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08. May 2012
We waited months – what am I saying, almost three years for the kid to start talking. We went through the crying, the gurgling, the clicking of the tongue, the cooing and the wheezing and the slobbery first hints of babbling baby talk until he formed his first syllables at six months. Then the first "mamamamam", an expression of despair, with the corners of his moth firmly pointing downwards. It might have been decongestion, or a tooth ache, who knows. What's important is that he said MAMA, I swear! What a wonderful day it was back in 2009, we marked it red in our calendars and texted his grandparents with the wonderful news.
Of course his daddy thinks that our son's first words at eight months were "Papa", not "Mama", but, again, who can say for sure? Then there were the trips to the pediatrician where we stood trembling as our son opened the pages of a picture book: Which pictures was he going to name? How many words would pass his lips? We learned how to do a lot of persuading at that time: "'TARRE' – that's guitar, definitely! NANE, that's an easy one, banana, he's been saying that forever. UFEUTS is his word for airplanes". The endless psychobabble of befriended mothers: "My Marek knew all the words, but he was just so excited that he forgot them all!" "Our Fiona is just like me, she just can't deal with stressful learning situations. But she performed outstandingly when they tested her coordination skills!"
Parents yearn for the U7 test because it finally provides them with the opportunity to prove to themselves and their surroundings what their child is able to do at 24 months. I mean, you need some kind of official confirmation that the exertions you've been going through for the past two years have amounted to something. And the U7 provides just that for you, in black and white, in cold print, pen on paper. At the same time, you're worried sick that your kid whether your kid has actually developed age-accordingly. As my son is naming things in the picture book, I'm secretly counting along: Car, monkey, tree, train, ice cream, truck, mommy, daddy, grandpa, grandma, water. Yes! Ten spoken words is all it takes to pass the U7. And if U-Bahn and Autobahn count, we'd even be at 12. But I for the life of me could not figure out a way to tell beforehand if he was "passively" using up to 250 words by understanding them.
I tried though. I tried by surrounding myself with 2-year-olds, by the end of which I myself was speaking in three-word-sentences and conversing with dogs and vacuum cleaners. Three of my son's most frequently uttered words at that time were "Mano, Mama, mine!", and I'm sure they came out of his mouth at least 100 times a day. Then he discovered the world of animals, and boy did his creative spirit kick lose then. "Sheep" became a "peesh", a "pig" was an "ig" and he applied all sorts of crazy lingustic twists to the classic animal sound onomatopeias.
When I asked him last summer what sort of ice cream he preferred, my son replied "A big one!" without missing a beat. I relaxed instantly. So he is clever, just as clever as his Mama! Since then, a lot of time passed without pediatric check-ups. About half a year later, we're facing my son's third birthday and the relatively fresh "U7a" test. By now, I'm not even stopping for a second to worry about my son's language development. My son is babbling like a waterfall. He always finds something to talk about, bombards us with questions, wants to know everything about himself and his surroundings.
Right now, he's got names on his mind. "Mama, what's Papa's name? And his other name? Why is he called that? Why did grandma call him that? What's grandma's name? Why is Oma called that? Why is your name Mama? Your name is too Mama!" My God, will it ever stop?
Yesterday was the first day that I wished he would just take his six month old sister's example and fall back into a drooling babble.