Monday, May 21, 2007

Toddler Speak

I've determined that as a first-time parent, it's perfectly normal to worry about your child's developmental milestones.

Will my child ever sleep all night?

Will my child ever roll over?

Will my child ever crawl?

Will my child ever walk?

Is it normal for my child to make an absolute disaster every where they go?

Will my child ever be capable of effectively communicating with me - without whining or screaming?

I've heard of people who have children, around the same age as our toddlers, that are purportedly talking up a blue-streak. Their vocabulary consists of over 300 intelligible words, they can also speak and understand a second language, and they can perform over 200 various sign language signs.

That's really impressive considering my own vocabulary consists of a mere 150 words, the magnitude of my second language skills extends to ordering a beer and chips, and I'm only capable of signing "more ice cream."

I've also heard that it's likely our girls will be talking sooner than our boy.

I recall my good friend telling me that when her 2-year old daughter would play with a neighborhood boy, her little girl could articulate things like "Mommy, look at the ball. It's translucent."

Meanwhile, the 2-year old boy would grunt "Ooga Booga bawh!"

Until I had children of my own, I thought that all "normal" two-year old children were suppose to be capable of adequately expressing themselves with an appropriate vocabulary. I also thought that I would be having conversations about translucent objects with our girls while our boy played with his tractor in the mud and flapped a finger across his lips.

Because I am a first-time parent and worry is par for the course, I have found myself, on occasion, worrying about our children's language development skills - especially since I can't understand the vast majority of what they say.

To raise my concern of delayed language development yet a notch higher, last week at my doctor's appointment, I was perusing a parenting magazine and came across this nugget:

  • Between 6-12 months: A child begins to recognize words for common objects such as ball, juice, dog, understands simple directions; imitates different speech sounds, has one or two words, listens when spoken to.
  • Between 12-18 months: Has a vocabulary of five to 20 words, mostly nouns; uses some two-word questions suck as "Where kitty?" or "No juice"; follows simple directions; listens to stories, songs or rhymes.
  • Between 18-24 months: Increases vocabulary to 150 to 300 words; begins to use a few common prepositions such as in, on, under, combines nouns and verbs ("Mama go now"); approximately two-thirds of what is said is intelligible.
  • Between 24-36 months: Begins to understand opposite meanings such as stop-go, up-down; follows two-step directions such as "Get your shoes and put them in the closet"; about 90% of what is said is intelligible; can verbally relate an experience or activity using two- to three-word sentences.
According to the "experts" at 31-months old, our children should have a vocabulary >300 words, they should be using two- to three-word sentences and I ought to understand 90% of what they say.

Yet most times, I'm ready to sit in the mud flapping a finger across my lips.

After spending a lot of time with other children, about the same age as our children, I think that for the most part, our kids are on target with their language development. So either all of our kids are way behind ... or the experts are wrong.

GASP!!!

Or, the experts aren't taking in to account the language development in multiple birth children.

Here's the thing: I have noticed that in general, singletons are slightly more advanced in the verbal department. But, there's good reason for that. In our house, there are more 2-year olds than there are adults. As such, our children are learning from each other - in addition to what they are learning from Charlie and I.

Subsequently, they have begun to develop their own language.

But I have yet to meet a child, singleton or not, the same age as our children, that has a vocabulary >300 words and 90% of the words they say are intelligible. Or, maybe their words are intelligible to their parents, but certainly not to the rest of society that hasn't developed a knack for translating toddler jabber.

Even though I may not be able to understand everything that our children say - they understand each other perfectly well and often use the same words to describe an object. For example:

"Uhtme" is monkey.

"Deety" is Carolyn's blanket.

"Ba-ba" is William's blanket.

"Neeny" is Elizabeth's blanket.

"Ooce" is juice.

"Antee" is elephant.

Not to be confused with "ante" which is ant.

"Sisa" is sister.

"Bee-bae" is Elizabeth.

"Twacie" is Gracie (Carolyn)

"Whim" is William.

Do these words, that I understand - but anyone else would not - count as intelligible? Because if so, than perhaps I am not giving our children enough credit.

It has surprised me that William's language is more advanced than the girls. I'm not close to understanding 90% of what he says, but I find it interesting that he will try very hard to enunciate his words. He also tries to repeat everything that he hears and is an exceptional counter.

Carolyn sings the most. Although I only understand perhaps 30% of the words she uses, she can carry a tune better than I, and belts out "Happy Birthday", "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" , "Old MacDonald" and "Wheels On The Bus" like she's been singing them for years.

Elizabeth babbles the most, has the least developed language skills (probably exacerbated by her thumb sucking) and refers to everything small as "baby." Just tonight, she ate a "baby swabey" (strawberry) for dessert after she ate her "baby pita" (pizza). But when you ask her how she's doing, she will give you a "thumbs up" and smile.

Our children's vocabulary consists of a lot more words, even more convoluted that I have yet to decipher, that they'll rattle off throughout the day.

