Toddler Talk: What You Say vs. What Your Toddler Hears
By BRET ORTLER
Toddler Lexicon: What a toddler hears when you speak is pretty much exactly the opposite of what you say.
When you say “No.”
2. I am unsure about that. Please ask your mother the exact same thing even though she’s right next to me and very clearly heard me deny your request.
3. Possibly, but only if you repeat the same request consecutively eight or nine times in a whiny crescendo.
When you say “Sit Down.”
1. Please stand up with both arms in the air, and one leg off of the chair saying “TA- DAHHHH”
2. Please run away.
3. Please attempt to scale the couch like a tiny Reinhold Messner.
4. I would like you to smirk, and remain standing.
When you say, “Please Pick Up That Toy”
1. Pick up the toy, but then yell “JUST KIDDING!” and throw it at the cat.
When you ask, “What Did You Do Today at Daycare?”
1. Please ignore the question and quack like a duck for several minutes.
When you say, “Put on Your Jacket.”
1. Please attempt to take off your pants.
2. Please rebel against the very notion of jackets; specifically, when I try to put your jacket on you, please scream out as if the sleeves were actually electric eels.
When you say, “That’s my food.”
1. I wasn’t hungry anyway, and I love that you’ve submerged your tiny, germ-ridden hand in the mashed potatoes and gravy you hadn’t yet allowed me to eat.
When you say, “Please use your inside voice, your sister is sleeping.”
1. Please begin yelling. Better yet, run over to the crib, peer through its bars, and roar at her. Infants love that! Then, when you’re inevitably shushed by Mom or Dad, shriek out, “DADDY, BE QUIET” then whisper, “The baby is sleeping!”
When you say, “Would you like to talk to Grandpa #1 on the telephone?”
1. This is an ideal time to loudly complain that you don’t want to talk to Grandpa #1 and instead want to talk to Grandpa #2. If it’s Grandpa #2 on the phone, then complain about not getting to talk to Grandpa #1. It’s OK, grandparents don’t have feelings.
When you say, “You have to listen while we’re in the store, OK?
1. Please mimic any profanity you may have heard. Also, profanity is best when shouted. Especially at septuagenarian cashiers or store greeters.
When you say, “Please be careful with that.”
1. “Please break that. As your parent, I have forfeited most of my possessions and nearly all of my free time, and this item has some personal value to me. That’s why I would like to see you smash it into many tiny pieces before my eyes.”
When you say, “Would you like a song before bed?”
1. Would you like twelve renditions of the same song before bed?
When you are in a group of two or more people (preferably visitors you’d like to impress) and you say, “Sing the ABCs or count to ten!”
1. Don’t respond. Instead, stare at the visitors with a bewildered look on your face and perhaps a slight frown. Better yet, pretend if you have never encountered language at all. Continue doing this until it gets really awkward.
Important: On the way home, count to ten or recite the ABCs the entire way home.
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Brett Ortler is a writer and new father living in Minnesota. His writing has been published in Salon, in the print magazine Living Ready, and online at McSweeney’s, among many other places. Brett works as an editor in the Twin Cities.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.
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