As soon as a baby is born, we work to learn their language, and they ours.
Each cry means something different. Each coo, burble, and shriek conveys an idea and it’s our job to interpret as best we can.
We try to learn and we struggle to communicate. So it goes with baby sign language, toddler babbles, preschool mispronunciations, elementary school obsessions.
Right now I’m learning two languages.
The simultaneous rise in importance of proprietary LEGO languages, Pokemon lingo, and team sport jargon have been relatively easy to pick up. All I need to do with my seven-year-old teacher is show interest, and he’ll explain everything. Somewhat patiently. He gets rather mad when I can’t remember which ninja possesses which fictional power, but I suppose he gets impatience and a resistance to foolishness from the X chromosome I gave him. And so I forgive. And learn.
The three-year-old is very insistent that I learn his language, and that I respond appropriately to every cue. He has many rules and is dogmatic about proper adherence. This is more difficult, since he’s taken to spelling his secret language.
“P.O.B., Mom!” he’ll shout.
“Um, okay!” I’ll offer.
“No. Mom. P.O.B. means look at me right now this very minute.”
Okeedokee. Except that pob doesn’t mean look at me. Neither do any of the other words you’re spelling.
Today P.U.V. meant please take off my shoes. And if I forgot that, even once, he screamed. “MOM! P.U.V.! Don’t you know what that means?”
Nope. I don’t. Because it’s pretend, you’re a tyrant, and I don’t like this game. “I forgot, pumpkin. You have to remind people gently when you’re teaching them.”
“Hey, Mom. P.O.C.”
“P.O.C.? What does that mean?”
“Moooooom! You said it so you should know it.”
“Um…okay. P.O.C. means I should turn off the hose.”
“No, mom. Workers never turn off the hose. P.O.C. means please dig with me.”
“Babe, you know I’m the sweeping worker and the paint worker and the mower worker but I’m not the digging worker.”
Oh, dear goddess, as tempted as I am to say,”right back at you,” please tell me that doesn’t mean what I think it means.
“What does P.O.S. mean?”
“It means let’s go. Time to work.”
“Okay, buddy. Let’s go work.”
Just please tell me you won’t holler P.O.S at me when we’re in public. Because I’m pretty sure with your brother’s penchant for profanity and your high volume, we’re in for a rough time explaining things to your respective schools.
P.O.S, y’all. P.O.S.