Wednesday, November 10, 2010

N Says

As I go off tonight to embark on training to become a literacy tutor (after an embarrassing snafu last night, as I apparently, the would-be tutor, can't read an e-mail, and showed up a night early...) my mind is on language. My assignment for tonight centered around phonemes, blended consonants, and all of that good stuff. I vaguely remember this from a History of the English Language class I took in college, but what this really calls to mind is my poetry professor's waxing (ha) on the sounds of language. The sounds of words. Poetry was a crash course in a love affair with speaking slowly and taking the time to listen, to let the syllables melt and drip over your tongue, your teeth, feeling their weight, or their airiness. It's true that one of the reasons I love to write is because I love to play: with word order, with juxtaposition of sounds, with meanings. And all of a sudden, I find myself surrounded by people - both toddlers and adults - who are just learning to listen to those sounds.

M, at 15 months, is extremely vocal, though non-verbal. But he loves to make certain sounds and hear himself do this. We had a play-date at the park with my friend, J, and her adorable son, C, who is just 11 months. And as we pushed the two side by side in swings, it struck me, how each baby seems to have his or her own unique non-verbalisation. M is extremely fond of making these glottal noises in the back of his throat, for example.

And then there's N, who's very vocal about nearly everything, but still very much learning the language. A typical sentence of hers might be: "Her not have pink." She hasn't yet learned to recognize the difference in pronouns, so it's something we work on, but, she is 2, after all. She adopts particular phrases that she loves to use in any situation, or words - "poop" is a favorite for just about everything, as is, "Whoa, dude!" Yet she still converses with M in his little language, or, at least, imitates it (I still have no idea if they have some sort of understanding of what he's saying or not) and frequently uses onomatopoeia. "Sook sook," is a recent one that is used with such variety that I haven't quite figured out it's true meaning, if it has one.

Where am I going with this? When it comes to writing, to anything in life, really, I find that children inspire me. They have an uncanny way of revealing truths, and have not yet learned to shield, or control, their emotions. I think this is very good. So much so that I've found a focus for a collection of short stories centering around revealing childhood stories that friends, acquaintances, and so forth have told me (you can read one, Sweet Baby James, published here, as it were.

One of my favorite moments with N happened when she was playing with her brother in the living room, and I got up to go do something in the kitchen. As I turned the corner, she came flying up, huge grin, arms open, halfway in the air, yelling, "I need Rachel right now!" And as I turned to lift her up, she gave me the biggest, sweetest, tightest hug you ever saw. "I need you too, sweet pea," I said. I tear up at, well, a lot of things, but still, that moment brought tears to my eyes, and validation to my heart, as it does now as I write this.

So I've been steadily keeping track the past month or so of the funny, adorable, and sweet things N says, some of which ring with such resonance. I often tweet these things, but in case you've missed them, here they all are collected:

Me: "We all have little colds, don't we? But I think yours is getting better!"
N (crinkles her nose): "Um, sure."
Me: "Well perhaps not."

This remark happens nearly daily:
N: You have booty, Rachel? That's your booty! I touching your booty!
Me: Yes, I noticed.

N: "I just pink right now."

N: "Hey Rachel, you got messy hair right now."
Me (as I strive to fix it): "Oh do I? Is that better?"
N: "Hmm."

N: "The leaves are falling down. Where they going?"

Me: "I think you're being a little bossy today, N!"
N: "Noooo I not!"
Me: "Yes, I think you are!"
N: "Nooo I not being bossy! I being Mommy!"

Me: "Okay N, lunch is almost ready!"
N: "Haauuuumm oookaaaay."

Note: After I drove to work one day with bird poop on N's window, we spent a week discussing why it was there, what it was, why birdies poop on cars, why birdies live in trees, and so many more "why's." The following is one of the choicest quotes of the week, a running monologue from the back seat:

N: "I potty in the toilet, birdies poop on the car. Your car dirty? Birdy do that. M, no, we don't poop on the car! We go in the potty!"

N: "You not have a bow in your hair today? Why not?"
Me: "Well, I don't know!"
N: "I have a bow in my hair. You wear one again? Tomorrow? Hooray!"

Me: "Please don't chew on my button, N. It's really not very nice. Nor good for your teeth!"
N: "It is! I do it! I do it every morning!"

(At the park, from the top of the playground set) N: "HI RACHEL! LOOK AT ME RACHEL! WATCH THIS RACHEL! YOU A PRINCESS RACHEL!"

Me: "How's that thumb taste, N?"
N (as it's placed smackingly in her mouth to stay): "Icky!"

N: "I want a car!"
Me: "Can we say please? What kind of car?"
N: "A pink one!"
Me: "Oh? And where will you go in your pink car?"
N: "I go to the store! I go to the store to buy chocolate milk!"

N: "I want my lipstick."
Me: "You don't want your snack?"
N: "No, I just want my lipstick."

Note: We're big fans of Pandora (although it's been increasingly difficult to explain why I cannot force the Disney station to only play Cinderella, Belle, and Ariel) and one of N's favorite stations is the Gaelic Storm station, which plays largely traditional Irish music. She calls it "her" music. So we like to put "N's" music on and dance.

N (as she's crouching down, "booty" stuck in the air, and shaking it): "This music make my booty go like this."

Me (as N wipes her runny nose on my shoulder): "Do you need a tissue, N?"
N: "No."
Me (as she continues to wipe her nose on me): "I think you might. 'Cause I'm not a tissue."
N: "No. You a tissue!"
Me: "No, I'm really not. I don't want to be!"
N: Yes you do! You want to! You want to be tissue!"

N: "You nanny. Is Mommy nanny?"
Me: "No, Mommy's mommy."
N: "Whoa dude!"

N (surveying the aftermath of M's lunch, which was largely all over the floor): "Too icky."

N: "We teach M, Rachel."


  1. Thanks for linking up! I love the one about leaves falling. That sounds like something my youngest would say.

  2. Of course! Thanks for the follow!

    The one about the leaves and the one about teaching M - those two are my favorites I think.

    Your little boys sound adorable. I love your "Things Kids Say" posts!