Oi! Rules are being broken here.

Pronunciation update. Bitti can’t say oi. This is utterly devastating for her. The citizenship test is going to be a real challenge since she cannot join in on the bogan refrain, ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi … ‘. I wonder where they will send her?

It’s not just ‘oi’, I mean how often do we really say that anyway? Any word that contains that sound is also out. For example, boy, toy, toilet, which become ‘bey’, ‘tee’, and ‘teelet’ respectively. Took me a while to remember this strange quirk and adjust so I could understand what she meant. God help anyone else who is attempting to converse with her about toys or boys (who, by the way, are different from girls because they wee standing up and she’s super jealous of that).

She’s also struggling with ‘au’ sounds, as in naughty. Lots of us are ‘neety’, which can be perplexing. Luckily her childcare has recently introduced her to a new system for classifying behaviour whereupon ‘naughty’ behaviour is red and ‘good’ behaviour is green. So there’s a lot less ‘neety’ based confusion going on now. The list of red behaviours is quite funny. There are some standards that have you nodding along, like yelling inside, talking when the teacher is talking, but then it all takes a swerve into stuff that you would only think to add if you worked in childcare or prison. Biting. Kicking. Using paddle pop sticks as shanks. I joke.

We have had quite a few chats about red behaviour (why is the bad stuff always so much more appealing than the good stuff?), and we’ve added a few more to the list for home.

  • Jumping on the kitchen table
  • Scratching on any fabric surface
  • Not sitting still to be patted nicely
  • Licking the butter
  • Hiding behind the bookcase
  • Getting under mummy’s feet when she’s cooking
  • Licking ones own arse

You might notice a theme in this list. The cat is under a new regime now, and he needs to get with the colour-coded program before he finds himself re-assigned to another, colder district (the backyard). This cat is so red he should start learning Russian.

ilickthebutter

Occasionally, when the cat is exhibiting green behaviour Bitti is able to get a few pats in. This led to discussion of the difference between patting and stroking. She decided that patting is quick up and downs, whereas stroking is long and slow ‘sides’. It makes sense, I am enjoying how she is figuring these things out through experience. She’s getting an instinct for language.

Looking forward to many more chats about words in the coming years. For now, I am getting marked red whenever I correct her wrongly conjugated verbs. She runned fast after she felled over, and no one will persuade her otherwise. Teeth well and truly gritteded.

 

Tiny straight shooter

Bitti has been dropping some pretty funny one-liners, so thought I’d share some of them here. Perhaps they fall into the ‘had to be there’ category, but I’ll try to replicate the humour.

Scene One: Bitti has dropped a grape on the floor and immediately become incensed. Now that delicious, juicy fruit is on the floor it cannot possibly be recovered and eaten, not ever. How will she ever recover from the injustice of it? Nothing can be done. Nothing!

I suggested she pick up the grape, which was resting not 5 cm from her left foot and still resided within the loose ‘ten minute rule’ food on the floor enjoys in this house. Her reply came instantly and with the extreme deadpan of someone who is oblivious to how ridiculous they sound:

‘I can’t get it because I don’t want to bend down.’

Scene Two: I have a friend over for lunch and at the time of their arrival Bitti is watching one of her precious DVDs at a volume that severely hampers my ability to continue preparing food and maintain a coherent conversation with another adult human. I grabbed the remote and turned the volume down two notches, causing Bitti to exclaim in outrage,

‘I can’t hear it now! See, they’re going *mimes speaking with extreme attitude*, but I can’t hear them!’

Scene Three: Bitti and I are chilling in the lounge when a fly zooms past her face. She turns to me and in a quiet but definite manner that resembled closely Liam Neeson in any of his performances as ‘wronged man with gun’, points to the fly meaningfully and says,

‘I want it dead.’

Enunciate! Discovering the importance of speaking clearly.

It seems every blog post now is going to start with my apologies for not posting sooner. I have the urge to write, but not the time. Or I have the time but not the urge. I’ve started keeping better notes on how Bitti is expressing herself so at least I have something to prompt a post now. And so, on to the latest instalment of her linguistic adventures …

Pronunciation

I noticed a few weeks ago that she now pronounces monkey correctly. This is most disappointing. For a long while monkeys were tatties [tah-tees]. She loved singing that song about monkeys jumping on the bed, and it’d come out ‘no more taaaaaatties jumping on the bed’. Alas, no more. However, there are other amusing errors to take its place.

