Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pointing It Out

Mihret has now taken to pointing at things. This is a normal developmental step that pretty much every book will tell you is exactly what she should be doing at this point.

The problem came when we tried to figure out what she wanted. “Da!” she would say. “Da! Da!”

The word “Da!” rhymes with cat, by the way.

For a long time, we thought she was saying some variation of “Daddy” or “Da-da,” but no, it seems she’s saying, “That!”

Or perhaps, “That?”

This is also a pretty common baby term, at least in my experience. A couple of years ago Kara and I offered to babysit for a friend of ours whose daughter was about two at the time.

Kara referred to it as practice, but I don’t really think of babysitting as practice. If you’re getting paid for it, it’s like any job. You take a certain amount of the good with the bad, and at the end of the day you collect a check.

If you’re doing it out of the kindness of your heart (as we were) you hope that the kid is reasonably well-behaved (she was great) and once the kid gets bored with you, you’re mostly stuck sitting around waiting for the parents to come back so you can go back to doing whatever you do with your free time.

As we all know, parenting isn’t like that at all. No one is coming to rescue you, and no one is going to give you money. Sounds like a horror movie, almost, only with baby cuteness thrown in.

Our friend’s daughter was (and still is) really into books, so we spent most of the time reading. We’d open a book, and look at something, and then it was a race of sorts.

Sometimes she would point at a picture, and say, “What’s dat?” And I would tell her that it was a doggy, or a kitty, or whatever it was.

Otherwise, I would turn the page, point, and say, “What’s that?” Then the onus would be on her to name the object in question.

Other times, I would turn it around on her. I’d get a “What’s dat?” And I would say, “That’s a doggy. What does a doggy say?”

Then it was her job to say, “Woof, woof.”

Returning to the subject of my own kiddo, I’m often a little perplexed as to what she’s pointing at. I get a pointer finger and an eager “Da!” and she could be pointing at just about anything in the general direction of “in front of her.”

So then I’m forced to walk her over to the area she’s looking at, point DIRECTLY at one of the objects, and say, “Coffee table.” Or, “Couch.” Or, “That’s your ball. Is that your ball? That’s your ball!”

Because parenting is all about confirmation and enthusiasm.

The “Is that your…?” variation of the game was introduced by Kara, for reasons I’m not certain of.

More recently, Mihret has added a new word that we’re only about 50% sure we understand.

A few weeks ago, my parents were watching Mihret when she said, clear as day, “Na-na.” Since my mother was giving her bananas at the time, she figured that her granddaughter had learned the word “Banana,” or at least the childhood variation of it.

Of course, Kara and I never heard her say it, ever. And we encouraged her, offering her bananas and treats made from bananas right and left. Never a “Na-na!” was heard.

Until the other night, when we were giving her foods that didn’t resemble bananas even in the slightest.

This puzzled us. There were no bananas anywhere. And yet, she was pointing and saying, “Na-na!” in a tone that indicated, roughly, that she was very displeased with our performance as parents, and for the love of all that is good can we not just give her what she wants?

After much head-scratching, we determined that what she wanted was her drink. “Na-na,” it seems, means some variation of, “Want that!”

We think. Or it could be, “I demand a beverage!” We may never know.


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