A couple of weeks ago, the health visitor suggested to Barry that Jamie’s dummy might be slowing down his speech and that it would be worth cutting down on the amount of time he spends using it. So, Barry and I made a few mildly assiduous attempts to leave it behind and distract him from it during the day, without ever making a big deal out of it when he really wanted it or getting into a struggle over it, and, after a few days of this, I suddenly noticed that he’d been through the whole day and only had the dummy at naptime and bedtime. The same happened again the following day. After that, we decided to make it official.
We don’t make a big thing out of it, but, when he gets up in the morning, whichever of us is taking care of him sneaks the dummy away in a moment of genuine or manufactured distraction (his morning swig of milk is a prime opportunity) and leaves it in his bed or ours, somewhere out of sight. Then it gets given back to him at naptime and removed similarly at the end of naptime, until the final countdown before bedtime, when, at some stage, it will find its way back into his mouth again. On one occasion a day or two ago, when he was clearly a bit miserable and just seemed to need a moment of lying down with the dummy and a cuddle, I let him have it for that time and then took it away from him once he wanted to get up and run around, which then required taking him downstairs to distract him from it. But, overall, he has given it up during the daytime. And done so with astonishingly little difficulty. I think he must just have been ready enough only to need the smallest of nudges. I must say, it’s a bloody relief not to always be trying to track the damn things down or rinse them off when he’s dropped them on the floor.
Not only is this a notable and unexpected milestone in its own right, but it also appears to be having the desired effect. In the past couple of weeks, Jamie has come up with more new words than he did in the couple of years before that. His choices are somewhat idiosyncratic, and quite an intriguing example of his interests. Here’s the list so far, in the order he started saying them as best as I could remember it, with the intended word followed by the Jamie version in brackets:
Four (Hoor. An unfortunate mispronunciation, as Barry points out, although not as unfortunate as Tertia’s son’s pronunciation of ‘truck’.)
We are also fairly sure about ‘blue’ (‘Buh’), and we have as-yet-unconfirmed hearings of ‘red’ (‘Rrrr’) and ‘banana’ (‘Nah’).
Plus, he is saying letters. Lots of letters. I would have put those on the list as well – they may not technically be words, but, since they’re sounds that represent things he sees, I don’t see why they shouldn’t count as words from the perspective of a toddler learning to talk – but he has picked so many up so quickly that there’s no way I could remember the order in which he started saying them. I know his first was ‘G’ (‘Goodnight Moon’), but after that they blur. However, the letters that I have definitely heard him say at one point or another include A, B, D, G, H, M, N, O, P, R, T, U, V, and Y. He pronounces some of these as letter names, and some of them as sounds (except for ‘O’, which he pronounces with a peculiarly Scottish accent to sound like the ‘O’ sound in ‘Och’. Perhaps he’s been watching too much Balamory.)
(I’m going to need to write posts more quickly if I’m going to keep up with my son. He’s added ‘E’ to that list since I wrote it last night.)
By the way, those are just the letters that he’ll actually have a go at saying. He knows most, and quite possibly all, of the rest. (I’ve never officially been right through and checked, but he seems to be getting them right on a regular basis on the electronic widget my grandmother gave him for Christmas.)
His favourite word is definitely ‘Three’ (which was also his favourite number to point to, even before he learned to say it). He toddles round the house piping "Three! Three!" with an accuracy that is slightly eerie in a child who has been so non-verbal. He remains fascinated by numbers generally. One result of this is that it’s more obvious than is usual with a toddler when he’s trying to come out with new ones as opposed to just uttering grunts, because they’re in a sequence. Hence, he’s taken to pointing at the ‘1, 2, 3’ on the back of his ride-on car or on the front of his numbers book and saying "Unh, unh, three". (And, no, I don’t have an explanation for how he can pronounce ‘three’ and not ‘one’ or ‘two’. It seems like it ought to defy the laws of something-or-other.)
Yesterday evening, he was sitting on my lap at the dinner table as I hastily finished off my last few bites of potato. I’d pushed the plate out of his reach so that he couldn’t grab my food, thus exposing the pattern of three leaves in a row on the placemat. Jamie pointed at each of them in turn saying "Unh, unh, three". He gets it! He’s starting to understand that numbers aren’t just decorations – he’s starting to get the concept of counting!
But, for now, the biggest fascination seems to be just in saying the numbers. This makes shopping trips fun. He already loves pointing at all the numbers he sees on price tags, and now he also pipes up with "Three", "Hoor", or "Nye" as he points emphatically at the appropriate digits. If we see a woman with a 4 on her clothing at any point, we could be in for an interesting Embarrassing Moment story.