A favourite game at the moment is Fighting. I’m handed any long-ish, stick-ish object and issued an instruction to ‘Bight!’. Whether wise or not, I have encouraged this by gifting her uncle toy pirate swords for his birthday for the express purpose of fighting with Bitti when she visits. Mostly this is an amusing way to annoy my brother as he is not capable of turning down her insistent requests to drop whatever he is doing and play with her. Add to that the general amusement to be found in observing a tall, muscular man being beaten backward by a puny child with more determination than coordination and I believe the gift has been a great success. It is entirely possible that my brother may disagree.

Returning to the mispronunciation of ‘fight’, I was quite sure she had a grip on the ‘f’ sound, so I tested her. I asked her say a few f-ing phrases and here’s what happened:

‘Can you say fairy?’

fight-club

Bight Club?

‘Fairy.’

‘Can you say fly?’

‘Fly.’

‘Can you say fear?’

‘Fear.’

‘Can you say fight?’

‘Bight.’

If you listen to the audio you can hear the clacking of fighting sticks as we talk. We are most excellent multi-taskers.

Bitti is acutely aware now of when her pronunciation differs from mine. A long while ago she observed that I said ‘Octonauts’*, while she could only manage ‘Ocpod’. She would frequently interject her attempts at communication with, ‘I can’t say my words!’, before trying another way to get her message across (well, that or collapsing in a screaming pile of frustration for 20 minutes, both being viable options when you’re but two years old).

At one stage she was telling her father about our neighbour and came back very concerned because he had mistakenly heard the name as ‘Jay’, but the name is actually ‘Jade’. ‘He doesn’t say it right!’ So, I had to intercede and clarify the name for her. It is so important to clear up miscommunications, as Bitti will tell you. She couldn’t rest until I had explained the mix up.

The latest amusing mispronunciation is her use of ‘yep’ instead of ‘yet’. She says, ‘I didn’t do that yep.’ Super cute, hopefully this one sticks around for a while.

Notes

*For the uninitiated, Octonauts is a TV show for young children. Various non-aquatic animals live in an ‘Octopod’ under the sea and effect rescues on marine creatures who, despite having evolved specifically for an oceanic habitat, seem oddly crap at managing in it unaided by the Octonauts team.

Groundhog day

I am not really sure why this happens, but it certainly feels like a deliberate attempt to drive me insane. Bitti creates these infuriating circular conversations that have you questioning your sanity and drawing upon every last ounce of patience. For example, this beauty from all the nights of the week:

‘Mummy, can I have a drink?’

‘Sure, here.’

‘No, from my pink bottle.’

‘Get off me, I’ll get it.’

I’m halfway across the room to get the bottle she just requested and I hear, ‘Mummy, where are you going?’

‘To get your drink bottle.’

‘But, why?’

Are you serious? Because you just frigging asked me for it you goldfish. I’m really starting to be concerned about her short-term memory.

Similar thing happens if I go upstairs to get dressed, shower or use the toilet alone. I spend a few minutes going over my plans, making sure she has something she’s engrossed in downstairs. I leave her apparently happy, absorbed in pouring water from one cup to another, or stacking Frozen stickers one on top of another (why??). However, no matter how content she seemed to be when I left the room, not 30 seconds after I reach my upstairs destination I hear the dreaded call, ‘Muuuuuuuumyyyyyyy, where are you?’

Sigh. ‘I’m upstairs.’ Like I said a hundred times before I came here. Now the neighbours can hear us talk about it too as we bellow at each other.

‘Come down!’

‘I’m getting dressed/weeing/showering, leave me alone for a few minutes please.’

Desolate cries emanate from below as she wallows in her misery on the bottom of the stairs.

‘Just come up if it’s that bad.’

‘I can’t. I’m stuck.’

FML.

‘I’ll be down in a minute.’

‘Waaaaaaaa, wa wa etc.’ comes the considered and well reasoned reply. Less than a minute alone on the ground floor of the dwelling she has resided in for two and a half years and she is apparently in mortal danger without my presence. Even in the face of such horror down below, ascending the stairs that she gleefully tackled solo from age 10 months is also now unconscionable. Her life is truly girt by misery.

