Wednesday, June 3, 2009

i'm getting it all off my chest

this morning:

ava, incredulously: daddy was a missionary?

me: yes.

ava, again incredulous: mommy was a bride?

me: yes.

ava, no longer incredulous but instead bored: oh. that's so cute.

sometimes i feel patronized. which makes me think, does she speak this way because i speak this way? do i, despite my disgust for people who use baby voices and baby words, do it anyway?

if i do, ugh. i mean really: UGH.

ava, seth and i spent a morning not to long ago at our local barnes & noble for a little storytime and train table playing. this is especially interesting to watch because ava doesn't really care about trains. not in the normal drive-it-around-the-track-making-choo-choo-noises sort of way. she spends a lot of time parking the trains in the garage and announcing that the trains are at home, that they are sleeping and that they need silence (dark looks may or may not be cast at other noisy children who are choo-chooing pleasantly along the track with their little engines that can). this hardly ever works out because a train without a hand on it is a train up for grabs and some of these little thomas the tank engine fans like to have as many cars lined up as possible. this means that the most commonly heard phrase at the train table is, "you need to give that little kid a train." and it is spoken in a loving, yet stern and naturally, very patronizing baby voice.

so there we were at the train table: ava was patiently putting her trains to bed and seth was gumming the train table despite all of my attempts to interest him in something- anything! else. i swear, that child heard about the swine flu and is determined to get it. there was only one other child there. his name was oliver. his mother called him everything but that. "ollie, baby boy, sweet boy, baby ollie, love, cutie, sweetie, lovie, ol-ol, olli-o, etc. etc." and she said it all in the HIGHEST pitch i've ever heard. in fact, it was so high i thought it was one of those ringtones that adults aren't supposed to hear. i could hardly stand it! HARDLY! STAND! IT! it was so high! and the boy wasn't even responding! how is your child going to learn to be an intelligent member of society if his own parents won't treat him like a human? and on top of all that, oliver had a dirty diaper. and it really STUNK. later, ava, seth and i were looking at the blank journals and i smelled it again. i popped my head up, looked high and low and then, from somewhere far away i heard her, "ollie, sweetie, little boy, are you ready to go bye-bye? can you put that coo-choo down and come with mommy? please? ollie-ollie, baby boy? are you listening to mommy? cutie pie, did you hear what mommy said?" and i shuddered then inwardly i screamed and begged to her to PLEASE! FOR THE LOVE OF PETE! STOP IT!!! for two reasons: 1. she hadn't changed oliver's diaper yet. and, 2. i hate it when people beg their children in sugary-sweet tones. you don't beg your children unless you've been thoroughly conquered, your child is hopped up on sugar and you're still wearing pajamas and it's five o'clock in the evening. plus, you've had to start drinking again just to cope. again, i ask: how does a child learn normal patterns of speech and any sort of vocabulary if you refuse to speak with normals patterns of speech and a normal vocabulary? are we planning on letting thomas the tank engine teach our children? because i saw an episode once and thomas likes to compliment people/fellow trains with the phrase, "thanks ____. you're really useful." and i just don't know about that. what is it teaching our children? that being useful is the best? that people should be used? that we should speak patronizingly with our praise?

i feel so much better. so i think i'll continue: do you know what is even worse than oliver's mother? dads that baby talk.


perhaps i'm particularly sensitive to this because i worked for a CRAZY family once and the parents baby talked to an EXTREME. ESPECIALLY the dad. i remember one day ryan came to pick me up and was waiting in the house for me to be done while dad was doing something and when ryan heard dad his eyes got HUGE and he had this look on his face like he was either going to laugh or he was going to die. then dad did it again and ryan's grew worse. by the time we got out of there, ryan's eyes were the size of beach balls and he couldn't speak for fear of screaming what he was thinking (which was probably, "GOOD NIGHT MAN! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???"). luckily, rodge managed to keep it all together. that's why i married him. he's as cool as a cucumber. sadly, i am not. so when ryan wore his funny expression and pointed at dad's back, i snorted loudly in my attempt to keep it together. dad then turned around and gave me a funny look. i shrugged, looked odd and waved cheerfull. later on, it was that moment i thought back to when the mother of this house informed me that they'd had nanny-cams installed and i FREAKED out on the outside and wondered what i had while they weren't looking that could get me fired. that was what i thought of. i think that means i was a dang good nanny. also, a pushover. because once she told me that i didn't quit. i have no idea why not. i totally should have.

i digress.

i'm not talking about dads that melt all over their children, or even men in general who melt all over children in general (quick story: tyson's dad was an intimidating presence until he got seth in his arms and hugged and kissed him to death. he's the kind of man i'm referencing right now. not silly, just loving). i'm talking about voices so high you're convinced they got kicked in the you-know-what. and the silliness! for example, the word (if that is what it is), "num-nums". i hate that word.

this all comes down to the fact that when ava offers a pity laugh at my lame attempt at a joke, or when she sweetly attempts to convey some interest in our topic of conversation i am suddenly seized by the fear that i have taught her to be patronizing by being patronizing myself.

but then i remember the time she was two days old and her pediatrician visited her in the nicu and said something in a sugary-sweet voice and she rolled her eyes at him. and i thought, "that is TOTALLY my child." perhaps i was "blessed" with a child as sensitive to cheesiness as i am. and perhaps she patronizes because she hasn't learned how to curb that yet. this gives me two choices: i can teach her how to be polite even when people are being idiots or i can watch, wish i was so bold and laugh on the inside.

i choose the latter. at least for now.


cara lou said...

Haha! Seriously, what is up with some people? The baby talk drives me nuts. Especially when adults pronounce words back to childern the same way the kid is saying the word. How's that kid ever going to learn how to pronounce the word correctly if you're always saying it wrong yourself?

Or, even worse, adults making up baby talk words FOR the kid (ie "num-nums"). My father-in-law always refers to himself as "gaaampaw". It makes me want to strangle him.

I've gotten remarks from strangers several times along the lines of "I love the way you talk to your baby. Like he's a real person!"

Morgan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and couldn't agree more with everything that you had to say. It's really all too true, and all too sad. and yes, very funny, too:)

Erica said...

I don't want to burst your bubble, but baby talk (high pitches, drawing out vowels, or adding more vowels to words) actually helps children hear words and learn them faster. Babies hear higher pitches and vowels more easily, so those who engage in baby talk are doing their children a favor (that's why its a such a natural thing for mothers to do).

The only languages that don't have parents engaging in any sort of baby talk are some languages in the Polynesian islands. The parents don't use baby talk because their language is already filled with vowels, thus conducive to baby ears.