the times, they are a-changin’
We have been remiss in writing about Munchkin. Just in the two weeks we had spent in Paris without him, he grew and changed so much that there were new aspects of his personality for us to get used to. And that was three months ago.
He seemed pretty vocal before, but to say that he has become more voluble would be an understatement. When we left on our language immersion trip, Munchkin still mostly expressed himself with individual words and short phrases. His speech has grown much fuller and more elaborate in the intervening months. Not only does he now speak in complete sentences, but also he grasps surprisingly complex concepts and sometimes catches us off guard with the vocabulary he picked up at daycare.
Of course, the bulk of his linguistic development has been in English, which bums D out more than a little bit. D still speaks to Munchkin exclusively in Russian, but these conversations feel increasingly one-sided. When prodded, Munchkin inserts some Russian words or parrots D’s speech, but by and large he tends to respond to D in English, and the interactions seem significantly more stilted than Munchkin’s conversations with S.
For the most part, D is confident that Munchkin understands him, but only if D repeats things a lot and uses very basic Russian. The upshot is not just that D sometimes has to throw in a few key English words to ensure comprehension, but also that Munchkin has an easier time communicating with S, which makes him cling to her all the more. The lone Russian bright spot has been Munchkin’s burgeoning love of classic Soviet-era cartoons. More evenings than not, Munchkin asks to watch “Chebooyasha” (Cheburashka) and has recently started singing one of the show’s most iconic songs.
Hand in hand with his linguistic development, Munchkin’s independent streak has grown a mile wide. We used to joke that he was a little tyrant. We had no idea how easy we had had it. When we returned from Paris, S finally threw down the gauntlet to wean him off milk bottles, and for several weeks afterwards he demanded “other milk” whenever we offered him a drink in a variety of alternate containers.
That was child’s play compared to the requests he now makes. Yesterday, for example, he threw a fit in the airport as we were attempting to grab a bite before boarding our flight to Amsterdam. “We need to get on the airplane! Come on, mama, we need to go right now! Get up, I want to go on the airplane!” he screamed over and over. And once we finally boarded, he was no less placated. “We need to go. I need to go right now!” he insisted on the verge of tears, irate that the plane would not take off until all the passengers had boarded.
He used to be a very good traveler, so the jury’s out on whether we have reached a difficult traveling age or if these tantrums owed to the unsettling nature of our move overseas. Once the plane took off, Munchkin calmed down, and we managed to make it through the first of our two eight-hour flights with only minimal resort to technological distractions (and the 20 minutes of screen time did not help much anyway). Getting him to sleep on the red-eye leg to Europe proved nearly impossible, however. While S attempted to catch some shuteye, Munchkin went to chat with our next-seat neighbors. He told them all about his fire truck (some things haven’t changed – he still loves fire trucks above all else) and his doggie, who was “in the plane, sleeping on the couch,” and when they suggested that it was time for him to go to sleep too, he cheekily replied, “not yet.”
We have long debated the extent to which this move would register in Munchkin’s mind. At 18 months, he was way too young to notice the change when we returned from Moldova, but now that he is a year older he talks about his friends from daycare, and he was noticeably upset when the movers boxed up his favorite toys. He kept asking for them – first the blue car he has been riding since Chisinau, then his toy garage.
Our last evening in Virginia, when D put him down to bed in his barren room, Munchkin demanded his stuffed animals. He had spent the evening clutching his elephant and zebra, and D thought these two would suffice, but Munchkin would not rest until D had unearthed the rest of the menagerie from our luggage. He hugged each animal in turn and then gathered up as many of them as he could get his arms around in a tight embrace, holding onto this last vestige of familiar comfort in his suddenly empty and rapidly changing world.