The other day, while reading to my 13 month-old on the potty, I asked her to point out the octopus from a scene of about a dozen different animals. To my surprise, she smiled and planted a fat finger on the red octopus on the page. Obviously, my little girl is a genius. Perhaps a recent visit to the Seattle Aquarium with my brother contributed to this, but being fluent in Spanish, he kept on calling it ‘Pulpo,’ so maybe not.
This is the craziest thing about this age. This little girls calls everything “DA!,” except for “mama” and “hi.” (I was “Dad” for awhile, but I think I’ve been subsequently reduced to a regular “DA!” noun.) Yet, she can understand, more or less, the following words:
Clover (our dog)
Hummingbird (we have a hummingbird feeder she looks at where she eats)
My comprehension and speaking ability was about the same in first year Spanish in high school, although my vocabulary contained more swear words. Curse words were like spitballs fired onto the blackboard of my mind – they stuck with remarkable tenacity. The Spanish teacher could try all she might to fling less exciting words or conjugations like the subjunctive clause its way, but they would all peel off and drop into oblivion. What remained was a mishmash of Spanish curse words I can still wield today. I have a theory that curse words are inherently sticky, so they should be treated with great care, like loaded handguns, around babies.
A few months ago we went over to a young couple’s house in town who also had a baby daughter, whom Sarah had met the previous week walking Clover in the park. They made an overly elaborate dinner, and besides a few quirks, like their pug attacking Clover, they seemed like decent human beings. Then the F-bombs started dropping. Right and left, they fell out of our host’s mouth, and try as I might, I couldn’t protect my daughter from the verbal shrapnel. Don’t get me wrong – I swear, but I REALLY try not to do it around Josie. I’ve heard too many horror stories, of parents using a loud curse word in traffic for instance, and having it repeated to them months later. Needless to say, we never had them over.
So, here at home, we’ll keep on reading to Josie, and working on her language comprehension. Perhaps, I’ll try to brush up on my G-rated Spanish, and throw a few words here and there when I read her books. But if she points at the Octopus and says ‘Punta’ instead of ‘Pulpo,’ I’m going to clap and say ‘Yay!!!’, assuming she just mispronounced, because I would never use such language around my daughter.