Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Discovering the Toddler's Favorite Pronoun

It used to be that bubs exclusively referred to himself in the second person. "You want to go outside," he'd whine, hanging on the door handle. "You excited!" when asked if he wanted to go to Baby Gym, the padded room populated with gymnastic mats, a ball pit, and a jumping house at our Y. "That's your doggie," he'd say, planting kisses on his stuffed dog's crusty fur. "That's not what you want!" he'd blubber when offered cheddar rather than string cheese.

It made sense. "You" was, after all, the pronoun we used to refer to him. And it was cute. Something to make his parents smile even during a major scream-fest. The experts would probably tsk-tsk me for this one, but I never corrected him. I have to admit I hoped he would hold onto the habit for a while, while knowing full well something that cute probably couldn't last with a child so linguistically inclined.

True enough. In the past few weeks, a new word has surfaced in my little guy's vocabulary, the toddler's favorite pronoun, and he has taken to it with gusto.

"That's mine!" he shouts now, his small body filled with the appropriate toddler rage. "That's mine computer," he says, as he performs a defensive block to keep me from accessing Mikhail's computer left open on the couch. "That's mine sunglasses," as he grabs the lenses off my head. And sometimes, in his mind justifiably so, "that's mine toy!" when a playmate goes for something he's occupied with. 

But the best use of the pronoun yet happened yesterday when Mikhail, his brother, and his sister took Elan to the park. When they got there, they had the playground to themselves. Elan was having a ball on the play structure when suddenly, an interloper arrived. A slightly older boy who cluelessly thought he had equal rights. The boy started up the ladder, following behind Elan, who had frozen in place with shock at the trespass. Elan placed one hand firmly on each handrail, puffed his narrow shoulders up with indignation, and bellowed:

"No! Mine! It's mine park!"

I can laugh because I wasn't there. Though I suspect, I might have giggled a little to myself even I had been Parent On Duty at the moment.

Later, once Mikhail had managed to de-arm the warhead, Elan rediscovered his manners. As park time came to an end, he looked at the boy's red car-themed Crocs and declared, "I like your shoes."

Ah, pronouns. How civilized they can be.

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