Grandson O was vocal from the start. What we used to call a chatterbox. Although his babble had the familiar rhythm and intonation of speech, the vocabulary was all his own.
O was in no hurry to speechify regular English. There was no need for language reciprocity for most of his first two years, as if his world were fine as is. Although we adults must’ve seemed a bit dimwitted to him, the accommodations and service we provided were good enough not to require correcting.
Then at about 20 months something changed. Almost overnight O became a tour guide through the land of language acquisition. Each day he produced new words, then began stringing them together in twos and threes. And in the process, he reminded us that communication resides in more than words and their juxtaposition. There’s also meaning in attitude.
The other day, O’s mother called him to dinner. Once. Twice.
Unfortunately O was busy and not to be interrupted. After the third directive, he apparently realized that somebody needed to cool it. So without pausing in his play, O replied, “I’m com-ming.”
Which–as his tone made clear–he had no intention of doing.
The reluctant acknowledgment. The insincere commitment. The casual dismissal.The unassailable conviction that his schedule took precedence over all others–the attitude behind his response was a revelation and a revolution.
From toddler to teenager in three seconds flat. Waiting for the calendar to catch up is going to be fun.
I just now had a chance to read this post. I love this story, and you said it so well. It’s amazing how they learn so early on how to use different tones in the way they express themselves. Hope your’re doing well.
Vikki, I’m looking forward to the day I get to tell my grandson, “Don’t you use that tone of voice with me, young man!”