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toddler babble

The last couple of months, Junebug has hit the sweet spot of toddler babble, thanks in no small part to her weekly speech therapy lessons. After being almost completely non-verbal at age two, Junebug has become a regular chatterbox just six months later. Although we understand her quite well, her speech remains muddled, as she mixes up letters, speaks in incomplete sentences, and trips over herself in her exuberance to articulate her thoughts. The result is an immensely adorable toddler diction that makes us want to record every one of her monologues for posterity.

Of course, as soon as we point our phones in her direction, she clams up or starts yelling, No picha! In lieu of video, we’ve taken to keeping a running list of our favorite Junebug expressions, some of which we have compiled here.

Follow me! — Although we sometimes question our choice of preschool, there is little doubt that the three hours Junebug spends there daily have left a significant, largely positive imprint on her development. She frequently makes us play class with her. Follow me! she’ll command before arranging us for circle time, making us practice her peculiar brand of yoga, which involves excessive pelvic thrusting, and engaging in other simulated classroom activities.

I need it – Expressing one’s desires is, of course, the goal of communication. Junebug has mastered a full repertoire of expressions to do just that, of which this is our favorite simply because of how brazenly she claims to need things whose intended use is clearly a complete mystery to her. We hear I want dis one and I no want dis with dizzying frequency also. Oftentimes, she dispenses with complex formulations and simply insists Me! or Is mine! – particularly when she sees Munchkin with something in his hands. The sibling rivalry is strong between these two.

I want BINKIE! – This one deserves a separate mention because it seems that the older Junebug grows, the more attached to her pacifier she becomes – and the louder she demands it. For our trip to Japan, we packed half a dozen binkies – and wound up losing all but one: some dropped into mountain crevasses when we hiked the Alpine route, others were lost to the fishes in various castle moats, and a few we simply misplaced. With each loss, our anxiety mounted because this is the one item without which Junebug cannot function.

I yisten – We’ve talked about this one before. Junebug loves to play goody two-shoes, especially when Munchkin misbehaves. Of late, though there has been a bit of a reversal in this trend: he improved his behavior somewhat when S’s parents’ visited and has maintained a positive trajectory following their departure. Junebug, on the other hand, has become quite a handful the last few weeks – especially when the time comes to go to sleep. There are several other adorable phrases where she butchers the L sound, like Me no yike dis one, but this one is far and away the most frequent.

Otay – Ls are hard; the K sound is apparently difficult also, so OK comes out like this and she says I’m told when she needs warmer clothing. Wait a minute, otay? I back, otay? – when Junebug reluctantly agrees to leave D’s side and go out to the playground so that D can finish working. Promise, otay? – and she sticks out her little finger to seal the deal with a pinky swear. I borrow; I give it back later, otay? – when I need it or I want dis one fails to produce the desired result.

I eat you! – This has become a popular refrain during playtime, as Baby Shark apparently knows no international boundaries. Last week in Palawan, Junebug found a trough of shallow pool water in which she could “swim” up to us, pretending to be a baby shark so that she could munch on our arms and legs. Incidentally, I hungry is another favorite expression of ours, largely because it is delivered in such a plaintive voice that an uninformed observed could reasonably conclude that we have been starving our child for weeks.

Ea-ah-sh! ­– Rs also pose pronunciation challenges. Junebug stretches ears into a multi-syllable word even as she stretches out her arms toward our faces several times a day. Holding onto our ears has long been her favorite way of self-soothing, and to this day she only consents to go to sleep after one of us sits by her crib and sings her a few songs while she plays with our ear lobes.

Carry up! & Pack away – A few of Junebug’s most commonly used phrases are clearly ones she picked up from her frequent interaction with Filipinos. These are two prime examples. All things considered, having her speak like a Filipina is far preferable to what we endured with Munchkin at this age, when he adopted East African English and started purposefully flipping Rs and Ls in words that he knew perfectly well.

Is fine! – A recent addition to this list. Is fine! Junebug informed D after accidentally kicking him in the eye. Is fine! Junebug told S after looking her squarely in the eye and deliberately dropping half of her dinner on the floor for our dog Emmie to eat.

Why?We’ve written about this too. Junebug’s ability to string whys together knows no bounds. Oftentimes it seems that she’s not even listening to our response. Rather, it seems that she simply waits for us to finish answering her initial Why? just so she can ask a follow-up Why? – and five or ten more afterwards.

Me baby! – Junebug vacillates between maintaining baby status and declaring herself a big girl. Of late she has been leaning toward the latter, though any suggestion that she and Munchkin are both our babies is sure to provoke an argument. No, me baby! she’ll insist while explaining that he is a big boy. Initially, Junebug would sometimes tell us that she too was a big boy, though she’s given that up since learning to approximate the word girl. 

‘morrow – One of Junebug’s earliest words, and one she continues to use frequently when she means “later,” even though now she’s learned this word also. It makes for great combinations with some of the others on this list. Why no ea-ah-sh? ‘Morrow, otay?

I miss you & I love you – We saved the best for last. These are two expressions that Junebug has mastered and which she pronounces with perfect clarity. They warm our hearts because she is incredibly snuggly and tells us that she misses and loves us several times a day. As a parent, there’s nothing better.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Zaide Zoom #


    January 27, 2020
  2. beth COCKBURN #

    Well this was an adorable read and a nice way to get a glimpse into how the kiddos are doing!

    January 28, 2020
    • Hiya Beth!! Great to hear from you. The next time we’re back in the Western Hemisphere we need to get the kiddos together (and it would be great to see you and Adam too — it’s been way too long).

      January 28, 2020
  3. These are so sweet! My son has been in speech therapy for the last 6 months and has made great progress, but we’re still waiting on sentences. This has been a comforting reminder that he’ll get there one day!

    January 30, 2020

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