She sprawled on the floor as I was getting myself together. Then, it was time for her to get dressed. I called her name.
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“What?” she responded, sounding highly annoyed.
I was taken aback, but tried not to let it show. “Can you get up?” I responded cheerily.
“No,” was her terse reply.
“Please?” I asked, trying to remain pleasant.
“No,” she repeated, again, sounding irritated and cold.
I paused. “What just happened?” I wondered. “Did my not-quite-18-month-old and I just have a conversation? And if so, did she have an attitude?”
My, that was a lot to grasp in the moments before dawn on a dreary Monday.
Now she has reached the year-and-a-half milestone, and she’s become a talking machine.
Unlike her mother, she has always been quite vocal. But almost overnight, her conversation skills and vocabulary seemed to increase tenfold.
Thankfully, her attitude has stayed at a minimum. But while it could be worse, her word of choice is the somewhat annoying, “What.”
She will almost always respond to her name with a “What?” Sometimes when being told something, she will respond with “What?” And then I will either repeat myself, or explain myself. From there, I wonder if I am nuts for trying to rationalize a conversation with a child who isn’t even potty-trained yet. She asks “What?” again, and the circle continues until at last she is enlightened and responds with a fulfilled-sounding “Ohhh.” And then we move on.
Again, I wonder if there is any point to this act. Does she really understand what is being said? Does she even know what the word “what” means? I looked for guidance in my favorite parenting resources.
In an article at www.parenting.com, Dr. Leon Hoffman, co-director of the Pacella Parent Child Center at the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute, says toddlers who repeat themselves “between the ages of 1 and 2 are just learning to talk, so they repeat questions to get clear on what each word means.” Also, they could be working on their memory skills. Additionally, “since toddlers find comfort in repetition, rewinding and replaying questions is just a way of asking for emotional support.”
Finally, Dr. Hoffman suggests that parents listen to their children and take time to answer as often as they can stand it. “Your child is asking for a reason, even if that’s not always clear. Be matter-of-fact and don’t let it get to you. It will pass!”
So I am on the right track. It is a strange, yet natural feeling to be able to converse, however simply, with my daughter. And it is nice to know that taking the time to be thoughtful and answer her incessant queries is likely the “right” thing to do.
Now, if I could just get her to lose the attitude.
First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is email@example.com.