“Look at the foil!” My two-year-old son and I were sitting at our dining table several months ago when he directed my attention outside. I had no idea what foil he was talking about. Was there aluminum foil in the yard? “The foil,” he repeated. I was completely confused. “What’s the foil?” I asked. ”THE FOIL!” he exclaimed. (Why are toddlers like American tourists who try to speak only English in a foreign country? When they’re not understood, they just repeat themselves but in a louder voice.) Finally, a squirrel darted by the window. Bennett pointed to it and said, “Look daddy, the foil.”
Like most two year olds, my son has had difficulty pronouncing consonants like “S” and “L” that require complicated tongue movement. Whenever he saw his younger brother spit up after nursing, Bennett would alert us, “Oh no, Granty PHIT UP!” Or when he expressed gratitude, he would say “Fank you.” Watching as Bennett’s speech develops over time, it amazes me how we twist our tongues and teeth to form the sounds required for language. I now realize why we encourage our children to call us mama or dada – they are among the easiest syllables to articulate.
Since Bennett is only turning three, I’m not especially worried about repeating words back to him correctly or filling in the sounds he’s missing. If he’s still having difficulty pronouncing words when he enters kindergarten, we’ll certainly seek out the advice of a speech therapist. Until then, I enjoy imitating Bennett’s toddler speak. Saying hepticopter, foothie and moom instead of helicopter, smoothie and balloon makes it feel like we have our own private language. Imitation is also a way of preserving memories of what he was like as a two year old.
Our family has started writing down Bennett’s endearing pronunciations and phrases because sadly, he’s already stopped using them. No longer do the wheels on the bus go “all day town,” they go all through the town. When I sing the song like he used to, Bennett now corrects me. Of course, I don’t want Bennett to have a speech delay or impediment, but it makes me a wistful when he pronounces all his words correctly. It’s a reminder of how fast he’s growing up.