While it is endearing to be so needed, I cannot help but day dream about the day I will be able to dress without being interrupted 15 times to settle a dispute between two stuffed animals, or assume the identity of a Disney character, or fix an invisible and imaginary injury (an injury that will later be submitted as a reason for her being unable to dress). Maybe one day I will be able to both select and don my outfit for the day in the space of 30 seconds, rather than spend five chronically interrupted minutes walking aimlessly from wardrobe to drawers collecting mismatched items that do not suit the forecast temperature for the day.

I suspect that day is far from now, so look forward to many more circular conversations and interrupted wardrobing attempts in the years to come.

 

Liar, liar

Lately Bitti has upped the ante with her deception practice. Previously it had been limited to answering yes when the truth was no. I’d ask ‘did you nap today?’ and she’d say yes, but the childcare app would tell me otherwise.

But now she has graduated to actively making up stories to designed to mislead. I mean, she’s not getting away with it because she’s not quite onto the fact that I can collect evidence of her activities by listening to noises in the house, or smelling her, or quite simply standing behind her while she does the exact opposite of what she’s about to tell me she did.

liar-liar-liar-liar

A few days ago she went upstairs to ‘brush her teeth’. I came up ten minutes later to find her neck deep in books in her room, toothbrush abandoned by the bedroom door. When she heard me coming she jumped, and started over-explaining her actions, ‘I finish brushing my teeth, now I reading!’. Sure, and I’m Peppa Pig. I picked up the bone dry toothbrush and expressed my skepticism, but she stuck to her story. I was the bad guy for daring to doubt her word.

Creating plausible lies could take a while, at the moment she consistently makes the rookie error of over-explaining what she has been doing. For example, last night she stole a Smartie off the gingerbread house we’d make earlier in the day (at which time she had been explicitly prohibited from eating more). Rather than just sticking it into her gob and eating it before I noticed, she make the rather brave decision to bring it over, resting it on her lips and looming into my view, thus revealing her imminent disobedience. Shortly thereafter, the gingerbread house went to reside up high. Bitti did make an attempt to climb the summit upon which the gingerbread house was installed, but fortunately Bitti+chair still = too short.

Looking forward to seeing what else she lies about in future …

 

 

 

Catching up on Bitti

It’s been too long again. The weeks fly by in a mundane blur and amidst it all, Bitti learns so many new words and grammar rules that I can’t keep up. Her pronunciation has improved markedly. Now she can say a few more consonant clusters. E.g. ‘sisa’ is now ‘spider’. And her use of the past tense is getting better, but there are still amusing constructions like, ‘I didn’t ate it’. And even better, ‘I don’t got that one’.

She is regurgitating more and more of what I say to her, which is concerning for many reasons. She stayed at her nana’s house a few weeks ago and was quite upset about their habit of leaving the TV one while they were occupied with other tasks, telling them to turn it off because they weren’t watching it! Nana was highly amused. She has no trouble speaking up if it is to inform on another person’s wrongdoing. Her childcare carers tell me that she often tells them about something naughty another child has done, or even tells that child directly not to do it. Great, she’s gonna be that kid in school.

Along with her improved speech is a better memory. She tells me stories now about her day. So-and-so threw bark chips in her face (explains the dirty nose), or she had a visit to a different room at childcare. And I am sometimes surprised by how far back she can remember events. The other day we were in the local park and she suddenly started talking about when we went on an egg hunt in the bushes nearby. That was obviously at Easter, six months ago when she was only just past two years old. It seems mad that she can remember that, but can’t recall what she had for lunch! It obviously made an impression. But then, it’s chocolate, why wouldn’t it?

Increasingly, she is paying close attention to how I read. She used to never question me about how I got the words I said out of books. But ever since the Mr Magee book with the ‘Ooooo’, she has been interrogating me about letters and words when I am reading. She asks me to point out ‘her’ letter (the one her name starts with), and we hunt it on the pages of her books. She likes to cover up the words deliberately so I can’t read. Although with some books (such as that bloody FROZEN), I know it all by heart anyway.

