23 February 2010

Talk A Little

For a long time, we were pretty sure that we had the next “That Guy From Police Academy Who Makes All the Sound Effect Noises” on our hands. For about the first year of Eamon’s life, he really preferred to communicate in sneezes, coughs, shrieks, giggles, grunts, or croaks. Occasionally he would utter or sing strings of random syllables, but he wasn’t at all interested in speaking.

Then, as chronicled in this blog, around one year old he instantly became interested in signing. Over night, he learned about 4 signs (most revolving around food or drink) and started using them constantly (though not always for the exact thing that he wanted; I attribute this more to not knowing what he wanted than not knowing what the signs meant).

About this time, he also figured out to shorten his strings of “mamamamamamamamama” to just “Mama” and decided that it specifically meant me. Grandma became “Nama.” No one else really got a name, though he would say “Mmmmm” when he was eating something he liked.

Then, about a couple of weeks ago, he discovered the joy of dropping things. Well, he’s always liked experimenting with gravity, but now he has a (sort of) word to go with it: “Uh oh.” Except that he can’t always get the syllables right, so it often comes out “Oh ah” or “Ah ah” or “Oh oh.” And always with a little rise in inflection towards the end, so it sounds like a question. It’s pretty darn adorable, and also useful, since he’s taken to saying it before he drops things so that you have time to catch them if you don’t want them on the ground.

The problem is, Eamon isn’t very good at speaking yet. This is understandable, since you know, he’s still kind of a baby. But he doesn’t understand why he can’t do it perfectly. There are times when he looks at me purposefully, opens his mouth, emits a syllable that apparently isn’t what he wanted, and then just closes his mouth and sighs. Like with walking, he wants to do it perfectly. If he can’t do it perfectly, he doesn’t want to do it.

The crazy thing is, he actually has said words when he wasn’t thinking about it. Twice now, he’s said his name, “Eamon,” completely correctly, in the correct context. It came out quickly, when he wasn’t really trying and we weren’t really asking him to do it. He looked as amazed as we did, but couldn’t do it again. Likewise, the other night Aaron was putting Eamon to bed: as I was leaving the room, I kissed Eamon and said goodnight, and got a reply of a wave and “Nigh-nigh.” Once again, everyone in the room looked surprised (including Eamon), but try as we all might, Eamon couldn’t repeat it.

Or last night, when he walked by my computer, saw a screensaver picture of the two of us, pointed and said in a rather flip voice, “Mama. Ea-ma” (which I assume was Eamon). When his Oma and Opa came, he regularly would point to the computer (all of which have pictures of him as the background) and announce, "Eamon." But when you point to him and say, "Who are you?" or try to induce him to say his name, he just smiles.

With walking, we eventually got him to at least practice by bribing him with teddy grahams. Once we got him practicing, he got better and better and now he wants to walk everywhere all the time. But how do you bribe him to talk, especially when he can only do it when he’s not really thinking about it?

The answer, of course, is that you don't. He'll talk when he's ready. We've taught him some basic signs, and he's learning more everyday, and there are some critics out there who might say, "Why would he bother to learn to speak when he could just sign?" Well, folks, because the signs don't take him very far. They are for things like "eat" or "drink." They don't tell us WHAT he wants to eat or drink. They basically just take the edge off the frustration, but they by no means convey the entirety of his thoughts.

And I know it's hard for him, too, because he seems to know what he wants to say. He understands a great deal of language, he just can't reproduce it. He seems to have no interest in using "baby talk." I have a feeling that one day, when his speech center really starts firing, I'll go into his bedroom in the morning and be greeted with, "Good morning, mother. Might I have some milk to break my fast this fine day?" Until then, of course, I'm happy with just an excited cry of "Mama!"

08 February 2010




He’s still pretty shaky, and doesn’t have great balance, but he can walk across the room when he feels like it, which is getting more and more often. He still gets down to crawl when he wants to go fast, and he can’t pull to a stand without holding onto anything, so walking still isn’t his main mode of transportation. But he can do it.


There are no strangers to Eamon. He waves at everyone and makes it his personal goal each time we go out to see how many people he can make smile. He isn’t a pest about it (yet), but he’s far from shy.

And he has Aaron’s charisma. Oooo boy, does he have some charisma. Put it this way: if this were a D&D game, and Eamon had to roll a 20-sided die to find out his charisma score, he rolled a 25. And you might want to accuse him of somehow cheating, except that then he smiles and you sort of forget what you were so angry about in the first place.

Everywhere we go, people smile and talk to him. Sometimes, he smiles shyly and demurely hides his face in my shoulder–only to look back at the person a second later and smile again. I’m convinced this “shyness” is an act because he knows that it makes him look even more precious. He’s a cute kid, sure, but that’s not what makes him stand out–it’s his thousand-watt smile that breaks across his face whenever someone acknowledges him. It’s the kind of smile that says, “You are the most important person in the world and I am so glad that you noticed me.” People–men, women, other children–melt everywhere we go.

This can be interesting when Eamon is out with his shyer mother. While I’ve tried to work past a lot of my shyness, I’m still not determined to meet everyone in a room like Eamon is. But wherever we go, I have conversations with complete strangers–conversations that Eamon seeks out and starts (even though he can’t actually talk yet).

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, Eamon and I stopped at Subway, and there were about a half dozen people in line. I got to talk to every single one of them. I got to have a conversation with each girl working behind the counter–even the ones who weren’t preparing my sub. Eamon enchanted them all.

It’s not just at Subway, though. At the grocery store, Eamon makes it is his personal mission to get a smile from anyone behind us in line, the checkout clerk, the bagger, and anyone else he happens to notice. My mother was chased down by one of the day-managers of the store, who told her how cute Eamon was and how much they love having him come.

He’s also a hit at the pharmacy. I walked up the other day and before I said anything, the pharmacist said, “You need Aaron’s prescription?” I looked startled until I noticed that she was already smiling and cooing at Eamon. She doesn’t know me, she knows Eamon. She said, “You were here yesterday with your grandmother.” Our whole family is all famous, but only as relations to this kid.

It doesn’t take much, either. My mom went to Trader Joe’s for the first time a couple of weeks ago for soy yogurt for Eamon. Then she went back recently. The cashier looked at Eamon and said, “I remember you,” and started smiling and waving at Eamon.

All in all, we are in trouble once Eamon realizes his own charisma. I just hope that we can teach him to use his powers for good.