Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alikes II

A few days ago, Westley kind of hobbled down the hall, sort of clutching at his torso, looking semi-miserable.

"What's up, punky?" I asked him.

His response was completely forlorn: "Oh, I no fee' good today."

Before "What did he just say?" had finished forming in my mind, "Oh, shit" took its place.

That's me, I realized, somewhat horrified. I say that. He's doing a perfect impression of me!

I've begun more days than I would like by shuffling painfully into the kitchen and answering Rob's, "Good morning. How are you?" with a weary, "Ugh. I don't feel good today." I knew it was getting to be something of a regular occurrence. But it never crossed my mind that Westley would notice.

I write pretty frequently about Westley's language. My mother is (professionally) fascinated by language-acquisition, and some of her interest has definitely rubbed off on me. It's hard not to get enthusiastic about the whole process, really. I mean, how is it possible that these brand-new people make any kind of sense of the language we use around them, let alone learn to use it themselves? It feels very magical, very science-fictiony, except that I'm watching (listening to) it happen around me on a daily basis.

Since the "no fee' good" declaration, I've been on a mission to identify the source of Westley's words and phrases. Some (all right, many) of the things he says come from the books we read to him and the handful of videos he watches. But more and more of what comes out of Westley's mouth came out of Rob's or my mouth first. In fact, I'm quickly discovering that if Westley says something that drives me absolutely crazy, it was probably Rob he heard it from.

Westley often uses "do you wanna" to make a request. "Do you wanna pway wif me inna pwaywoom?" [Do you want to play with me in the playroom?] actually means, "Would you play with me in the playroom?" It drives me crazy, because, nine times out of ten, I don't "wanna" do whatever it is Westley is asking me to do right when he's asking me to do it. I'm usually in the middle of something I "hafta" do...or else there will be no clean diapers or hot dinner (never mind what I actually want to be doing).

I was at the eye-gouging stage of the phrase, where I was sure that if I heard, "Mommy, do you wanna..." one more time I was going to injure myself seriously enough that the pain would be louder my son's voice, when heard Rob: "Westley, do you wanna play in the backyard for a while?"

"Ah ha!" I practically pounced on my husband. "It's you! You say 'do you wanna'!"

Rob was appropriately puzzled at my outburst, and pulled his best it's-not-my-fault-that-you're-crazy,-woman face.

I managed to calmly, coolly, explain that Westley was making me insane by repeating "do you wanna" forty-thousand times a day, and would you please not phrase things that way, because then it creates too many negotiations, especially over things that shouldn't really be negotiations because he's two and you're however old you are now, and anyway, you're the dad and I know you want to be diplomatic about things but being the dad means being in charge so if it's not up for discussion would you just say, "Hey, Westley, it's time to play in the backyard, buddy!"?


Naturally, the whole "watch how you phrase things" came back to bite me good and hard when, just a few hours later, Westley repeated the following:

"Oh, shit!"
"Damn, girl!"
"Will you stop scratching your balls?"

Oh, yes. All mine.