now and saving it up for a grand moment.

And indeed it was.

Jesse!! Did you hear that?? It was her first official sentence, not simply repeated verbatim, but understood, inserted into a perfectly normal, perfectly lovely evening routine. Just like that. So much of her language up until this point had been prompted, copied or strings of ramblings. And here, she took two words she'd been saying for a while individually, understanding them as pieces of the puzzle, held them up to the light and —snap!— put them together all on her own.

It's dazzling to watch this process.

Since then, she's been running wild with the bye-byes, celebrating her toddler-verbage as often as possible. It's been Bye Bye Dada (Dada also means Doggie, decipherable only by context and even then occasionally questionable), Bye Bye Mew Mew (Kitty), Bye Bye Mama (me) and Bye Bye B and Baby (stuffed companions). She says Bye Bye D (A small bottle of vitamin D that she loves to play with. Hilarious.) as if bidding farewell to a friend over the phone. M
My own personal favorite took place a few days into her bye-bye discovery; we were changing her diaper, of which she preciously refers to as dippy, and she said Bye Bye Dippy.

I registered in that very moment a pronounced and intense need to document every adorable word/phrase/revelation that passes her lips for, roughly, the next two decades.

That's right, honey! Bye Bye Dippy!

Bye-Byes also help her to cope and understand when something is coming to an end. Instead of just taking her away from an activity or a thing, it works much better to say "Tell the Lotion Bye-Bye!" Or when she wants to bring a stuffed animal into the bath, for example, to suggest she say Bye-Bye Monkey!
There's a palpable degree of empowerment that happens in language, indeed, on both sides of the conversation.

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