About two months ago, while I was in the midst of fretting over Nellie’s lack of bipedal locomotion, her vocabulary exploded and she started talking.

I’m not talking soliloquies or anything, but the kid just started naming things. Out of nowhere. She said “dada” on her 6 month birthday, and “mama” way later. She has always been really selective with “mama”. She usually only uses it when she either is mad, or wants something. Excellent.

Anyway. Nellie started to talk. One of the first words I noticed was “dog”. Now, to the average person who isn’t around my child as much as her father and I are, the way she says “dog” would not sound like “dog”. It sounds more like “d’g!”. The first few times she said it, I just responded with my usual non-committal acknowledgment of “Oh yeah?” or “Mmm hmm!”. But then she started pointing at actual dogs, saying “d’g!” and going “woof! Woof!”
And that’s when I realized my kid was actually realizing what a dog was and what sort of noise it made.

For about two weeks, everything that wasn’t a human was, “d’g! woof!”. We would correct her whenever she would point at one of our cats, and she got it relatively quickly. She can now tell the difference between a dog and a cat, and say “woof!” and “eeeoooowww” appropriately. She now can point out an elephant, cow, dog, cat, duck, and turkey and make the appropriate noise for each animal.

It’s absolutely incredible to see her picking up on these things that we had no idea she was listening to. Out of the blue, she began saying “juice”, “ball”, and “down”. I reaaaally need to stop saying things like “fuck” and “damnit” around her because one of these days she’s gonna walk up to her sweet Gran and be all, “Where’s my fucking juice, damnit?” and then I will melt into a puddle of shame.

Another thing I marveled at is how easily I understand her and what she wants. When I’m around other peoples’ toddlers, they’ll stand there and babble incessantly at me and I’ll just look down at them with a blank stare and nod:
Random Toddler: “AAAAAbadad ba fsh pffff baah GAAAAH!”
Me: “……………. Usually only on Wednesdays.”

But when Nellie points and says, “ffffsh!” I know she wants a goldfish cracker. When she looks at me while sitting in her high chair and urgently says, “dah! dah!” I know that she means “down”, even though it sounds similar to the way she says “dad” (“da”). I can tell the difference between “ba ba” (“banana”) and “bah bah” (“bye bye”). It’s astonishing to me that I can understand her cute little babble, even though it technically doesn’t really sound any differently than any other toddler’s.

I guess it’s just one of those things that takes me by surprise and makes me really feel my role as a parent. Even her grandparents don’t always know what she’s saying, but Josh and I do. We can tell what our sweet little lady is trying to say, and it kinda makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and maternal inside.