Toddler Talk

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

My youngest granddaughter, Adelaide, has started mimicking sounds at four months old. Her mother will look at her and coo, “Ohhh,” and the sweet baby smiles, then echoes, “Ohhh.” Over and over they repeat the cycle, and everyone in the room is mesmerized. We all want a turn to say “Ohhh,” for the sheer bliss of having it returned.

Those early efforts to reproduce human speech first begin with sounds, then their versions of the adult words.  Our offspring don’t remember their first words, but it is forever imprinted in the parent’s memory. For some reason we adults continue to use the toddler versions of words, long after they are abandoned by the original orator.  Some situation will spark a memory, and we feel obliged to remind our now adult children of their valiant efforts to communicate verbally. I recount some of those efforts here:

Fiver – (short “i” sound) Amber’s version of river. “Look, Daddy! Fiver!”

Mo’light – Amber’s request to see more Christmas lights. “Mo’light, Daddy! Molight!”

Weewah – Art’s version of “sister,” interchangeable for either sibling.

Growed up – Alyssa’s report she had thrown up, just after eating a cherry Slushee and just before kindergarten graduation. “I growed up, Daddy!” She also growed up after eating dogfood at a neighbor’s house.


My oldest granddaughter is learning new words in Pre-kindergarten. This was discovered by her mother, when they were rhyming. “What rhymes with duck?” She picked the only word a parent does not want to hear. Why couldn’t she say “truck?” It was reported by her teacher she also knows a word that rhymes with “itch.”

I remember hearing a word on the playground when I was five years old. The youngsters who uttered it were speaking Spanish very rapidly, but this particular word stood out, and I remembered it. Later that day, I asked my mother what the English equivalent of “sh-t” was. Surely it was a Spanish word I needed to know, but she refused to tell me.

My parents were more intent that I learn the words in Scripture. Our church had Sword Drill competitions. The Word of God is our Sword, and every good Christian soldier needs to practice for combat. (This was long before the days when such violent language was considered taboo.)

Each youngster was given a Bible. They would stand in front of the church, holding the Bible out in front of them. When the book, chapter, and verse were announced, then the command was given, “Go!” The first one to arrive at the correct reference read the verse aloud. I was actually pretty good at Sword Drill. I had memorized the songs that rehearsed the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament in order, so I knew whether to flip pages in the front, back, or middle. As we grew older, we transitioned from finding Bible verses to memorizing them. We were hiding God’s word in our heart.

Today, I’m reminded of the song Graham Nash made famous. I think it’s an appropriate exhortation for parents to choose carefully the words they pass on their children.

 Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they pick, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.

Published in: on September 24, 2018 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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