Dory's vocabulary grows in the most interesting ways. I expected it to run along the lines: daddy, mommy (OK, maybe I hoped it would by mommy, daddy, but either way...), doggie, bath, I want to go to the park, I'm going to a movie with my friends where are the car keys...
Turns out, learning how to speak a first language is a bit slower, more erratic, and far more entertaining than I imagined. I've seen friends with their children, translating, with a parent's expert ear, conversation that is totally alien to me. Dory has been no different. What I consider perfectly formed words might still be incomprehensible to your man on the street. To my mind, she has a list of words that she's more than mastered now. Some are traditional: daddy, dat (that), doggie, bat (bath), ucks (yucky) and, most recently, mommy. Some I did not expect that she just loves to say are: duck and sock. All day long, socks come off and on from the joy of announcing "shhhock" as she tugs them off her plump little feet. And she absolutely thrills anytime she can point out a "duc-K, duc-K, duc-K." She knows a few of her friends' names: Ike (Isaac), Emme (Ember), and Lana (Alana, and, technically, the name of her friend's mother, but still). Favorite problem word? Uh-oh.
By far, though, what sends her quick, bright mind into frenzied delight: the letter 'P.' Anything with the letter 'P.' Appa (apple). Hipa (hippo). Pwoops (oops). Pot (Spot, based on her favorite literary character). Pata (pasta). Pei-pei (pee-pee). Po-hee (potty). Pway (play). She's even tried piwhoa (pillow).
I did not foersee how important language would be right about now. She's almost eighteen months and Matthew and I are realizing, she understands a lot. I mean, A LOT. We-have-stop-saying-that-word a lot. We started to notice it around fourteen months. She seemed to understand us beautifully. Her brilliant parents? Not so much. This was the trouble. We couldn't understand her and this was incredibly frustrating for all parties, as she would speak traditional toddler "eh-eh-eh" (sometimes accompanied by pointing) and Matt and I took turns trying to figure it out holding out random items and saying "this? you want this?" I noticed, we were treating her the way a lot of Americans in foreign countries behave: speaking LOUDLY and slooooowly. It wasn't pretty and not, probably, our best moments as parents, though we were trying.
Then- dum-dum-dum-DUM!- inspiration struck. Sign language! Our friend, the aforementioned Alana, started teaching her daughter sign language when she was about four months old. By one year, her child could sign almost one hundred different signs and understood almost twice as many. Yep. World domination is next on her baby's list. I marveled at watching her sign different animals, wanting to go up or down, play on the swings or the slide eat crackers or cheese. It was amazing.
We started on a much, much smaller scale with a few signs for Dory, the ones we could remember and that seemed to be important for her to communicate. Eat (as in "do you want some food?"). Milk ("or would you prefer some milk?"). More. Thank you. Oh, and bear (that was all Matthew, big Chicago fan that he is- and let me tell you, Dory cannot see a bear without enthusiastically signing it, probably her favorite sign to date).
Now we're to the point where she shows us when she's hungry, wants to play, wants to sleep, wants Mama (by signing milk), and she's even made up her own sign for color which is to wave her hand through the air like she's writing (right now, Granny Suzanney is murmuring, "Baby Genius, like I told you...")
My thoughts on signing? Absolutely worth it. If there's a Baby Two, we'll start much earlier. What a relief and pleasure to communicate with her without it dissolving into tears (on her part) or behaving like monkeys at the zoo (that would be Matthew and I). We picked up a book from the library on Baby Signs and took off. I've even wondered if the signs have helped with her language because we waste less time trying to figure out what she wants and spend more time talking to her like the interested and brilliant little person she is.
And for any of you wondering, yes, Dory has said her first curse word. The one that rhymes with "sit." And, yes, she has on several occasions pulled it out and said it a few times, just to practice, I guess.
And yes, it was Mommy who slipped and said it. Thank you very much.