She also notices the difference between the way I say words and the way she does. A common refrain from her nowadays is ‘I can’t say my words’, when she is trying to saying a word that is a bit tricky or simply completely beyond her ability. For example, she says ‘Ocpod’ while I say ‘Octonauts’. She’ll say, ‘you say it different, mummy.’ and we spend some time sounding it out slowly until she gets the shits and we move on to something less frustrating. But I love her mispronunciations, they’re cute and sometimes accidentally rude. What’s not to love? Like when ‘pancake’ became cumcake

 

You can stand under my rainbrella

Bitti has invented a word. She has some pretty dodgy pronunciations for existing words, which while likely incomprehensible to strangers, are pretty damned cute to me and I am not in a hurry to correct her. My favourite is still ‘cuggles’ for cuddles, but here are some other chart toppers:

  • Titty Joe (Milky Joe).
  • Faffiy fiffas (flappity flippers).
  • Gussing (disgusting).
  • Skid (squid).
  • Cancake (pancake).
  • Hahe (hungry).
  • Hohu (horrible).
  • Gogoh (doctor).
  • Tatee (monkey).
  • Sosi (sorry).

Recently her speech has gone next level again and she has corrected some of her mispronunciations. She used to say ‘bawbaw’ for water, but now it sounds pretty normal. Actually, the first time she said water properly, I couldn’t understand was she was saying because I wasn’t prepared to hear the word said correctly.

rainbrella

Testing a new rainbrella.

We have a plastic umbrella that she likes to play with, pretend its raining inside and we all have to take cover (unless we’re out of favour, then we need to stand in the ‘rain’). At first it was pronounced ‘brebra’, but now it has been named the ‘rainbrella’, which is kind of perfect. And what is an ‘um’ anyway? (Well, it turns out the the ‘um’ bit comes from Latin ‘umbra’, meaning shade, and the Italian ombrella, meaning shadow.) But rainbrella is much more fun so I shall be encouraging that new word.

Look forward to her next linguistic creation.

 

Irony 101 followed by a Death Glare Master Class

Just like when Bitti was learning colours and liked to ‘tend (pretend) she didn’t know them in front of me, she is now pretending lots of other things for reasons best known to herself. She does this in lots of ways but it started with colours. She pointed at a book page and said ‘that’s red’, when it was plainly yellow. Her eyes slid sideways to watch my reaction. When I responded with, ‘it’s definitely purple!’, she was very happy. We can play this game.

Now she extends this deliberate wrong to other objects and animals too. I feel like this is the beginning of an advanced course in sarcasm and irony for Bitti. That she is showing early promise is good, because I’m not sure what I would do with a child who took everything I said at face value.

tiger8

See, it’s a giraffe. And she’s smiling.

There were a few months there when everyone was sad. We regularly read a story about an elephant who gets knocked on the head with a coconut and all her friends try to cheer her up, but she’s still sad. After that, she became a pro at pointing out misery in such a delighted way that it was almost too irreverent even for me. But now she can point out a more diverse range of emotions as depicted in drawings, and has been trying them on her own face too.

Crocodile tears are nothing new for those in the under-five bracket, but Bitti takes it to another dimension. She has this menacing stare that triggers memories of Japanese horror films that I watched before I effected a self-imposed ban on the watching of that entire genre in order to preserve all future nights’ sleep. Seriously, brush her hair forward and put her in a dimly lit room and I defy anyone not to summon an exorcist.

Although terrifying, a natural power like that demands nurturing, so I have been training her to whip out the expression at a moment’s notice. It’s a perilous task but someone has to do it. And after all, providing those around you with an easy gauge of your current mood is a community service that too often goes unrecognised. Plus, letting someone know they’ve crossed a line without speaking is a pinnacle of efficiency in communication surpassed by no other. You can all thank me later.

Once we have this one under control, I figure we should move on to the polite smile, just to balance things out a bit, but without abandoning the pretending theme. And, you know, so she can be either a politician or an actor one day (porque no los dos, aye Arnie?). I can only hope that Bitti will have the good fortune to flash her epic stink eye upon someone as truly deserving as Hillary Clinton.

epic-stinkeye-hilary-clinton

Bitch, please.

BTW, did you see how I found a picture of a tiger giving stink eye? Did you see that? Did ya?

Playing favourites

The more Bitti is able to express herself with language, the more I can get an idea of the kind of person she is. I am so used to figuring out her preferences by observing her behaviour and body language that I sometimes forget I can just ask her now!

So the other night while reading a Peppa Pig book for the umpteenth time I decided to turn the tables on her and ask her a hundred and one questions about the pictures. Usually she is the one interrupting me to point out something banal or ask a pointless questions that she already knows the answer to.

