For a while now, I've been worried about my two year-old's speech. At six months-old, he started to say the famous "daddy, daddy, daddy." "Ma ma" didn't come until he was closer to a year old. And after that, well "hi," "bye," "no," and then...nothing. He was always interested in watching us communicate, and he was particularly fascinated with the phone. Since he couldn't say our words yet, he started his baby gibberish, and now, another year later, he's still hooked on his baby gibberish.
For some children, baby gibberish actually sounds like something. One of Lewie's playmates speaks very softly with a whine. To me, his words didn't sound like anything until his mom would repeat them, "Oh, you want chicken nuggets?" Once his mom repeated his words, I realized that her little guy was actually speaking.
I tried listening more carefully to Lewie's gibberish, "Ma lay ba ba ti um oom gee?" Nope. I got nothing.
Another one of my friends pointed out that her son actually made up words for things. "Yeah, he doesn't like to say the word truck, so he calls them 'gagas'."
"Really?" I asked.
Sure enough, her son would point to the truck and say "gaga."
Once again, I'd listen to Lewie's gibberish carefully to see if he invented some words to mean things...but since his words came out as full, long sentences, with tone inflection and everything, I realized he wasn't interested in connecting words to things. He was just doing his best to pretend he was having a long conversation with us like a big person.
"What did he say?" lots of strangers would ask me as we passed by them at the store or mall.
"I wish I knew," I'd answer in response.
As Little Lewie's friends started saying more and more words, I became concerned. One of his younger friends already had about a 50 word vocabulary, another friend was saying sentences, and still another already knew how to count to ten in both English and Spanish. These were all boys. I didn't even dare try to compare his linguistic skills to any girls. They were even more advanced.
So, as concerned as I was, I started listening to people's advice--you know, the well-intentioned people that think since their children know more than yours, they must be better at parenting than you. Some encouraged me to read books to him. (Um, yes, I've been doing that since he was a month old.) Another told me that I shouldn't let him have something until he says it. For five minutes one day, I held his sippy cup in the air trying to make him say the word cup. He screamed, he cried, and after thinking his ma ma was the meanest woman in the world, I finally gave it to him. The advice succeeded in tormenting my child; however, it didn't actually work in getting him to say the word cup.
Several weeks ago, a friend gave me a copy of her Baby Babble DVD. She said it had helped her son say more words and thought it could help my little boy too. So one evening, I played the video, and while it seemed rather amateur (with very simple pictures of toys moving and people making funny faces and sounds), my little boy was hooked. Not only was he hooked, but he started taking an interest in repeating words and sounds.
How is this possible? I said to myself. I've said the same words and sounds to him a million times before, and he never showed interest in repeating them.
Now that he's watched this video half a dozen times, he's now been trying to say our words. Every day, a new word or two seems to be added to his vocabulary, and although he might not repeat the same word again if we ask him, he's at least trying. Now, new words include car (kar), cookie(gookey), butter (butr), bath (baa), baby (babe), up (uh), down (own). His sound effects have improved too.
Yes, milestones are fun because they are a sign that your little one is growing into an adult, but at the same time, I've also learned that milestones can instil fear, especially when your little one isn't meeting the same timelines as other children. On the one hand, I want my little guy to stop his gibberish and start saying our words, but I have to admit...Oh how I will miss the days when his baby gibberish is gone!