Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Use your words!

Seven year old Noah came bounding back toward the campfire, holding hands with Munchkin. They had run up to the cottage together to find some plastic dinosaurs to play with, the way new friends do, sifting through each other's toy collections in search of common cause.

"Did you say she's three years old?" he asked, "because she talks really good. My brother is four and he doesn't talk that good."

Even the elementary school crowd notes Munchkin's verbal dexterity. And I have to say, life with a hyper-verbal toddler is something I'm much better equipped to deal with than, say, life with a pre-verbal colicky infant. We sometimes see the terrifying and atavistic return of the former Miss Baby, in tantrum times, a blur of flailing limbs and inarticulate shouting. "Use your words," we implore her, "use your words!"

Well. Sometimes the words are surprising. There is a reason that when people use the expression "out of the mouths of babes," they are usually shaking their heads ruefully. The upside of hyperverbosity is that Munchkin--poor, easily-frustrated, very opinionate Munchkin--can explain why she's feeling so rotten. The downside is that she's got no social filters and what she has to say can really sting.

To wit:

Last weekend, I sat on her bed as she slowly came out of the fog of a long and deep nap. She whined softly and pulled away from me, not making eye contact. "Use your words, Munchkin," I prodded her. In return, she let out a soft "Aroo ..." and then: "I'm a sad puppy, Mom, aroooooo, aroooo, because I wet the bed."

Indeed she had. Still half-asleep and more than half-embarrassed, she consented to be removed from bed, stripped, and led to the bathroom. Cleaned up, she began a quiet conversation with some bath toys and I slipped out of the room to strip her sheets and blankets.

Then disaster: Pynchon tried to engage her and she completely freaked out, screaming nononono and slapping and punching and screeching wildly, a fit of pique escalating into a three-alarm, out of control tantrum. It seemed that she wanted him to go away and me to come back. We finally calmed her down, together, and as she clutched pitifully at my knees, booger-faced and puffy-eyed, her dad told her this:

"I know you want Mommy, Munchkin. Mommy was busy changing your sheets and Daddy wanted to play with you. You wanted Mommy but you got Daddy instead. You have to understand, Munchkin, that you have two parents. Mommy and Daddy are both your parents and we can both play with you and take care of you. We both love you and we are both your parents."

He was very gentle, but insistent, kneeling down at her level and looking into her eyes. She considered this for a while, quietly.

"Well ..." she began, clearly still thinking through her response and adopting a verbal tic well-used by her mother. "Well, Daddy. I have two parents, a Mommy parent and a Daddy parent, but only one parent is my favorite and that is Mommy and so I want Mommy and I cried and cried for her."

What can you say to that? Yes, it's very hurtful to poor Pynchon, who really is a prince among men. But the kid clearly understood everything he told her, and offered her own quite reasonable (if heartbreaking) dissenting opinion.

This is what you get when your 37 month old begins to use her words: more than you bargained for, and often not what you wanted to hear.


Cloud said...

Oh, poor Pynchon! It is normal, etc., etc., but that still has to hurt.

Our Pumpkin (now 27 months old) is also really, really verbal. We're struggling a bit with this, too, although not with so much detail- she's only 2, after all.

I'm pregnant again and really need my sleep. So when Pumpkin wakes up in the middle of the night (thankfully, not that often anymore), Hubby usually tries to go in. One night, he went in, and she kept crying for Mommy. He tried to explain that it was his turn to snuggle with her. She said "No Daddy! Not your turn! Mommy's turn!" and made so much noise that I did indeed get up and go snuggle her back to sleep.

She has definite times when she prefers Daddy- these usually involve roughhousing or playing outside. But when she wants comfort or wakes up in the middle of the night, she usually calls for me. Unless my mom (whom she calls Mimi) is around. Then she will sometimes ask for Mimi....

Mandy said...

Nate has started to use the "You're my favourite" card on David or myself depending on his mood or who he's trying to manipulate. It's so hurtful to hear, even though I remind myself that it's just a phase.

God I hope it's just a phase.

Bea said...

Ouch. We're fighting a daily battle here against poopy and stupid and bum and buttocks and I'm not your friend anymore... but that's a whole nother level.

Kyla said...

KayTar is given to that sort of honesty, too. Usually she says, "I want Daddy, because he's the prettiest! But you can be the awesomest!" But the other night, she wanted me to cuddle with her at night, then she offered to him as a consolation, "Sorry Dad, but you ARE still the prettiest." LOL. I have to admit, it felt like victory. I don't mind getting the slight usually, it gives me a break from being the main parent, but when she chooses me, it is especially satisfying. Take that, Pretty Dad. LOL.

alejna said...

Ouch. That stings.

Phoebe usually wants me, but happily hasn't yet played the favorite card.

I did recently feel stung, though. She started karate classes last week, and on the first night, we all went. The next class, she said she only wanted Daddy to take her. I was surprised, but glad that she wanted to the time with her daddy. Later, I learned that she didn't like it that we talked during the class. (I didn't think we did much, but, well...) I was apparently louder than John, so I was the worse transgressor. I embarrassed my 3-year-old! What's worse is I had to fight the urge to be childish in response. "Why should I read this book to you/ give you dinner/ snuggle with you when you don't want me at your class?"

naomicatgirl said...

My 2.5 year old is also exceptionally verbal.

He's also a bit more blunt. When he wants the other parent (usually me) he says something like "I don't like you daddy. Only mummy." He's been known to yell and say that he "doesn't like anybody, only mummy."

The last time it was directed at me, he told me that "Blankie is mad at you mummy. Blankie doesn't like you, only I do."

I so definitely get where you are coming from!

Omaha Mama said...

It's great to have a kid who can express himself, but then he starts using words like hate, and kill, and dead. Shoot, and boom, and don't like you!!! Yeah, then he starts picking up on every negative phrase he's heard, from ANYWHERE. So we get to be the guinea pigs, he's constantly testing them out for affect. Awesome.

Still, I like it better than the alternative.

Beck said...

The Baby is gruesomely verbal, too, and so we've been told all sorts of delightful things by her ("The problem with you, Daddy, is that you are very ugly AND you always think you're right." HAHAH! Bad baby.). But because she's not our only kid, it doesn't sting - there is a startling thickening of the skin that happens with each kid.

My first born, nicely enough, is one of nature's rare Born Gentle people. So we were eased into parenting by her sweetness, which was pleasant.