Thursday, April 7, 2016

Walking, talking and exploring the world

Bailey out and about and having a ball.
Bailey and I were making our way to my car recently, maneuvering our way through the garage packed with the stuff of life -- boxes of old clothes, and little used cooking utensils, tools, garden supplies and a flat screen TV that was fried during a recent storm.

As she wiggled her way between the car and a couple of dusty storage bins, Bailey muttered over her shoulder: This is a tight fit!"

She tossed out the words with a tiny exasperated sigh that had me chuckling for an instant. But I had to admit she was right. It was a tight fit! What I couldn't quite figure out, however, is when and where in her very short life had she managed to pick up the phrase "tight fit" and learn to use it correctly.

To put this all in context, consider: I took two years of Spanish in high school and two quarters of German in  college. I also lived in Germany for 15 months, working closely with locals on a NATO base that also employed a handful of officers from Italy, Belgium and France.

Given my years of study and living abroad, it might seem likely that I was trilingual, certainly bilinqual, right? Au contraire mom ami! Truth to tell, about the only phrases I recall from my scholarly and experiential efforts are the oh-so useful queries, "Habla Español?" and, that's right, "Sprechen sie Deutsch?"

I absolutely had no idea all those years ago -- and certainly not now -- how to say "This is a tight fit" in German or Spanish. So, exactly what sort of magic are Bailey and other toddlers using to learn how to talk?

Mom and Dad cuddling with Bailey.
Anyone whose spent time around a baby knows that one of the grand joys of life is watching an infant grow and mature. The talking begins with cooing around the second month and quickly morphs into babbling about four months later.

By the time a baby celebrates their first birthday there's a really good chance they're talking gibberish -- and that's a good thing! Over the next several months they start using a few familiar words -- mama, dada, Cookie Monster, string theory! Okay, the physics reference is stretching the point; but only a year or so later, about the time the infant is blowing out two candles on their birthday cake, they know 50 or so words and managing to correctly use two-word phrases.

And then they're off to the races.

Bailey is 30 months young now, a bundle of endless energy that comes gleefully wrapped with an infectious smile and a crown of curly hair. Like most toddlers her age she's hit that maddening stage of life -- the terrible twos -- when her wants are much more important than her needs.

The fascinating part of all of this is the language thing -- I'm convinced that it really is magic -- plus her boundless curiosity about all those things that we jaded adults take for granted.

Kodak moment: Bailey, Bubbe and Pops at Shabbat sing
That means that both Bailey and I -- her parents and Bubbe; her fraternal grandparents, Janice and Steve; preschool teachers and extended family and friends -- are occasionally frustrated as she explores the world and wants to know, well, everything.

Her favorite phrase right now is "What's that?" My answers as we venture about, include: A leaf, a cloud, the moon, a car, a sign, an ant, the mailman, a rock, a bigger rock, a chocolate sundae with whipped cream, nuts, sprinkles and a cherry on top!

The good news is our mutual frustration turns to joy and amazement most days when Bailey, with little fanfare, hands me a leaf and announces that it is, in fact, a leaf; that she lets me know when it's time to go home and tells me to put her in the "car", then points out the clouds that fill the sky and the moon resting on the darkening horizon.

Meanwhile, the wonder of watching Bailey become Bailey can be found in a little vignette that played out earlier this week. She was spending the night with Wendy and me and we had just finished up the initial steps of preparing for bed: Fresh diaper, into pjs, books selected and read, then read a second time.

We were methodically working our way through stage two of the process, making sure her dolls, blankets, "lovies" and pillows were all in her crib and properly placed when, unprompted and delightfully, she began quietly singing the "Shema"! Those of you still with me and not a member of the tribe, just accept my word that this is a Jewish thing akin to saying your prayers before going to sleep.

Bailey finished up the little nightly ritual, then hugged me and her Bubbe tightly before snuggling under her blankets and waving us out the door.

Another day older, another day wiser, another day filled with love. Bailey had a good day, too. Oh, it also turns out she's bilingual. Bailey chanted the Shema, after all, in Hebrew!

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