Need help with a toddler’s vocabulary — pease

My wife and I spent the past several months attempting to help our son Ben develop a large vocabulary. And it’s working. So far he can say “fire truck” and the word that describes the sound of firemen spraying water on a fire, which is “spoowoosh!” in case you don’t speak 2-year-old boy.

We want to hear what he’s thinking, specifically, the reason why he’d prefer to eat a cigarette butt off the ground than his mom’s lasagna.

So we’re working on his vocabulary by reading books. Every night we read the same three firemen books, all of which have similar, intricate plot lines: There’s a fire. The firemen race to the fire. They put it out. Sometimes he tries to read along with us (“Fire truck. Spoowoosh!”). If his pronunciation gets any worse, he’ll get recruited to work in Dell’s customer service department.

The other day I watched the kids alone as my wife ran errands. Naturally, when the coast was clear, I ate an entire box of Tagalongs. (Our country’s obesity problem lies solely on the green sash-covered shoulders of the Girl Scouts of America).

Two-year-olds can’t recognize the gag-inducing stench of their own diaper five inches from their nose, but they can smell sweets from 30 feet away. He ran up, saw the cookies and pointed: “Pease?”

So I opened up a can of peas for him, but he must have changed his mind because he got really upset and didn’t even touch the peas. He cried the whole way to Safeway, where I went to pick up a replacement box of Tagalongs to prevent Marie from accusing me of eating them all, even though we both know she cheated on me by hiding a box of Thin Mints in the freezer.

My point is that you can teach your 2 year old to speak and even have conversations, just so long as the conversation is about fire trucks.

Your worst fear as a parent is that you’ll be at a gathering with the parents of other 2-year-olds, only all of those children will be speaking and enunciating clearly and discussing things such as how the meteorological impacts of the El Niño will lesson western U.S. drought conditions vis-a-vis increasing water basin levels, and all eyes will turn to your kid who stands there with a stupid look on his face and says, “Pee pee?”

Ben recently had his two-year check up. It’s typical now for your pediatrician to inquire about your child’s mental development.

Pediatrician: “Roughly how many words does your son speak?”

ME: (thinking): “Let’s see ... hmm ... including the words ‘fire’ and ‘truck?’”

Pediatrician: “Yes.”

ME: “Two.”

Pediatrician: “Just two?”

Me: “Is ‘Spoowooosh’ a word? How about ‘pease?’”

I felt like I was playing Scrabble.

The pediatrician said experts recommend you speak as many non-cuss words as possible to your child. We do this all day, specifically words such as “NO!” “GO TO TIMEOUT” OR “STOP CHEWING ON BARBIE’S FOOT!”

It’s not like we enjoy spending all day yelling at him, we’d much prefer to yell at each other instead. Plus toddlers need positive encouragement, even when it’s very hard to find something worthy of praise. “Good job! You went four minutes without trying to put the dump truck on your sister’s head.”

Speaking of which, thank God for her. Couples have multiple children out of necessity; they need someone to translate for the other kids.

ME: (Placing a bowl of Cheerios in front of Ben): Here’s some cereal!

BEN: Nahgwah creech nan toke.

ME: Huh?

MARILEE: He said he wants apple juice and toast.

Eventually, he’ll speak (I hope), and grow up to be incredibly bright — probably the class valedictorian — and he’ll stand in front a packed stadium and deliver a captivating graduation speech filled with words sure to inspire:

“Fire truck. Spoowoosh!”

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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