As a species, we’re lucky that babies aren’t born understanding words.
Having a baby (or in our case, babies) in your life requires a series of adjustments. You adjust your schedule. You adjust your priorities. You adjust to the fact that the only solitude you may enjoy in a day is when you’re using the bathroom. And, if you’re like me, you start to adjust the way you speak, and this may be the toughest adjustment of all. Old habits die hard: I swear like a sailor, as the saying goes, and I need to stop – because a two-year-old using the F-word is only cute when it’s someone else’s two-year-old.
My “trial period” with the twins – where I can say whatever I want without it being understood or innocently repeated when my in-laws are over – is coming to an end. At 11 months, D has mastered “bye” (with a wave) and occasionally throws a “ma” or “da” out there, but I can tell he understands far more than he can actually articulate himself. As for his brother…I’m not so sure. He’s very chatty, but most of our conversations centre around different intonations of the word “buh:”
R, eating Cheerios: “Buh.”
Me: “Can you say…’more, please’?”
Me: “How about…’mom’?”
R: “Buh. Buh.” (Ridiculous goofy grin, stuffs Cheerios down the side of his highchair).
Me: “Look, it’s the kitty! What does a kitty say?”
R: (Long pause. Looks very earnest.) “Buh.”
Watching my words goes beyond trying to stop cursing though. I constantly catch myself saying things I probably shouldn’t. I say things like, “Well, your brother is eating his peas, why can’t you be more like your brother?” (I’m cringing even as I type it.) Or, “Eeeew, you’re so smelly and gross.” (Generally as I’m changing a diaper. Probably not good for his self image.) And, “Sasha, you sh*thead! Get the hell off the counter!” (That one’s directed at the cat, but still…not the way I want the boys to learn to speak to the pets.)
I’ve also lost count of how many times in a day I tell the boys how “special”, “smart,” and “handsome” they are. (Well, they are.) While I understand how important it is to build the boys’ self esteem, I’d rather they build it though their own accomplishments than through my praise alone. I don’t want them to become praise junkies, always needing that gold star to feel good about themselves. And I really, really don’t want to ruin them for all other women. You know the type – the guy who can never find a girlfriend that will measure up to mom, the guy who needs a girl that will put him on a pedestal, just like mom did. (OK, maybe on some level I want to be number one in their lives forever, but I sure as hell don’t want them to end up in some therapist’s office in 30 years, coming to the conclusion that I stunted their emotional growth.)
And that – the image of my kid as an adult, deciding that all his adult problems are actually his mom’s fault – that’s enough to keep me up at night. I’m starting to realize that when it comes to parenting, poopy diapers and battles over green vegetables are the easy part.
But for now, while the boys’ vocabulary is still monosyllabic, maybe I’ll just focus on trying to stop myself from hurling F-bombs at the cat every time she sinks her claws into my leather couch.