“Don’t worry Mummy, I don’t mind.”
These immortal words were uttered by my four-year-old son the other day when I wouldn’t allow him to eat the rest of a bag of chocolate buttons before teatime. Given that he’s not normally known for his self-restraint and reasonableness, you’d think I would be happy to hear him say this. I mean, I was withholding chocolate: there are some adults who would put up more of a fight if you took their supply away! (Not me of course, other adults).
Yet, as the final word left his mouth, I felt a pang of sadness. Not because I was secretly spoiling for a fight, or was trying to fatten him up, but because until that moment, the phrase he had always used was “I don’t matter.” And then usually in the sense of: “Please clean up your toys, this room is a MESS!” “No, I don’t matter that the room is messy, Mummy.”
I’ve always thought that this turn of phrase was rather sweet. So too, his use of the word “mines” instead of “mine” when referring to something belonging to him. Statements such as: “I’ll put mines in my bag/under my bed/on the table.” would usually cause my husband to quip “That sounds rather dangerous!”
But these are things he’s now growing out of and his six year old brother is even further down the developmental track. His only real regular mispronunciation is referring to the living room as the ‘liver room”, and I only really notice that because it sounds a bit revolting.
It makes me rather sad because experiencing my sons’ language develop has been one of the great joys of parenthood (so far) for me. I’ve cherished all the little words they’ve come out with that sound a bit – but not quite – like what they mean. Simple things like ‘brekkits’ for ‘breakfast’ and ‘crips’ instead of ‘crisps’ have become so ingrained that I unintentionally use them myself. More inventive words such as ‘landidoos’ for ‘dandilions’ and ‘dinsi-raah’ for ‘dinosaur’ have never failed to make me smile. Then there are the ones I’ve wished they wouldn’t use: I tried for months to stop my second-born (aged two) from yelling out “Big Cock!” whenever he saw a peacock…
There are also certain mishearings of phrases that have made me laugh. The bit in the Fireman Sam theme tune where both boys would enthusiastically belt out “Sam is the hearing storm!” was one I particularly enjoyed. I think Sam would probably prefer to be thought of as the ‘hero next door’ but on the other hand, a ‘hearing storm’ does sound rather intriguing.
I think my all time favourite though, is my oldest son’s use (aged two) of the word ‘wibberwoo’ for ‘living room’. It’s a word I still sometimes use now just because it’s so delicious to say.
I know that it’s great that my boys are learning to use language correctly. Of course it is. But sometimes I feel incredibly nostalgic for the times when their little voices spoke their own special tongue.
And incredibly happy that my seven-month-old has all of this beautiful word-wrangling ahead of him. I’ll be savouring every minute.