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The Laughing Mom: humorous tales of motherhood PDF Print E-mail
Written by Susan Pfaltzgraff   

All the pretty little words

Right before my daughter Melise turned two, she was having a great time learning to talk. It blew me away how fast it all was coming. One day she was pointing and grunting, then the next day she was saying “Iwa ice ceem” (I want ice cream).

I noticed that an important step in toddler language development is figuring out words that go together. For instance, if I said “cow” then Melise would say “moo.” Or if I said “outside” she’d say “shoes.” Or if I said “You need a diaper change” then she’d respond with a vehement “Noooooo!” Word associations like that can be helpful, but every once in a while can create difficult moments.

Melise learned a long time ago that her mommy likes to dunk Oreo cookies in milk. At first it was a safe snack for Mommy because Melise didn’t like chocolate, so she ignored them, but then she discovered the icing in the middle. Out of concern for Melise’s sugar intake, I cut back on the cookie consumption. That didn’t mean she ever forgot about them though. We went weeks without a single cookie and we definitely never said the c-o-o-k-i-e word aloud.

Then one day we were enjoying some zucchini bread when I decided to get a drink. I said, “Melise, do you want to share a glass of milk with me?”

Melise replied with a very sweet “Cookie?” Immediately I knew what had happened. The association that had been formed between the milk and cookies was so strongly emblazoned in her memory that she thought they belonged together. Try as I might that evening, I could not convince Melise that we could drink the milk alone. It was a long day.

Not long after that was a mishap involving a word and a recurring situation. For a week Melise and I attended parent and tot swim lessons in the evening. Melise loved the pool so much that she hated to leave at the end of the lesson.

The very first day she was so upset getting out of the pool that I promised her something that I knew would turn her mood instantly—ice cream! She was happy all the way home.

The next day when the swimming lesson came to an end, I was toweling Melise off while telling her that it was time to go home. She responded with an enthusiastic “Ice ceem!” Unfortunately, ice cream wasn’t in our immediate future because we had yet to have supper. I tried to explain it to her, but she jabbered about ice cream all the way home, into the house, and even while she ate supper. Of course, I had to give her ice cream after her single-minded determination. The whole week of swim lessons went that way.

Some word associations are harder to teach than others. Melise and I were tickling each others’ bellies one evening when I got the idea in my head to introduce her to her unborn sibling.

I pointed to my belly and said, “Melise, did you know that there’s a baby in my belly?”

Melise said, “Baby?”

“Yes, a baby is growing in my belly!” She gave me a perplexed look and pondered the idea for a moment. Then, she climbed onto my lap and tried to look into my belly button. When she couldn’t find anything, she looked at me and laughed like it was the best joke.

I said, “No, really! There is a baby even though you can’t see it!”

Melise just shook her head and said, “Baby . . .” in a very doubtful way. It took many months and a great expansion of my belly before she ever believed me!