‘Can I please have some apple juice?’
A simple question from Quinn, 5. A perfectly fine sentence. Pronunciation: great. Syntax: acceptable. Manners, even: check. Not perfect grammar (can/may), but still, it was a pretty good sentence.
And that’s the point. It was pretty good. As in, not awkward, adorable or funny. Sadly, Quinn is past Kiddian, the era of kidspeak starting shortly after meaningless babble ends and before halfway-crisp speech begins.
Sawyer, 2, is now in it.
There’s something about Kiddian that’s pitch-perfect, that causes parents to revel so much in it. I think it’s the balance of it, the combination of utility and innocence that comes from a kid being able to tell you what he wants, and having some sense of confidence about it, but still never saying anything quite right. You no longer have to guess at what a kid is saying, but they’re still sweetly imperfect. In other words, it’s in the parent wheelhouse: It makes life easier (we like that) but still gives you warm-and-fuzzy kid theater (we like that, too).
The Kiddianisms come at a time when they’re chattering constantly — precisely because their speech is still new, even to them, and they seem to understand that they’re not quite doing it right and need to practice. So a household with a kid at this stage is filled with a never-ending audio blizzard of honeyed verbal butcherings filled with slurred syllables, off-kilter verbs, garbled consonants and caveman-isms, all delivered in a kind of squeaky, glazed, gender-neutral pitch.
Quinn is past this stage.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Quinn can say things the right way. I spent years going out of my way to avoid babyspeak and to over-enunciate so he could hear words said the right way.
But there’s an irony in parenting: We want our kids to ‘develop,’ to move on to the next stage, but, once they reach it, we’re immediately wistful about the prior stage. This, I think, has a lot to do with why some parents who had two kids in their late 20s/early 30s seemingly go insane and have a third in their mid to late 40s. They get wistful, so much so that they can no longer take it. Another kid is the solution — although, of course, not a perfect one. That newest one will eventually move on, inexorably, from stage to stage just like the others did.
What’s worse: Jen and I have forgotten most of Quinn’s gems, although we haven’t forgotten the best one: ‘Neeno’ for yogurt, a favorite because it bears so little resemblance to the real word. There were also a couple of great ones he used for Amanda: ‘Addah’ which evolved into ‘Adeedah.’
So, before I forget Sawyer’s, here’s a list of some of his pitch-perfect Kiddianisms:
Eye deer: Right there
Ear our one: Where’s the other one?
Ee eww: Thank you
Eckum: You’re welcome
Okkah bah: Soccer ball
Tommish: Thomas (as in ‘Thomas the Train’)
Eye keem: Ice cream
Yesh (recently evolved from ‘Esh’): Yes
Lie pop: Lollipop
Uh-den: Again (usually said with exclamation-point urgency as in, ‘Do it again!’)
Top it: Stop it
Fah off: Fall off
Tie it?: Can I try it?
Ah bite?: Can I have a bite?