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How Many Words Does Your Child Have?

August 31, 2012

I was at the park the other day, frolicking in the sun with Lucien. A fire truck drove by and a little boy, around 14 months-old, looked in its direction and said, “Teh.”

Mother responds, “Truck! Yes, that’s a truck! You are so smart! How many words does your son have?”

I look around, a little confused. That kid definitely did not say ‘truck.’

“Me? I mean, him?” I’m confused, pointing at my own child.

“Yes! He’s adorable. How old is he?” And again, she asks, “How many words does he have?”

“He’s 20 months. He says ‘Mom’ and ‘Dada,’ and I think, ‘kitty.’ He says ‘meh’ when he sees milk, so maybe he ‘has’ that, too. He babbles constantly, but who really knows if he’s saying actual words, right? I mean how much of baby vocabulary is really just us projecting legitimate words onto the grunts they make, right? Am I right?”

“Ummm, sure. Well…bye!”

Clearly that’s not what she wanted to hear. I need to learn to play along better. Next time, I’ll be ready with something more interesting to add to our conversation about early childhood development. It will go something like this:

“How many words does your son have?”

“He said, ‘ahh’ while pointing in the direction of a wedge that holds our front door open, which I’m taking to mean ‘Isosceles Triangle,’ because it really looks like one. He is part Greek, after all. In other things Greek, he’s also exhibiting that he doesn’t have an affinity for debt management, as he still hasn’t paid his ER bill from three months ago. Also, while we were reading his ‘First Words’ book the other day, he looked visibly bored and said, ‘Enn.’ I’m taking that to mean ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ and have ordered the complete set for his reading pleasure. That will be waaaay more stimulating that these ‘First Words’ bullshit board books, don’t you think? Imagine how many words he’ll ‘have’ after perusing those!”

I’m sure it’s just harmless chitchat, but I don’t really get what the, “What is your baby doing?” questions are all about. Isn’t that why we have the Internet and Babycenter? They both provide endless charts and graphs that A) assure us we have bred a fully capable being, or B) convince us all that drug use in our early twenties is actually making a baby we had 15 years later learn things slower.

Basically, what I am saying is this: Lucien didn’t crawl until he was seven months old, walk until he was 14 months old, and now he is 20 months old and has his own, wonderful babble-language. He is fully engaged and incredibly happy. I honestly don’t know how many words he ‘has,’ but like everything else, he’ll have them when he’s good and ready.

Guerrilla Mom, aka Maria Guido, is a former free-wheeling, joke-telling, drink-slinging artist and current obsessive-compulsive mommy. She’s a 38-year-old bartender raising a toddler in the most expensive neighborhood in Brooklyn, with no family in state, no nanny, and no savings account to speak of. Read more at Guerrilla Mom

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