After two intense weeks of tantrums, screaming, flopping, crying and whining, my kids have finally had a language breakthrough. For the past four days or so, they have not only been pointing at objects and telling me what they are, but they have been connecting abstract ideas together, using adjectives and nouns to specify their meaning, and using verbs and nouns to create basic sentences and to tell me what they are doing.
They’ve got the command down pat.
“Dance with me, mama.”
“Wait for me.”
“Help mama clean up.”
It’s hard to explain the enormity of this. When babies first learn to use their tongues, when they first start speaking, “cookie, book, blocks, bear, dog, duck,” everybody is thrilled. The babies have learned English, so it seems. But, really, that is only the first of many big breakthroughs.
This next breakthrough – articulation of idea connection – is even bigger, in my opinion. In the last week, I have seen my second language – baby – completely change and evolve. And it’s not just that the babies can speak better. It’s that they want to speak better. What I’m witnessing here is not the ability of the human mind to learn. It is the desire of the human mind to learn more. And that fills me with joy.
They’re connecting numbers to objects – two balls, two eyes, one nose. They’re using colloquialisms that I frequently use – right back, hold on. But most importantly, they are thinking about what they are saying. Now, before they speak, I see them consider carefully what it is they are going to say, and what it is going to mean to me. I have to remember to act immediately (within reason) when they speak to me, so that I can instill in them the power and meaning of words. And I must adhere to my own words, too. “In a minute,” can no longer mean “when I get around to it and hopefully you’ll forget about it by then.” I have to teach my kids that words have meaning, both mine and theirs.
I see them using words and language almost as toys, gauging the effect of each one, combining them like blocks in different orders and marvelling at the effects. I’m saddened because I know this phase will end soon. They will cease to think about the meaning of each word as it becomes entrenched in their memory. They’ll speak fast and fluent, overlooking words for sentences and sentences for paragraphs. Their minds will skip the analyzation of meaning step because it will assume it knows it all. How precious this stage of communication really is – the stage of thought.
If only more adults could think before they speak, so many world problems would be solved.
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