We're All Damaged

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Baby of No

I’ll be the first to admit that my 15-month-old daughter’s vocabulary is nothing to notify the folks at Mensa about yet. She’s recently started randomly saying the word “flower.” She’s also got about a dozen half-words that come and go when she’s feeling chatty. Like most toddlers though, her preferred method of discourse is to point at things and then grunt and/or scream until someone brings them to her.

But there’s one word that she’s mastered, and that’s the word “no.” Because this is the only weapon in her verbal arsenal, so to speak, she uses it liberally and with little regard for context.

For example, I might say, “Hey, Caroline, do you want some more milk?”, to which she’ll reply “no” in this bored, indifferent kind of way, and then she’ll go back to jamming my car keys into the electrical outlets or trying to find a way to fall down the stairs into our basement.

Then, on a different day, I’ll ask her an equally innocuous question and get a far more dramatic response. “Hey, Caroline, do you want to put your socks on?”, and then I’ll watch as she springs to her feet and runs away shouting “no no no no” before hiding under the kitchen table for half an hour.

As far as I know, her relationship with socks so far has been fairly uneventful. Apparently sometimes she just really, really doesn’t want to wear them. That seems reasonable enough.

Tonight though, things took an ominous turn. I was making dinner and spacing off as she knocked things noisily around the kitchen, and then toddled over and looked at me very seriously. “Da-da,” she said, shaking her head. “Noooooooooooo.” And then she said it again. “Noooooooo.”

I hadn’t asked her anything. As far as I know, we hadn’t spoken in several minutes. The only logical explanation, of course, is that my daughter is able to read my mind. I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking at that moment, but I’ve known myself long enough to know that it was probably something neurotic, stupid, or just plain self-destructive.

Should I write a vampire book? It’d be cool if I brought the sideburns back, right? Maybe drinking more on weekdays would help me be more relaxed? I bet I’d look edgier if I got a tattoo. I wonder if I should put Caroline’s socks on?

“No, Da-da. For the love of God, noooooooooooooo.”

She’s right. I definitely shouldn’t.


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