J has become a mixture of ever more charming and increasingly more insulting as she has learned to speak. We go from being offered cups of tea to being pointed at naked while she cackles. J’s topics of conversation are often far from ideal for public consumption. She seems to have become really obsessively interested in willy’s and yuyas (her name for vagina). I mentioned this to another mother thinking this was fairly standard – apparently not. J came up with the word yuya herself. I had made sure I named her vagina when going through her body parts. I think people often miss it out, freely prodding and announcing bums, chests, and knees and missing out vaginas as if it was some sort of secret or something that shouldn’t be talked about. I had talked quite a lot about what I would call my daughters vagina. I even dusted off my copy of The Vagina Monologues but the vagina names in there really aren’t suitable for children. My brother suggested, with a rye smile, sausage pocket, another term not suitable for toddlers but it allowed him to enjoy watching every feminist hair on my body bristle.
It’s a weird conversation, as it would never be a conversation I would have about a son. I’d probably just call it a willy. In my opinion, the options for vagina names are all so crap – a minnie, a fanny, or even worse, a flower. Ugh. I went with the more practical name vagina and thought,
‘Well, at least there won’t be any confusion in sex ed’.
My main concern was making sure we treat her vagina like a body part, same as any other.
As you do with children, I was naming body parts, pointing out a shoulder, a tummy, a vagina and J repeated them but she couldn’t say it properly and it came out as ‘yuya’ and I thought,
‘I like that’.
It’s not cutesy, but it’s nice, so it stuck. I imagine nursery may be confused by it but I’m also kind of grateful for our own word when J quite regularly announces loudly in public things like,
‘My yuya’s sore mummy – we need to clean it’
Or points at a man with long hair announcing,
‘She’s got a yuya mummy.’
The beauty of this time, as their language develops is that you get little, beautiful sentences from a tiny person that has no clue about social appropriateness. All parents get to enjoy this period of their little human, with no social graces, just saying anything that comes to mind with no thought or concern with how it might make the other person feel. The other day she said to me,
‘I like your yuya mummy – it’s brown.’
That sentence really makes you think, doesn’t it? However, I felt real appreciation for her comment at the time. Noone has spontaneously announced they like my vagina. It’s not all compliments and sugared words around here though. Last night, as I was putting her to bed she said to me,
‘What are you doing now mummy? Are you going to sort your hair out?”
I remember when J stopped calling me mamma and started to call me mummy and I felt a bit sad at the time thinking in a blink of an eye she’d be calling me mum. But no no, there was going to be a step in between, as she has taken to calling me mummy cracker. I literally have no idea where this has come from – perhaps some TV program or book I don’t know? I can’t decide which way to take it. Is it mummy you’re a real cracker or mummy you’re cracking up and I think you might need to start sorting your life out? I am yet to find out but I’m going assume it’s the former while she’s young enough not to correct me.
It must be a minefield for these little ones. They’re trying to work out what things are called, how to express themselves, what they’re allowed to say and sometimes adults are allowed to say things that they’re not. J’s like a little parrot so she keeps saying to her daddy when he does something nice,
‘Good girl, Daddy’. Which, I love and actively encourage.
It’s perfect because she says it in a really patronising tone – she is just parroting us, we are the really patronising ones. Trying to explain to a two-and-half-year-old the complexity of speaking respectfully to people who are older than you is impossible so Eddy just thanks her. J does the same to me when I’ve had a wee, she says, ‘good girl mummy’ and I suck it up like a sponge because I don’t get told that an awful lot and it’s true, I’ve got going to the loo down and she’s right, I am a good girl, I wee right in that loo, no issues.
Not only do our squealing toddlers have to learn a whole language but what’s even harder are all the intricate social complexities. And we’re English so she has to learn to ask for something without asking for it, in the most long-winded manner, in order to not look rude. God forbid we just ask for something. But being too enthusiastic or too in-your-face is such a no-no for us English folk. We saw a girl in the park the other day and we were on the swings and I could see J looking at her longingly. I asked her,
‘Do you want to go over and say hello?’
J responded, ‘I’m going to say I love you.’
‘I think that might be a bit much J. You might want to tone it down a bit and just start with hello otherwise she might think you’re a bit full on.’
We then spent the next 5 minutes stalking the small blonde girl around the playground while the blonde girl kept a safe distance from J. My daughter is not shy and I have never experienced her being shy. She’s the kid that bowls over and says hello and the other kid looks weirded out. I’m hoping this doesn’t continue into adulthood. Hopefully, she won’t become the person that talks to you on the tube when you are quite clearly reading your book.
But loving something is another language subtlety which is hard to grasp. We were in a cab once and J spontaneously said ‘I love you, daddy’. J had only recently been able to say this so it felt like a real moment. Then again, ‘I love you, mummy’.
‘Oh I love you to baby’ I exclaimed. Then she looked over to the seat next to her and said,
‘I love you chair’. That made it less special. But then I do quite regularly exclaim that I love biscuits, and tea, and sleep, so maybe it works both ways?
This new found use of language has been a mixed bag of joy and sometimes confusion but I can’t wait to hear what comes out her mouth next. Well, I say that but she’s in bed right now and I’m drinking a glass of wine so I can wait, until 8 o’clock tomorrow morning. I wish.
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Photo by Mike Hull Photography – Facebook.com/mikehullphotography