Using Your Words

I spent years fretting over every word Javi said (or didn't say) when he was still my chubby toddler chunk. I was home with him until he was six months old, then he went to a psycho sitter's for one month, and then I moved him to a sweet Mexican mama with four extremely well-mannered boys. I was so relieved to have him somewhere safe and loving ... until I realized the Spanish immersion by day and only English by night and weekends was confusing his brain.

He was almost three before the effects of this language confusion finally faded away. But until then, he spoke in grunts and single-word sentences. He could follow any command, but couldn't ask a question to save his life. The tantrums were horrible and more than one person took it upon themselves to let me know he was spoiled and high maintenance and poorly behaved ... because the frustration level was so high, he acted out when words failed him.

Now our toddler chunk is a curly-headed diva named Bella and she is the most verbal almost-three-year-old in the history of our family. Even my dad, who can't spare a compliment for the grand kids, can't resist commenting on her vocabulary. I try not to be prideful and boast about her, but it warms me up inside to know that she'll never know what it feels like to be trapped inside your own mind like her big brother did.

But even with this vocabulary (which comes with an amazing ability to recall songs, conversations, promises), the child can't get it right every time. Take this evening, for instance. There we were: Dad, Mom, Auntie, and Brother, all sitting and staring in rapt attention as she sang every song she knows (including Monster Mash) and taking requests when her mind blanked on what song to sing next. Auntie Ashley requested Old McDonald ... and this is what we got:

Old McFarmer had a dog and Bingo was his name-o
B-L-L-L-A, B-L-L-L-A, B-L-L-L-A
And Bella was her name-o

Priceless, right? After she finished, we clapped and she bowed to each and every one of us. Thank you. And thank you. And thank you. And thank you. Who am I to correct her or train her on nursery rhyme lyrics? My job is to encourage that little mind, applaud her confidence, and give thanks that I'm basking in the free flow of words rather than wringing my hands in worry.

I am doing that in spades. I promise.


  • Sarah

    I know there will be a day when I miss the little toddler voices. When I miss the mixed-up words. When I am resentful of how literal everyone in my house as become.

    It's like I am remembering the future--as if such a thing were possible--and living for the present.

    Hmm. Until the cute toddler voice turns to a wretched toddler scream. Then I'm just waiting for a more peaceful existence--as if such a thing were possible.

  • amber_mtmc

    Question: does Javi remember any Spanish?

    When I think about what you sacrificed to adopt Javi, a tear flows down my cheek. You are a strong woman, a wonderful mother. I am constantly amazed by how in touch you are with your children.

    When I read these stories about your little Bella, I can't help but grin. Gosh, she would get along with my little Emmy.

  • ChefDruck

    Too funny! I too have a Bella. She now is 8, but we sang the same song to her when she was a toddler. Seems like yesterday. Now we sing Miley Cyrus, argh...

  • Cheri

    That is priceless!

  • Kelly Miller

    @Amber - aw, thank you. I was 24 when I adopted Javi, so I was much older than many new moms, but it was definitely scary and full of doubt.

    He doesn't remember any Spanish. He could follow commands in either language and fit well in both families (bc his sitter really loved him and often invited him to family events), but we had to cut out all Spanish when we realized he had a language processing disorder.

    He still loves the language, though, and says he wants to learn it.

  • Kelly Miller

    @ChefDruck - Your Bella is adorable... despite the Miley Cyrus. And B-e-l-l-a fits right into Bingo, right?

  • Marianne

    My children are both Norwegian and American and are therefor learning both languages. As my oldest now is 5 she has gotten out of her confused stage where she would blend the two languages so much only me and my husband would understand her. Now we have the problem of her refusing to speak Norwegian, but we will keep on speaking it to her.
    My children though will both be singing their American children rhymes wrong until they start school. My husband never sings to them and I am therefor the one to teach them the songs.
    Our favorite is Old Mcdonald had a dog and Laika was her name... :)

  • Kelly Miller

    @Marianne, what a cool perspective. I thought Javi would grow up bilingual, but he just didn't speak period. I think it's so amazing to see little personality quirks, like your kiddo refusing to speak one or the other.

    When I was little, there was a farmer who had a dog and Kelly was his name. :)

  • Cheryl

    Too cute! Love it.

  • se7en

    Hay 30-minute mama, isn't it funny how totally different our kids can be!!! bla bla bla!!!

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