Thursday, October 11, 2007

beyond words

The little girl says few words that are clearly distinguishable, but boy, can she communicate. She babble and prattles but now, at age six, she is no longer just "jargoning," in speech therapy parlance. She is not just imitating the patterns of her mother tongue, she is saying words and sentences she understands--she knows what she is talking about. She approximates, and very often we can understand what she is saying. We also become accustomed to her usual approximations, familiar phrases--"Mom, could I please have some water" sounds like "Mom. Quee-eye-buppa water?"

She does have this habit, when she is denied a request, of simply repeating that request, several times if necessary. Repetition, to Stella, seems to be a mode of argument. It is frustrating sometimes, but I find that if I alter my response to avoid the actual word "No," she will capitulate and often let the issue drop. At bedtime, for example:

"Mom, can I have a book?"
"No, Stella. It's time for sleepies."
"Mom, can I have a a book?" (identical inflection)
"No, Stella. I told you. It's late, you've been put to bed, it's time to sleep."
"Mom--" pause until she has my attention again-- "Can I have a book?"
I come in close, kiss, snuggle her neck. "Nighty night."
At this point, she gives in and settles down.


Why do I write? I write because Stella cannot, because she may never be able to get down on paper her own experience. I write because I need to tell what it is like, what it is like to be her (I conjecture this), I write to exorcise guilt, I write to ask questions like, "Does she understand why I slapped her hands for going on the roof or slapped her bottom for pooping in her pull-up?" (Is it just about me making sure that she is properly afraid, that she learns to sense danger or at least builds a store in her memory of what things and places are dangerous? In trying to ward off danger, Mommy becomes the danger.)

I write because no one else can get to know this little girl in the way I can, because no one else is her mother. I write because I need to learn what it truly means to be her mother, I write to instruct myself in how to live this life.

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