Yesterday, while taking a walk, I watched Elizabeth lean over to Carolyn and say "Zee dee frah jah, oye lah zee." Carolyn then reached in to her pocket and handed her a cookie. Elizabeth smiled and said "Tank you, sisa!"

When I really pay attention and focus on what they are saying, I will catch a gem, here and there. Like last week when I was at Costco and I had all three in the cart. As I was walking up and down the aisles looking for an item, I asked myself outloud, "Where is the applesauce?"

Because I became distracted, I wasn't paying very close attention to their babbling. But when I noticed that all three of them had their hands up-turned, I honed in on what they were saying and caught "Appa Sawce. Whea AWE You?"

And late last week, I overheard William ask the question, clear as day "Who wants ice cweam?" and then join in with the chorus of his sisters, "I DO!!!"

Even though we may not understand everything that they say, they certainly understand everything that we say. If Charlie and I mention that we're contemplating a day at the Zoo or at Sea World, the children will run to find their shoes and coats.

As a result, more and more, we have resorted to spelling things that we don't want for them to understand. If we're planning to go to C-H-U-R-C-H, there is no way we can utter the word without all three of our children going completely boneless and slipping in to a state of massive hysteria.

It's become clear that our spelling skills will be vastly improving as we try to communicate freely, around our kids. This phenomenon of "conveyance of information in code" apparently extends to all parents of young children.

Recently, while out with my fellow triplet moms, all of whom have 2-year olds, one of my friends pointed out that we were among the only women in the crowded restaurant. Another friend looked around and nonchalantly said, "That's because everyone is G-A-Y."

So not only do I think that our 2-year olds communication skills are on track ... I suspect Charlie's and mine are, too.

10 comments:

  1. This is hilarious! My husband and I are to the point of spelling E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! In fact, so much so that I can't believe my son hasn't learned to spell yet at 3 1/2. At any rate, I've become an incredible speller!

    I love, love, love hearing children talk. And especially to each other. Although I've heard my son on more than one occassion tell one of his friends, "I can't understand what you're saying!" Maybe multiples understand each other easier than friends do...

    It's so amazing to hear them verbalize their thoughts and interests and desires. This is one of my favorite aspects of parenting. Even if I feel like I'm going deaf because he won't stop talking sometimes... You'll get to that point sooner than you think.

    Michelle

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  2. I have heard that about multiples too.... We just have one- almost 16 months- no words yet- yes I agree with the worry- I am sure its mostly normal:) and its made worse by all the little reminders of what is "normal"....I think next time, I won't sign up for all those email reminders of what your baby is doing this week....mine never did any of them any where near what "they" said.....made me nuts!:)

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  3. aunt grace

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  4. Hi Jen
    Great update on the Amazings events in your life. Would love to be able to see them, laugh a while and then go home. You and Charlie are great parents. Boy do you need your Mom.

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  5. I think that if the girls have their own language & are communicating, doesn't that seem ok... just cuz it's not English, per say, who cares! They'll get it eventually! Oh, and if they can't say a sentence without picking their nose, then it's time to worry!

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  6. Your kids are perfect :)

    p.s. bwaaaaahhhhhh @--"Mommy, look at the ball. It's translucent."
    note to self: never invite her over for playgroup-damn overachiever --LOL

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  7. This is a very interesting post. I was going to post today about the "cuss words" mine have invented for lack of actually knowing any. When they are in the car, they call each other "names" and then make each other cry. It sounds like this.

    "You're a See See."

    "Waaaaa....I'm not a See See. Mommy, I'm not a See See."

    "You're a Cocoa."

    "Waaaaaaaaa... I'm not a cocoa!"

    I'm screaming from the front seat to STOP CALLING YOUR SISTER A COCOA! What's a See See or a Cocoa? I HAVE NO IDEA!

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  8. I have a similar family structure to yours (triplets and then an almost three year younger "surprise") - I remember worrying that the triplets were slow to speak. I think you are right that it had to do with the number of toddlers outnumbering the adults - the siblings were as much of an example of how to communicate as we were. Eventually, it all evened out and, at age 6, they are doing great. I always considered it important that (1) it was clear they understood everything we said and (2) when I could understand the sentences, they were pretty sophisticated. It will be interesting to see if you have the same experience with your youngest as we did - by about 18-24 months, he was speaking in long sentences and has an incredible vocabulary since he sees his older siblings as his prime example of how he should speak.

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  9. Once they get a little older and s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g t-h-i-n-g-s themselves may I suggest "ig-pay atin-lay"? My 8 year old has yet to catch on.

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  10. I think it is ADORABLE that each of their blankets has a different word. And I love, "Twacie" and "Whim." Those are the kind of things I wish they never grew out of...

    Language development is so interesting...I had one boy who spoke pretty early and exceptionally clearly, and would actually rehearse words to get them to sound just right (he still does it!), and one who just made mostly verbal noises for what seemed forever until they started to sound like "real" words - and then it was only to me that they made sense a lot of time. Now I can get neither of them to stop talking a blue streak from the time their little eyes open in the morning until I shut the door to their room at night (at which point they continue the banter with each other...)

    This post is hilarious.

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