Whenever we’ve been struggling a bit with the whole parenting thing, something seems to present itself to make us feel competent again. After a handful of unsettled nights and grouchy days Lorelei had her 12 month check-up, and I feel so proud of how she’s grown up and how we’ve helped her.
When I was asked about her language development, whether there were three words she says constantly and clearly, I realised there are four. Besides the inevitable “Mama” and “Dada” she also says “star” and “there”, emphasised by her newly discovered finger pointing. Daddy and I have both been reading to her since she was a newborn, and it’s wonderful that a simple thing we both enjoy doing has helped her express herself.
Looking back over a year of memories with her, you can really tell how a few small things can add up to a lot for a growing youngling. Like her noises, noticing them, repeating and laughing at them. It felt impossible for us not to when she sounded like a wound-up taun-taun or a cooing BB-8 in full force, but they were her first conversations. Soon she’d echo them back or even mimic the sounds we made, suddenly getting the joke or the fun in them, razzing us becoming the building blocks of words.
Her world is still full of incomprehensible ‘stuff’. I scare myself sometimes imagining what it must be like not to know that a chair’s a chair, or the name of the wind that thrills her when it blows through her hair. It’s a little world of huge questions she doesn’t know the words to ask. But we help her the only way we can, by pointing at the river that runs through our town and saying “Look, there’s a duck!”. It feels somehow ridiculous from an adult perspective, but knowing that we see a thing and smile and don’t feel scared must help her to open up and learn.
So we curl up on the floor, the three of us with her storybooks (or even our own, because who says you have to stick to baby books?) and show her the wonder in the weirdness from the safety of her home. We remember our own childhood selves, the fear and awe we felt then, and we hope we can be her best teachers. We hope that we can encourage her not to be frightened of the things that should bring her joy. We lay the groundwork for her to say the things that matter to her, and kindly. She will grow beyond us, and it starts with a few little words.