THE BLOG

Learning New Words

12/13/2012 12:00 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2013

My son, Eddie, is almost 21 months old, and he can now say "Up," "Hello," "Bye," "Mine," and "Popeye," the name of the pit-bull who lives down the street. Soon, he'll actually be able to say the word "Pit-bull," and he can then teach it to the man who owns the dog, who apparently has never heard of one because he claims his dog is every other breed except for that one.

Eddie says, "Mommy/daddy/daddy/mommy," woven together so tightly, I can see why kids have so much trouble when their parents divorce.

He likes to say, "Why?" but not in that kiddie-oh-my-God-if-he-asks-me-that-one-more-time-I'll-hang-myself kind of "Why?" His is more of a little "Why?," an innocent, hollow little "Why?" devoid of meaning and uttered like one might say "Shoe," or "Ball."

One of his first words was "No," but I've learned that he doesn't necessarily mean it. Do you want some apple? No. I then give him a piece of apple, and he readily takes it. Raisins? No, but really yes. More oatmeal? No! As he helps himself to another spoonful.

Sometimes, this No-Means-Yes game confuses me. This morning, he sat in the bath and whenever I'd walk over to my computer in the adjacent room, he'd yell out, "Mama!" as if he wanted me to take him out of the bath. I walked back over to the bath and said, "You wanna come out?"

"No."

"Okay," I said and started to walk away.

"Mama!"

I turned around. "You wanna come out now and have breakfast?"

"No," he said and started playing with his bath toys again.

"You sure?"

"Up," he said.

"You want me to pick you up? You want to come out?" I said, reaching down to lift him out of the tub.

"No," he said and went back to playing.

My head hurt.

At dinner, I gave him some apple sauce for dessert, and he said, "No." I told my husband, "Watch. He really wants it. He sometimes says, 'No,' now, when he really means, 'Yes.' I don't think he really knows what 'No' means yet," I said with the authority of someone who spends a lot of time with their child.

And with that, Eddie nearly flipped the bowl of apple sauce off the edge of his high chair.

"I could be wrong," I said.

At our last visit to the pediatrician, she asked me if Eddie had begun to speak. I told her he says some words now, but he wasn't yet saying complete sentences. She said he may not speak at this point, but he probably has 100% comprehension.

100% comprehension, I thought. That's more than me! There's so much I'm yet to understand. Forget "Why is the sky blue?" I want to understand why the fellow writer I consoled on my writer's forum didn't write back to me when I sent him an email, or why I handed a perfectly good story in to an editor four months ago, and he still hasn't printed it? Why is it the person who spaces out the most when I'm speaking is my husband? How come so many crap blogs have a large readership, and mine, which people say they love, still has just a few dozen regular readers? I'll ask these questions of my son later. For now, he's busy pulling tissues out of a tissue box and putting them up to his nose and saying, "Achoo!"

Eddie actually does seem to understand a lot, though in that way people who speak another language sometimes seem to understand you. They'll say, "Yes, yes," and nod their heads, and then you find they painted all of the oak wood trim that you'd just stripped. After Eddie finished his bottle the other morning, I told him to share it with his stuffed animal monkey, and he did. He took the bottle and began feeding the monkey. He then grabbed it away from the monkey, and said, "Mine!"

He likes to sit on my lap when I'm at my desk because I have a drawer full of stickers and pens and highlighters that he uses to draw all over my paperwork. I don't always let him up there because I sometimes have to work, and he gets in the way of my typing. The other day, a friend gave us a plastic chair for Eddie. It's a children's chair about two feet high, just the right height for him to sit at his kiddie activity table. I watched him carry the chair into my office and place it on the floor at the base of my desk, thinking it would be the same as sitting in my desk chair. It reminded me of that scene in the book, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," when the narrator says another planet aimed all of its rockets and ships and destroyers and sent them barreling toward earth, and after they entered our atmosphere they were swallowed up by a small dog, due to a miscalculation of scale.

Eddie has also gotten good at repeating things. The other day, we were out at my mother- and father- in laws' farm, where they have horses of every color and size. Eddie saw a pony up the hill, and my husband told him the pony's name was Bobby. I then heard a small little voice say, "Bobby."

My mother-in-law then said that she was talking to a veterinarian, who said Bobby was possibly the oldest pony in existence.

"Oldest?" I said. "I thought a pony was a baby horse?"

My mother-in-law began to laugh. In fact I don't think I've ever seen her laugh like that.

Apparently, that's not what a pony is. I guess we're all still learning new words.

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