Sunday, April 20, 2008

Language Acquisition

There is a special phase in a child's life, somewhere from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years old, when they start "trying on" the language. They can make sentences and understand almost everything you say. But their "understanding" of words and sentence structure is quite curious.

Basically, they say the darndest things!

You always know exactly what they mean, but the way they say it is so laughably ingenuous. For example:

"Dis cold is jes tireding me up." - after having a stuffy nose for a few days.

"She can't come on." - referring to someone who couldn't come for a walk with us.

There is another syndrome that occurs almost (but not always) simultaneously with all this. I call it the "contrary just for the fun of it" stage. It must have something to do with their growing awareness that they are no longer completely one with mama - that they have a separate and unique identity. What better way to express this than to disagree and/or contradict mama at every possible opportunity? Behold:

MARIE: Mama, I found a paper outside. See what it says!
ME:'s notes Daddy left outside. That is great that you found it!
MARIE: I did NOT find it! (marching away, indignant)

ME: Would you like a pear for your snack?
ME: How about a banana?
ME: OK, do you want some crackers?
MARIE: Mama (exasperated), I want a PEAR!

How could I be so obtuse?

Lastly, this phase of life includes what I call "fixations". They are really fun. Marie's particular one has to do with hair. She absolutely refuses to leave the house unless I have neatly brushed her hair into a pony tail ("with WATER Mama!). She will scream and cry and fall down flat rather than venture out with her gorgeous, blonde, loopy curls unrestrained.

Paradoxically, she can't abide me to have my hair up. If she see's a clip in my hair - look out. And if she's in reach, she'll pull it right out. "I don't want your hair up!" She states matter of fact.

Somehow this is fair and just in the mind of an almost four year old.

Since she's my third child, I can now enjoy, laugh and cherish these silly quirks. This time I don't have to pull my hair out, wonder "what I'm doing wrong", or consider my child as an aberrant freak. They ALL do it. At least all of mine did.

And then there are the just plain endearing things they say.

Last night I was reading a bible story about God being a helper during times of need. At the end of the story there are questions to ask the child. Our dialogue went something like this:

ME (scripted): Did David need help?
MARIE (yelling): YES!
ME: Who helped David kill the lion?
ME: Who helped David kill the bear?
ME: Who helped David kill Goliath?
ME: Do you need help sometimes?
ME: Who is your helper?

I guess I stand in for the Big Guy Upstairs for a while in her little psyche. I'm happy to do it.