• Sandy Green


Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Little boy swinging from the bars on a playground on the beach

One of the most miraculous things about being a mother is watching your baby develop in front of your very eyes. They are born helpless, unable to do almost anything on their own. And you get to watch as they become human beings. My sister-in-law is going through one of those awe inspiring moments right now. Just a week ago, my nephew Judah was completely immobile. He could roll back and forth, but that was about it. And in less than 7 days, he's figured out how to crawl and is moving everywhere! He's even trying to stand up! "It's shocking and incredible to watch,'' she said in a family text message.

Avi is almost two and in my limited experience, the only development that has seemed more miraculous that becoming mobile is watching Avi learn to speak. It's been a slower process than learning how to walk. Avi picked that up rather quickly once he got the hang of it. But the art of verbal communication has been a slow and deliberate one to learn. The process really started about a year ago when Avi began to use sign language.

I give our nanny, Sarah, complete and total credit for this development. I certainly don't feel like I had anything to do with it. One day, I came home from work, and my baby was able to tell me he wanted 'more'! It was amazing. She taught him several signs that he used on a regular basis - ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘more’, ‘all done’, and ‘milk’. He didn't always use them correctly and he didn't use them consistently, but for the first time in his life, he was able to tell me what he wanted. And then the words came and my mind was blown.

Avi's first words were somewhat typical - Abba (Hebrew for Dad), Mama, and Bamba (Bamba is an Israeli peanut snack that Avi loved as a baby.) I marveled as each new word was added. It's a funny side note that even as he learned to use the actual words for ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘all done’, he continued to use the signs along with them! He actually still uses the sign for ‘please’ whenever he says it.

His most recent developments are the use of possessives (mommy's sunglasses) and full sentences (which blow me completely away every single time). "Abba, wake up!" He says to Jared in the morning.

One of the interesting things that I've noticed as Avi learns to talk is the difference between using language and comprehending language. Avi is a parrot and we can get him to say almost anything. There's nothing cuter than when he'll suddenly start repeating a phrase that I use. We like to look for school buses on the road and every time we see one, Avi asks for more. I started responding by saying, 'Let's keep our eyes open for more school buses'. Now every time we pass one, Avi says, 'More school buses, keep eyes open!' It's adorable, but I always wonder if he understands what he's saying.

I haven't done any actual research on this subject and I'm sure there are people who can explain to me just how this works, but the development of language and comprehension at this age astounds me. Avi listens to everything and then he experiments. He experiments with new words and phrases, almost playing with them. He pays attention to the reaction he gets. And then sometimes he incorporates them into his vocabulary. But it sometimes isn't until much later that he actually understands what he's saying. And I think that at times, he even attributes his own meaning to certain things. Because he can.

My brother's birthday was in April, right around the time when Avi's articulation was really getting good. We made a big deal about saying, 'Happy Birthday Uncle Mike!' and we practiced for several days. For weeks after, Avi would walk around the house saying it. My sister-in-law's birthday was in May and of course, we needed Avi to say happy birthday to her, as well. So we helped him practice saying 'Happy Birthday, Aunt Emma'. And now, Happy Birthday is one of his absolute favorite things to say.

When we get to school in the morning, Avi happily proclaims, 'Happy Birthday, Rosita!' to his teacher. When he's happy to see me, I get a 'Happy Birthday, Mommy!' And sometimes, we'll be in the car and Avi will go through people in his family, just for fun. 'Happy Birthday Mema, Happy Birthday Judah, Happy Birthday Grandpa'. The best is when he does it to inanimate objects. 'Happy Birthday choo choo train'. There's a sweetness and joy whenever he says it. He obviously doesn't know what a birthday is or why we're saying happy birthday. But that doesn't matter. I like to think he means, 'I'm thinking about you right now and I love you'. And what's better than that?


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