On reading the title, you might anticipate a post stuffed with pearls of wisdom about how to communicate with infants. If so, click away now. Baby whisperer I am not.
There is, however, an alternative parenting language that I became fluent in with relative ease. You may have done so too. See if you recognise any of these little foibles in your day-to-day speech...
Embedded in your psyche from when you were a child, these come flooding back unbidden. Little gems such as "Look at me when I'm talking to you" and "What's the magic word?" become a regular part of your vocabulary. Admit it: Who's almost said the latter to a sulky checkout assistant?
I'm not just talking about calling a plate a "thingmejig". Oh no. There's an element of creativity that goes with the absent-mindedness of the overstretched parent. It's particularly evident when it comes to forgetting the names of others' children. I've perfected the art of leaning into the pushchair and saying "How's this wee smasher/little toot/young man doing today?". While crossing my fingers and fervently hoping that the parent will address their child by name.
I've acquired a seamless ability to disown and re-own (is that even a word?) my little cherubs. Any display of talent is instantly attributed to some sort of similar ability I had in my youth. (Remember Baby's mother in Dirty Dancing? "I think she gets it from me.") And at the first hint of mischief? Mr Average is firmly told that he needs to teach "his" children how to behave. Hey, no-one said this life was fair.
Channelling messages via children
Most of us won't admit to this. But we all know that we've done it. Ohhhhh yes. It works particularly well before the children can speak properly themselves. Picture the scene. You need to say something that won't sit well with a relative. You therefore adopt a sing-song voice and pass it off as your child's thought process. "Oh dear. Silly Auntie Pam doesn't realise that we can't stay for lunch/drink fizzy juice/handle shopping centres yet." Auntie Pam knows exactly what you are up to. And she's totally ticked off. But to retaliate would seem churlish.
Sometimes - just occasionally - children do have their uses.
Alternatives to expletives
Flippin' heck, I really should have mastered this one by now. Funnily enough, it's the only part of the linguistic parenting portfolio where I occasionally lapse into my pre-mother tongue...
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