Friday, January 7, 2011

Snugga Bugga and Child Speak

My son folded himself up in my lap, tucked his head under my chin, and pulled his blankie around himself. As I drew it up to warm the back of his neck and tucked the loose end under his toes, I asked him if he was my snuggle bundle. He replied, “Yes, I am your snugga bugga.” I rocked him and thought about all his funny words and phrases. Super boach lives in infamy here due to the day he announced that such a thing was on the stairs. When he had run to my husband for help, I had proceeded to examine the source of Tiny’s shock and horror: the largest house roach I have seen in years. What he says in reflection of my own spoken discipline is just as sweet and amusing. One day, frustrated with a Transformer toy that would not fold per the illustrated directions, he put his hands on his hips and stated clearly that he was “tired of this" and "it is so disappointing.” I’ll never forget my daughter at the same age taking her bears into another room for what we termed special chats. After her bears returned, their behavior had dramatically improved. Hearing her discipline her bears was always an amusing check on my own behavior.

Of course, repeating what one hears can backfire. My daughter attempted to shun her chores one Sunday morning by announcing that her intentions were just to take it easy and she was not in the mood to do her work, words that mimicked mine from a different conversation (with different intentions and circumstances) the week prior. That did not end well for her, by the way.

Most of the time here, the things the children repeat or reiterate in some form are varieties of affectionate talk. For example, “Mommy,” says my little boy, “I am your Tiny Man! Are you my Tiny, too?” And after years of telling him I am going to eat his little bumply toes, he says, “You need to chase me, catch me, and eat me!”

These days, I find myself sad that my last baby is outgrowing my lap. Next year, Tiny will be a kindergartner and I will be out of the house more for work or school again. Note that I crave another baby—a woman knows when she’s done. Tiny, however, has a special bond with me. He reminds me of a very green pony I worked with long ago. My trainer once stood me beside that tired, frustrated little horse and told me that hardship forges a bond.  (I hear she is now a well-trained, but still naughty pony, just like someone else I know.) My son and I have forged a bond through hardship, too. He has been a challenging child to raise. Even pregnancy with him was a battle of wills. Our little man has reached this wonderful place where he can listen and follow directions without being angry, where he understands consequences, sleeps and stays in his bed, and is eager to cooperate and please. He does regress occasionally, but always will be my snugga bugga, as he likes to say. So these last couple of years where he invents vocabulary or naively bumbles through speech will be cherished more than ever. His words will carry me.

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