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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

What makes toddlers laugh?

Bitti is approaching two and a half years now. She has been talking properly (i.e. in sentences) for only six months, yet I can’t really recall a time when my house wasn’t filled with endless chatter and the swiftly dealt orders of a budding dictator leader.

Tonight she went and pulled out the tape measure from her tool box, lay it on the ground, and ordered me to put my foot against it so she could see how long it was. I followed the order immediately–the consequences of not doing so were heavily implied–but was told to stop and take my slipper off first. Then, when she had considered my foot and made some serious-looking inspections at both the toe and heel end, she declared ‘Mummy, you have a really big foot’!

tape measure

Every now and then I feel a sense of wonder at how quickly and seemingly effortlessly she is acquiring language, and this was one such moment. Already she is using modals, adjectives, subject-object agreement, pronouns and comparative language, and that’s just in that sentence alone.

But the thing that impresses me the most is her ability to understand jokes. Now, they’re not very subtle jokes, but it does astonish me how much word play she picks up on. While playing with some kids recently I was accidentally called nana by one of Bitti’s little friends. They both giggled when she realised her mistake. Then I called them both nana too, and that was it, they were both down and out with giggles for the next five minutes.

And this morning I was talking to Bitti about all her friends at childcare, one of whom inverts the first two syllables of Bitti’s (real) name. She giggled about that, and then I said ‘we should call her ___’ and inverted the first two syllables of her friend’s name too. Well, I did not expect a laugh really, I was just saying it more for my own amusement. But Bitti got it! Amazing.

This is perfect, I love a good spoonerism, and if Bitti can already understand why they’re funny then I am set for stand-up material in this house.

Mostly I am glad to know she has a sense of humour that doesn’t only revolve around me hurting myself. Because my being poked or jabbed or bish-bash-boshed is the thing that will guarantee a laugh every time.

Lessons on sharing, delivered by a cat

IMG_4516From the moment Bitti arrived home from the hospital my cat has taken an ‘approach with caution’ stance to her. Before the human child came along my cat would often sit in my lap while I watched TV, sleep beside me in bed and generally hang around when I was in the house, much like a small, ineffective sidekick (if sidekicks were meant to be constantly underfoot and irritating as fuck. As I type this he is pushing his way onto my lap, lying across my right arm, causing numerous typos on the jkl; side of the keyboard).

When Bitti arrived Milky Joe (MJ) had to change his habits. I was breastfeeding a lot; Bitti loved to make a meal out of, well, meals, right from the get-go so MJ’s opportunities to sit on my lap were greatly reduced. As for bed sharing, now I was getting up every 2.5-3 hours to tend to my new, significantly less hairy baby, he was avoiding that practice too. In fact, during the first week Bitti was home his looks of utter disgust each time I turned the bedtime lamp back on were the silver lining that kept me going through the night time feeding slog.

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MJ successfully ignoring Bitti completely

And then as Bitti grew and became somewhat mobile he realised that he held great attraction for her, which was often expressed in the sort of hair pulling and random beatings you’d expect from someone who only recently discovered their own head. So he did what any sensible victim of random violence would do, he avoided her at all costs.

However, recently I have noticed things changing a little. While before MJ would leave the room as soon as we entered, now he is sticking around with some determination. He voluntarily sits right next to Bitti, and even allows her to interact with him on occasion. He must know where he sits in the pecking order because he has never scratched her like he does me. The worst she’s had is a biff on the head with claws retracted, which freaked her out enough because of the speed with which it was delivered.

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MJ getting stomped on; still did not scratch her

This increasing comfort with Bitti culminated last week in a lap-sharing stand-off. Bitti was on my lap, lolling around watching her allocated TV for the day. MJ clearly wanted in on the lap action, he jumped up and cruised around us several times, looking for a little space for himself. Then, when Bitti went off to grab a toy he saw his opportunity and took it, replacing her without hesitation and settling onto my pre-warmed legs. Bitti turned back, saw us there together and dialled the emergency response up to 11. She demanded he leave my lap post-haste, ‘Tittie Joe, get OFF!’ she thundered in a tone reserved for especially infuriating situations. He, being a cat, did not take heed in the slightest.

‘Mummy, take him off, get him off, mummy!’ Bitti is really really good at issuing commands these days. She took my hand and tried to use it to push MJ off my lap, like a despot using his underlings to perpetrate all the worst crimes in preparation for repudiating blame. I refused and suggested that she share my lap with the cat.

No. No. No. Absolutely not. Sharing the lap would be the worst thing that has ever happened in human history.

Ten minutes of talking about sharing later, she reluctantly agreed to share my lap! Bitti climbed up and took the left leg and MJ moved to the right leg, with some shade thrown Bitti’s way. We then sat together for the first time in 2.5 years, somewhat harmoniously. MJ not-quite-dozing as he kept one eye on Bitti, who was using this unusual proximity to helpfully point out all that cat’s features by touching them with her index finger.

Five minutes later Bitti had poked MJ’s nose one too many times and he took off for more peaceful zones of the house.

 

Opposites attract: when off is on

With Bitti’s growing vocabulary comes an increasingly large number of words that can be confused for each other as her pronunciation still isn’t quite right. We have had a few tense conversations where she repeats the word and I guess at a different interpretation of that word until I hit the right one, like a high-stakes game of Articulate where there is no prize but the absence of a toddler freak-out. But mostly she is expressing herself well (if not a tad too frequently at times), and we have some great chats about how things work, what things do and where they’re going.

However, there are some words that, without context, still make absolutely no sense. She does confound people who spend less time with her sometimes, like her grandparents. The random request, ‘I want ta-tas, s-ease’, might take some sleuthing to decipher. Here are some examples of ‘Bitti-speak’:

  • He-hee = heavy
  • Fu-fee = healthy (what you’ll always be diagnosed as after a quick assessment with a toy stethoscope)
  • Ta-tas = sultanas
  • Sissy = silly
  • Tuna tata = Hakuna Matata (she believes this is Simba’s name too, just to confuse things further).

As she now considers herself an expert communicator, the frustration when someone doesn’t understand her is high. After a few attempts, she will now take my hand and say, ‘fofow me’, leading me over to the situation or object she’s trying to talk about.Good to know she has some basic problem solving skills.

The most amusing exchanges we have are about the lights. She has ‘off’ and ‘on’ the wrong way around. So we go into her dark bedroom and she says ‘oh no, turn lights off!’. I say, ‘they are off,’ and she gets pissed. ‘No! Turn off.’ If I keep insisting the lights are off she will go into a melt down. Not sure how she got this backwards, but seems like it could be a while before she agrees that off is off.

quirkytailesIt reminds me of the Paul Jennings short story in his book Quirky Tails, No Is Yes, where reclusive a father teachers his daughter the opposite meaning for many words, so she calls salt sugar, etc. In the end of the story the house catches fire and the fire service arrive to rescue the inhabitants. They pull the girl out first and ask her, ‘Is anyone else in the house?’ She of course says ‘no’ because her father is in there.

I am hopeful that Bitti’s on/off meaning mix up won’t have such fatal consequences!