23 September 2009

Talk of the Town

Words matter. At least, to me. They're a big part of my life. Obviously. And my wife's too. In particular, the litany of completely nonsensical ones that she's invented over the years. So it should come as no surprise that our son's discovery of speech should be nothing short of a huge event for us. His first sounds (they can't really, technically, be called words) were goofy and glorious in equal measure. And as he continues to struggle to express himself (fan does not start with a 'b,' pal--get with it), we are determined to do our utmost to instill in him a love of words equal to our own.

From everything we've read (we're big on parenting books, web sites, magazines--any chance to intellectualize the experience of parenthood we've embraced wholeheartedly), you're supposed to pretty much talk to your kid constantly, so that they can absorb as many words and sounds as possible. So you find yourself describing absolutely everything, the most mundane of things, as if your kid is a miniature version of Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction, being followed about by the disembodied voice of an omniscient narrator. From his socks to his bath to animals in the world, you tell him about everything.

It can get tedious for the talker, but the kid doesn't notice.

His words (such as they are) go in tandem with wild gesticulations. Pointing this way and that, slapping you in the face, tapping himself on the head. I realized lately that I am a person who talks with my hands, so he is apparently doomed to follow in my footsteps.

While his vocabulary is limited, he's gotten pretty adept at a few small, choice selections: "Da da," "Ma ma," "Dead deer."

Don't ask.

In addition to describing everything in sight, you're also supposed to read to them. The growing toddlers. We have been reading him books every night at his bedtime for a while now and for the most part, he actually seems to be interested. Our favorite books are by an author named Sandra Boynton. They are hilarious and bizarre. Apparently post-modern absurdism has now trickled down to children's literature. And that's a good thing.

We've also heard that you can pretty much read them anything, but I question that theory. (Lady Chatterley's Lover, perhaps? Fight Club?) Maybe our son would enjoy Sy Hersh's latest investigative piece on the turbulent, continually deteriorating situation in the Middle East. But sadly, in our lives, the New Yorker has been replaced by Parents magazine and all evidence of our past intellectual snobbery has pretty much been expunged from our existence. As my wife said once, not too long ago, as she stared wistfully at a woven, sea grass basket stuffed to the gills with our son's motley collection of toys:

"That used to hold New Yorkers."

Ahh, the sound of the new parents' lament.

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