For a while after Munchkin started speaking we endeavored to write down his amusing sayings. There were plenty of mangled words and off-the-wall pronouncements that were precocious in their seriousness. As his speech grew more advanced, we largely stopped keeping track of his verbal creations, contenting ourselves with enjoying them in the moment. Of late, we have begun once again to take note of Munchkin’s speech, though for far less pleasant of a reason.
During the rare moments that we can spend time alone with him, Munchkin thrills us with his curiosity and creative thinking. He listens intently when we tell him about dinosaurs, for example, which are one of his latest interests; he asks us to read books and take him to the library; and he grows animated when describing his favorite superheros. One-on-one, he is engaged and generally well-behaved.
The trouble is it’s hard to find time to make Munchkin the undivided center of our attention when he is no longer an only child. And when we inevitably fail to dedicate the kind of attention to him he so obviously craves, he acts out in myriad ways. Most of his rebellious actions are variations on the theme of not listening; of late, he has begun talking back to us with increasing regularity as well.
His go-to line is to tell us that we are not being nice to him — a real kicker when the complaint is triggered by us asking or telling him to behave acceptably (e.g. Stop kicking your sister!). Other zingers (in addition to the ones we’ve already documented) include: Stop! You’re not helping! You’re making it worse; You’re wasting my time; and his newest favorite line: You’re behaving like a three-year-old! Tonight alone he told S that she was teasing him (when she asked him to finish his broccoli), called her a slowpoke apropos of nothing and, as usual, insisted that she was not being nice to him.
While there is no rationalizing away the fact that our kid sometimes behaves like a total jerk, we also realize that we are partially to blame for his speech, if not his behavior. The words we casually drop, whether directed at our children or not, become the building blocks of our kids’ internal monologues. Not all of the barbs Munchkin uses originated with us, but plenty certainly did — and we can hardly blame the little man for using our own words against us. On the contrary, his impudence serves as a timely reminder that we should watch how we talk to him and what we say to each other around him, and Junebug too.
Munchkin’s teenage-like rebellious streak aside, he is still a very young child, and here too his speech continues to betray him. He still says chocolick, for example, instead of chocolate. He still talks about Valina, which used to be his mispronunciation of vanilla, but has now become his mispronunciation of Manila, which will soon be our next home. And every now and again he adds a new misshapen word to his vocabulary. Globs is our favorite recent addition: his mangling of gloves took us a bit by surprise since he is learning French (in which B and V make distinct sounds) rather than Spanish (in which they do not).
Last weekend we took Munchkin ice skating. When we were in DC a few years ago for French training ahead of our Kigali tour, we had taken him to an outdoor skating rink several times. Either he had remembered the experience or — more likely — he remembered seeing pictures of himself holding onto the penguin-shaped sled while we pushed from behind. Either way, he was excited to give it a go.
His skating technique clearly needs a lot of work, but we were pleased with his fearlessness once he overcame the discomfort of the rental skates and his inability to balance on his own. He figured out how to run on the ice, kicking his legs high while generating a decent speed with his penguin sled. Afterwards, we stayed to watch a fireworks display — fire wax, Munchkin kept calling them excitedly, his unbridled joy at the explosions reminding us of everything we love about having kids in general and having him for a son in particular.