There is one story where the playgroup has a jumble sale to raise money to fix the school roof. All the kids donate a toy to sell, and there is a picture where all the goods are laid out on tables. I asked Bitti which toy she would buy. She did not hesitate to say ‘Miss Rabbit’. Now, for those who aren’t cursed blessed with a Peppa-watching child, Miss Rabbit is not a toy, but a character on the show who is actually quite fun. She has all the jobs.

PeppaPigJUmbleSale

In every story, whenever the family goes somewhere and there is someone providing a service, like checking books out at the library, it is Miss Rabbit. She works everywhere and can do everything, so I’m happy Bitti chose this character to take home as Miss Rabbit is certainly the most interesting one. Someone even went to the trouble of making a list of all Miss Rabbit’s jobs; there are 34 in total (to 11/01/2016)!

Now Bitti has her head around the concept of ‘favourites’ too. So I ask her occasionally which is her favourite toy/colour/food. The answers tend to change daily, which is only sensible, you have to select based on your current mood and situation. However, the only one that never changes is ‘favourite toy’; bunny wins. Here’s what I got yesterday:

Fave colour: purple

Fave toy: bunny

Fave food: pears

Fave book: Dentist Trip (Peppa)

Fav person: …

The favourite person question led her to discuss best friends for a while. Her best friends change as much as her favourites do. Generally during the childcare week it is one or another of her mates there. Over the weekend it can be her half-sister, her nana or me depending on who was the most recent giver of play time.The affection of a toddler is as ephemeral as it is ardent.

Her best friends are always girls. Not sure whether this is her natural preference or already the influence of culture upon her. I expect her best friend will change a thousand more times before she is grown, and whoever gets the final spot will be lucky indeed (IMHO).

Playing for real

There is so much talking from Bitti now that it can be hard to narrow down just one thing to focus on. Grammar-wise she is experimenting with pronouns now, using ‘he’ and ‘she’ instead of the generic ‘it’. And has even started using object pronouns correctly sometimes, last night saying, ‘you do that to me’. All these grammatical gains are important as she is trying to explain more complex ideas to me.

She is expanding her internal world and explaining her imaginary games (AKA the nutty contents of her brain) to me really tests her language skills. Pretending to be the baboon from The Lion King is a big one at the moment. I have to sit on top of Pride Rock being Mufasa. She lumbers towards me, holding the boon stick and saying ‘oh, ah’, climbs up my legs (in a not-at-all-painful way), and gives me a big hug. Then I have to hand her Simba, an imaginary bundle of baby lion, and she takes him off to show the other animals.

Rafiki

And repeat. Like, a lot.

This is an easy game to figure out the rules of because we play it a lot. But sometimes she throws a random game into the mix, like ‘spider on the wall’, and it catches me by surprise. She got up on the couch the other night, splayed her hands on the wall and said, ‘mummy, look. I a sisa.’ Hmmm, you’re a what? ‘A SISA!’. Hmmm, I wasn’t getting it. Big sigh. She came down, took me by the hand and sat me down. She concentrated really  hard on saying the words right, you could see the cogs moving in her head as she slowly enunciated each word.

‘Mummy, I a sisa. You put me outside.’ She pointed violently from the wall to the door.

‘Ah, you’re a spider!’

‘YES.’ Nodded her head and began the climb back onto the couch enthusiastically, satisfied that we were back on the same imaginary page in her book of bizarre games.

Other popular games are ‘shopping’, ‘doctor’ and ‘going to bed’ and pretty much anything where I am an animal. She is a baby monkey a lot, and makes her bed on the top of the couch, balancing herself along the cushions, and using a towel as a doona. The mummy monkey has to tuck her in, and turn off the ‘eyes’ (the lights) so she doesn’t get scared. She must be the only toddler who is happier in the dark than with the lights on.

These games can be quite fun, but my opportunity to make changes or additions is limited. Generally my ideas are dismissed immediately, although their re-appearance a few minutes later, this time presented by Bitti herself, seems to be more palatable.

Sometimes the games are fairly tedious, but I have to pay close attention still because the animal might get changed halfway through and if I keep calling Bitti ‘baby monkey’ when she’s changed herself to ‘baby baboon’, there will be hell to pay. Straight to the principal’s office for a lecture on animals.