Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Deciphering preschool-ese

As a mother of two small children, I spend a vast amount of my day trying to figure out what said children are trying to, well, say. Baby-talk, toddler-speak, preschool-ese. Sometimes I feel as if my job title should be:

Mother: cleaner of spilled food/drink, finder of lost toys/blankies/loveys, maker of mass quantities of mac-n-cheese, and interpreter of highly difficult and ever-changing coded languages.

Being 1, Charlotte is clearly the more difficult to understand. The child is almost 14 months old, but says very few words. And, when she does say a word, she, almost as quickly, stops saying it. I've heard this is normal, but it is also quite annoying. It leaves me saying, "Do you want a Nana? Nana? Charlotte, do you want a Nana? Nana?" over and over again because at one point, she did say the word 'Nana' in regard to a banana. In return, Charlotte stares and me and squeals, "eh, eh." If anyone else is around, I try desperately to explain that "Charlotte really has said 'nana,' I swear it." Meanwhile, Charlotte, in what I'm sure is a perfectly timed effort to prove me wrong, throws herself on the floor, tears flowing, and points at the fruit basket because all she wants is to eat that damn banana.

Give.   Me.   Banana.

Molly on the other hand, while being fairly proficient in the English language, still holds challenges for dear old mom. Chiefly: enunciation. Though I can understand her most of the time, I often need to repeat what she said to confused-looking grandparents, friends and even strangers. I find I've been doing that a lot lately because she's become quite the chatterbox. Molly feels that everyone, everywhere, not just in our own house, needs to know exactly what is going on in that darling mind of hers.

Take Monday for example. We got her hair cut in the morning. She told the lady cutting her hair all about her superhero birthday party (more on that in a future post). I had to explain that this party wasn't actually until May. Then, the girl taking our order at lunch. Molly felt this girl needed to know that she had gotten her hair cut that morning. I had to clarify exactly what Molly meant when she said she had a fairy braid. In the afternoon, Molly told John down the street (poor man was just trying to get his mail) all about her hair cut, her birthday party, her My Little Pony and her baby sister Charlotte, who is working on her walking. I'm really not sure he understood any of it, but he was a good sport about just nodding and smiling. Saying "Oh yeah?" is always a good response when not understanding preschool-ese.

So, one challenge down. I repeat to others what they cannot understand for themselves. Not too big a deal. But, what happens when I can't understand it myself? Ah, that is the true challenge of preschool-ese. Here are my steps for trying to decipher a preschool-ese moment.

Statement: "I'm going to La-Lie"
Step 1: Ask child to repeat, hoping that you just heard it wrong.
Did that work? Nope, still no clue what "La-Lie" is.
Step 2: Ask child for more details. Context. "What are you going to do there?
Response: "I'm going on a plane and swimming in La-Lie"  - Ok, we're getting somewhere.
Step 3: Ask child what made her think of this.
This step almost never works because I'm pretty sure 3-year-old brains hop around more than Mexican jumping beans in a hot frying pan.
Step 4: Ask child for the names of some of the other people who will be going to La-Lie.
Response: "You, Daddy and Charlotte." Well, it's an answer, but not really helpful.
Step 5: Make up something that you want it to be and ask if that's correct.
Question: "Do you mean that Daddy told you he was surprising Mommy with a trip to Hawaii (La-Lie)?"
Response: "Yes."
Slight problem with this last step - Preschoolers often answer in the affirmative just to get their moms to stop bugging them. Maybe not all preschoolers, but definitely mine.
Step 6: Ask child to go back to the 1-year-old technique and point at something to help you understand.
At this, Molly finally pointed to the calendar, which had pictures from our last year's 4th of July (La-Lie) trip, when we went on a plane and went swimming. Aha.

The preschool-ese is deciphered. Success! Well, semi-success. I'm still holding out hope we're all hopping a plane to Hawaii.

Clearly, Molly is ready. Aloha!


  1. Great post!!!!! Love the idea of Hawaii.....maybe Molly needs to tell Daddy that she wants that trip for her birthday??????

  2. Ha ha...I have a very funny post like this I've been formulating in my head.
    Isn't it funny how some words are so clear to you, but no one else understands them? We were at Chris's great aunt's house and she said "How long will it be till she puts real words together into sentences and not baby talk?" Chris and I both were confused. She is speaking sentences. We can understand most of it!

    I haven't bought Penelope an easter dress yet. Is that way too cheesy to have the sisters and cousin in the same dress or does it make the picture that much better? I'm not sure.