Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who's on first?

I always swore I would never be one of those moms who resorted to baby talk and referred to herself and her children in the third person. "Mommy doesn't like it when little Jackie-poo bites!" "Does baby want a chippy-wippy?" To my former teacher's ears, it all sounded so.... wrong. Not to mention silly. So I vowed from early on to speak plainly and normally with my child. For the most part, it's worked pretty well- at least on the vocabulary front. Noah may not be able to completely enunciate "elephant" or "spaghetti," but he does a darn good job of trying. I admit, I caved with regards to pee-pee and poo-poo, but that's probably a reaction against growing up in a highly medically inclined family where everything was known by its clinical name. Do you really need your 2-year-old to talk about "urine"?

The grammatical side has proven trickier. I realized early on that "I" could no longer be "I" or "me" around Noah. "I'll help you" would get a blank stare (one that said "who the heck is 'I?'"), but "Let Mama help you" was easy to understand. After all, we'd just spent the past umpteenth months coaxing, pleading and begging for him to say "Mama." So Mama it was destined to be. When he needs comfort, it's "Come see Mama." Hungry? "Mama will get you a snack." Injured? Tired? Broken crayon? "Mama will fix it." Grammatically, I still can't get used to referring to myself that way, but emotionally it warms my heart.

Now comes the sticky part... Noah thinks he is "you." Not YOU the reader, but "you" the pronoun. When he needs a hand he asks "Mama help you?" For a shortcut up the stairs he'll plead to "Get you up?" And when he falls down he'll come crying about how "I hurt you knee!" I know intrinsically it's simple imitation- the way kids learn much about the world. If I say "Can Mama help you?" it's only natural he'll turn it around... becoming "you" in the process. But again, there's an emotional side as well. Despite the big blue eyes and fair complexion, this child is part of me in ways I never knew possible, and the malfunction at pronoun junction only highlights the matter. I really do feel the pain when he hurts "you" knee or bumps "you" head.n On a particularly frustrating day, his tears can meld with my own, just like his joy is mine when the sunshine in life shines bright. But there's also a part of me that yearns to be separate, to not be completely defined by "Mama" or to have my individuality trampled on the road to You-ville. I'm still me, right? I know we'll sort out this in time- Noah will learn his pronouns and we'll both learn our individual boundaries. It will probably happen right around the time Baby #2 starts asking for Mama to "Get you up?"

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