more Munchkin madness
The toddler years are like a warning shot – the first indication that your sweet, little baby will grow up and leave before you know it. In the blink of an eye, it seems, we went from marveling at every little developmental milestone to not being able to keep track of them all. And now that our fiercely independent two-year-old has the run of the house, all we can do is try to keep up and get as many snuggles in as possible before he decides he no longer likes to be hugged and kissed.
There is a short window of time when it is possible to keep things from a child, to speak as one normally would and remain confident that one’s words fly over his small head. We’re still in that magical zone, though we can feel our window rapidly shrinking. Munchkin has added too many new words – in both Russian and English – for us to be able to talk past him, and S has already started resorting to spelling out danger words (like C-O-O-K-I-E and V-I-D-E-O). Pretty soon, he’ll understand that too and we’ll need a new code.
After indulging him a bit with regards to both sweet snacks and screen time, we’ve been forced to draw a line and walk back our leniency. The problem is that two-year-olds do not understand moderation (though to be fair, plenty of adults struggle with the concept as well). In Munchkin’s case, he started displaying the classic signs of addiction and withdrawal with regards to both, throwing little tantrums when we either did not oblige his requests or, worse, gave him some but not as much as he wanted.
Once, he asked S for “apesyn” (orange), which she mistook for his pronunciation of the Russian word for cookie (“pechen’). “Apesyn!” demanded Munchkin, taking S by the hand and leading her to the refrigerator. “You want a cookie?” S asked innocently, “But we’re about to have dinner.” Munchkin heard the word “cookie” and his eyes lit up. He hadn’t even considered it, but once the offer had been tendered, it was nearly impossible to walk back. “Cookie, cookie! Pechen’!” he kept repeating, threatening to break down in tears if S did not give him one.
S had done a good job mastering baby Russian while we lived in Chisinau, but now that she is studying French, Munchkin’s Russian vocabulary is beginning to show signs of outpacing hers. She tries to keep up, but sometimes gaffes are unavoidable. For example, the Russian words for bear (мишка) and mouse (мышка) are very close, and S’s mispronunciation of the two may well have contributed to Munchkin’s current confusion. He now points at mice in his books and says, “beah,” a term which he previously applied only to actual bears. This is on top of his ongoing confusion between giraffes and zebras, for which we have D’s mom to thank. He has one of each among his stuffed animals and differentiates them by calling the former a zebra and the latter a “bolshoi zebra” (big zebra).
One of our favorite new words in Munchkin’s lexicon is “please,” which he pronounces “peeze.” He has taken to elision, combining multiple words into one longer utterance, and “peeze” has become a cornerstone of this new, polite speech. “Morepeeze” (more, please); “Colopeeze” (when he wants to draw with his chalk or color with his crayons); “Mikpeeze” (milk, please – and make it in a bottle, ma, ok? Thanks!).
On the one hand, we like that he asks for things politely. On the other hand, he has become a genteel little dictator. The basic tenet of toddler politesse dictates that you must ask for something nicely; otherwise you won’t get it. Munchkin seems to believe that the inverse should also hold true – if you ask for something politely from the outset, you should be entitled to it. “Cookiepeez, cookipeez!!” he sometimes repeats without pausing to take a breath, growing louder and more exasperated with every utterance when we refuse to honor his polite request.
We’re pretty sure that daycare is partly to blame for his cookie obsession. He long ago stopped crying when we drop him off, but his teachers still feel the need to sweeten the deal by asking him if he wants a cookie as soon as he walks in the door. On the other hand, he also learned to clean up at daycare, which has been a very welcome development. Now, whenever he finishes playing with his toys, he puts them all away neatly before going to eat, shower, or sleep.
Munchkin’s rapidly expanding linguistic abilities continue to amaze us. He now speaks in little phrases, though when he gets excited about something he usually relapses into prolonged gobbledygook before ending with a word or two we recognize. Even so, it is now possible to have actual conversations with him. “Slow down and use your words,” S will say, “Tell me what you would like.” And he does; Munchkin has become very specific about the things he wants and when he wants them.
“Boobies!!!” For about a week, blueberries replaced watermelon as Munchkin’s favorite fruit, so he ran around the apartment screaming, “Boobies!! Boobies!!” all the time. Then he moved on, and his food du jour is now “bay-ge-syr” (a combination of “bagel” and “syr,” the Russian word for “cheese”). “Tin-go-go!” is another oft-repeated exclamation, referring to his favorite book (Things That Go).
The coolest thing has been watching Munchkin learn concepts and apply them to other aspects of his world. For example, he learned the word “opastno” (dangerous), which D would say whenever he and Munchkin walked hand-in-hand through the parking lot or along the sidewalk to take the bus. “Opas,” Munchkin now says when playing with his toy cars whenever he drives them close to the edge of the table. “Opas, keful (careful),” he’ll say when clambering atop the tall stools in our dining room. “Mimo” (close, but not quite), “this,” and “too much,” along with its variations “too hot” and “too big,” are the other frequently used concepts in Munchkin’s lexicon.
And now that he has words to express himself, we are beginning to get a glimpse at his imagination. His favorite toy remains the Magformer magnetic tiles, which he mainly uses to build what he calls “supeh-mashin.” Sometimes he calls his “super cars” a big truck; other times he’ll be more specific and tell us it’s a dump truck or a tow truck. Oftentimes, he announces that his abstract, wheeled creation is a fire truck before making siren noises while driving it around the tabletop. In the end, they all meet the same fate — “Oh oh, opas!” he’ll say, before giving the vehicle a final nudge to push it over the edge and send it crashing to the floor.